Core Studies - Turning to Crime

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Juby and Farrington

Aim: To document the start, duration and end of offending behaviour from childhood to adulthood in families.| To investigate the influence of life events; the risk and protective factors predicting offending and antisocial behaviour; the intergenerational transmission of offending and antisocial behaviour and the influence of family background.

Sample: 411 boys aged 8-9 (born in 1953/4) from 6 schools in London. 397 families were involved, there were 14 pairs of brothers and 5 pairs of twins. At age 48, 365 were interviewed.

Findings: At age 48, 404 were searched of criminal records, 161 had convictions.| Number of offences peaked at age 17.| Males who started crimes at 10-16 committed 77% of the crimes in study.| 7% of males were 'chronic offenders'.|

Conclusions: Offenders tend to be deviant in many aspects of their lives. The most important risk factors are criminality in the family, poverty, impulsiveness, poor child-rearing and poor school performance.

Criticisms: Ignores nature.| Longitudinal study - cause and effect.

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Sutherland

  • Criminal behaviour is learned.
  • Criminal behaviour is learned from other people through communication.
  • The principal part of the learning occurs within initimate, personal groups.
  • Individuals become criminals due to repeated contact with criminal activity and lack of contact with non-criminal activity.
  • The learning includes the techniques of committing a crime, the direction of drives, motives, rationalisations and attitudes.
  • Criminal behaviour is learned like any other behaviour. (it is not abnormal)
  • It is not explained by general needs and values since this is apparent in non-criminal behaviour.
  • Some people may view certain laws as 'pointless', so feel that they can flaunt them.
  • Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity.

Evaluation: Ignores nature.| Supporting evidence (Bandura).

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Wikström

Procedure: A cross-sectional study using nearly 2000 year 10 (14-15 years old) students. The methodology was interviews and data collection.

Findings: 44.8% of the males and 30.6% of the females have committed at least one of the crimes listed (violence, vandalism, shoplifting, burglary and theft of or from cars) during the year 2000.| 9.8% of males and 3.8% of females have committed a serious crime or theft (robbery, burglary, or theft from or of a car).| High-frequency offenders tend to commit a wide range of different crimes.| 1 in 8 offenders were caught or reported to the police for their last crime.| Offenders are more often drunk and more often use drugs than other youths.| Explanatory factors: family social position, individual characteristics, social situation, lifestyles and routine activities.

Conclusions: The findings suggest 3 groups of adolescent offenders; Propensity-induced, Lifestyle-dependent and Situationally limited. 

Criticisms: Ignores nature.| Reductionist.| Usefulness.

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Palmer and Hollin

Aim: To test the effectiveness of the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS) with a sample of imprisoned young offenders.

Sample: 515 male young offenders serving custodial sentences.

Procedure: Using self-report, the p's were interviewed and a team of psychologists collected data through PICTS. PICTS was developed by Walters to measure the thinking styles associated with a criminal lifestyle.

Findings: No significant correlations between number of convictions and scores on PICTS.| Factor analysis found 2 factors accounted for 63% of the variance - Factor 1 was cutoff, power orientation, super optimism, cognitive indolence and discontinuity. Factor 2 was mollification, entitlement and sentimentality.| On cuttoff, super optimism, cognitive indolence and discontinuity, young offenders scored higher than adults from previous research.

Conclusions: As the young offenders were serving a prison sentence, it is likely that the majority were persistent offenders so their attitudes might have been more fixed than older offenders.

Criticisms: Supports determinism.| Social desirability bias.

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Kohlberg

Aim: To find evidence in support of a progression through stages of moral development.

Sample: 58 boys from Chicago age 7, 10, 13 and 16. 

Procedure: The p's were given a 2 hour interview with 10 dilemmas that they had to solve. Heinz dilemma was one of them. Some of the boys were followed up at 3-yearly intervals up to age 30-36 years. 6 years later, Kohlberg also studied children in the UK, Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, the USA and Yucatan.

Findings: Younger boys tended to perform at stage 1 and 2.| Older boys performed at 3 and 4.| These patterns were also consistent in the cross-cultural studies, however progression was slower in non-industrialised areas.| No support was found for stage 6.

