Forensic - Turning To Crime - Upbringing

  • influences from families, friends, teachers and general life experiences - where a person has been brought up 
  • crime higher in some areas of towns and cities than others
  • males more likely than females to appear in crime figures
  • biology will always underlie human behaviour, leading to individual differences that are exceptions to a common pattern of behaviour
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Farrington (2006)

Aim: study of a group of males from the East End of London from childhood to adulthood to find out if crime tended to run in families and they were influenced by events

Method: Longitudinal survey 

Sample: 411 8-9-year-old boys from East London, born in 1953-4, mainly working class. 93% were still in the survey at age 48

Key Results: offences peaked at 17; those who started earliest (age 10-13) committed 9 crimes on average. 7% were 'chronic' offenders, committing about 50% of the crimes in the study. most had a convicted parent, a delinquent sibling, young mother and big family; they were also high in daring. By 48 years, 88% had given up crime

Conclusions: crime does seem to run in families and it starts early. To have any effect, help programmes must begin with young children. Young parents need help in bringing up children at risk.

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Farrington (2006)


Evaluation points: 

  • nature vs. nurture 
  • individual vs. situational explanations of behaviour
  • social control 
  • free will vs. determinism 

Method issues: 

  • socially desirable answers
  • subject attrition
  • first- or second-hand data and correlations 
  • sample 

Holistic (whole lifestyle and social interactions). Problems preventable through community intervention. Determinist (criminal excuses for bad behaviour). extraneous variables (which has most effect and therefore which to treat?).

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Sutherland (1939)

Theory of Differential Association 

  • Criminal behaviour is learned
  • Interaction with others 
  • Favourable or unfavourable definitions of the law
  • Repeated contact with criminal activity
  • Situation is defined as appropriate for committing a crime 
  • Definitions are acquired through past experience

Conclusions: Emphasises the social-psychological processes by which people produce subjective definitions of whether an action is criminal. Necessary to examine normal learning process. 

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Sutherland (1939)


Evaluation Points: 

  • free will vs. determinism
  • nature vs.nurture
  • individual vs. situational explanations of behaviour 
  • psychology as a science


Influences have a stronger effect .Powerful explanation for certain types of violence. Falls short when applied to crimes committed by individuals committing alone. Reductionist (reduces a lot of crime to social situations). 

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The Peterborough Study (2000)

Method/Design: Cross-sectional. Interview and data collection 

Sample: 2000 year 10's (age 14-15)

Key results: 44.8%males/30.6%females committed at least one of the studied crimes during 2000. Offender more often drunk/use drugs than other youths. Explanatory factors: family social position/class; individual characteristics; social situation; lifestyles and routine activities and community contexts.

Conclusions: findings suggest presence of 3 groups of adolescent offenders:

  • Propensity induced - personality or individual characteristics 
  • Lifestyle-dependent - average in terms of individual social adjustment, highly dependent on lifestyle (high or low risk)
  • Situationally-limited - well adjusted youths who occasionally offend if lifestyle exposes them to high levels of situational risk  
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The Peterborough Study (2000)


Evaluation Points:

  • determinism vs. free will
  • nature vs. nurture
  • individual vs. situational explanations of behaviour

Methods issues:

  • socially desirable answers
  • subject attrition 
  • young sample - may not understand fully 

Could be generalisable - large sample. Shows explanatory factors for committing crimes in youths. Ethnocentric sample - from similar areas may produce similar results. Reductionist - only looks at poverty and the neighbourhood brought up in. may use explanatory factors as excuses to get let off in court cases.

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