Conclusions: There seems to be support for the stage theory accross cultures. Thorton and Reid found that crimals committing a crime for financial gain show more immature reasoning than those committing a violent crime, so the stages can be applied to types of criminality.

Criticisms: Supporting evidence (Thorton and Reid).| Usefulness.| Ethnocentrism.

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Gudjohnsson and Bownes

Aim: To examine the relationship between the types of offence and the attributions offenders make about their criminal act and then cross-validate earlier findings on an English sample.

Sample: 80 criminals who were serving sentences in Ireland. Divided into 3 groups; Group 1 was 20 violent offenders - such as homicide or GBH. Group 2 was 40 sex offender including paedophiles and rapists. Group 3 was 20 property offenders such as theft and burglary.

Procedure: They used the 42-item 'Blame Attribution Inventory' to measure the offenders' type of offence and attribution of blame on 3 dimensions; internal/external, mental element and guilt.

Findings: Sexual offenders showed the most guilt.| Violent offenders were secong guiltiest.| Very little difference was found for mental element.| Sex offenders had lowest attributions and violent offenders had highest.| In comparison to English findings, violent Irish offenders showed lower mental element and guilt, but higher external factors.

Conclusions: There is strong consistency in the way offenders attribute blame for their crimes across 2 countires.

Criticisms: Nature and Nurture.| Quantitative data.

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Raine

Aim: Dysfunction in the following brain structures (prefrontal cortex, corpus callosum, left angular gyrus, amygdala, hippocampus and thalamus) should be found more often in murderers than - dysfunction of the same areas in non-murderers and dysfunction in other areas of a murderer's brain that have been implicated in non-violent psychiatric disorders.

Sample: 41 murderers (39 male, 2 female) charged with manslaughter in California. 41 non-murderers matched for age, sex and sometimes Schizophrenia.

Procedure: Given brain imaging scans to obtain evidence or information related to a defence of not guilty by reason of insanity, incompetence to stand trial or diminished capacity to reduce sentencing having been found guilty. No p's had psychoactive medicine for 2 weeks before scanning. Non-murderers were screened to exclude physical and mental illness, drug taking and murder history. After practice trials, p's were injected with the tracer which was taken up by the brain to show the location of brain activity whilst they carried out a CPT. A PET scan was immediately given to show the relative brain activity in 6 main cotical areas and 8 subcortical areas.

Criticisms: Reductionist.| Supports Nature.

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Daly and Wilson

Aim: To find out if homicide rates would vary as a function of local life expectancy in Chicago, a city divided into 77 longstanding community areas or neighbourhoods with relatively stable boundaries and social and economic characteristics.

Procedure: A correlational study using survey data from police records, school records and demographic records collected by population census. Examined local communities from Chicago which had lower than average male life expectancy rates, varying from 54.3 to 77.4 years. From the data gathered, various correlations were plotted.

Findings: Life expectancy proved the best predictor of neighbourhood-specific homicide rates.| Homicide rates ranged from 1.3 to 156 homicides per 100,000 people per annum.| Rate of absenteenism correlated negatively with life expectancy - explaining why they saw no point in putting effort in at school.| Truancy rates had a strong correlation with life expectancy, suggesting parents may be unwilling to pay for school because it would be short term.|

Conclusions: Daly and Wilson believe young adults are still driven by adaptive traits such as risk taking and early reproduction, which is a natural response these people give to living with low life expectancy rates, leading males to crime.

Criticisms: Ethnocentrism.| Ignores nature.

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Brunner

Aim: To explain the behaviour of a large family in the Netherlands where the males are affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour. These included impulsive aggression, arson, attempted **** and exhibitionism.

Sample: 5 affected males in the family. 

Procedure: Data collected from analysis of urine samples over a 24 hour period.

Findings: Showed disturbed monoamine metabolism associated with a deficit of the enxyme monamine oxidase (MAOA).| In each affected male, a point mutation was identified in the X chromosome of the gene responsible for the production of MAOA.

Conclusions: MAOA is involved in serotonin metabolism and a defect in this is likely to be responsible for the mental retardation of the family and may account for the violent behaviour. The MAOA deficiency was associated with a recognisable behavioural phenotype that accounted for their inability to regulate their aggression. However, not all males suffered with the violent behaviour, even if they had the mental retardation.

Criticisms: Sample generalisability, supports nature. 

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