Upbringing as a cause of crime

  • Created by: Molly
  • Created on: 27-02-14 14:00


Aim- start, duration and end of offending and risk factors leading to crime

Sample - 411 boys, aged 8-9 at start. mainly white and working class.

Method - longitundinal, interveiws at multiple points and criminal records. 93% still participating at age 48

Results -

  • 41% convicted for standard offences at 10 and 50 yrs. average of 5 convictions between 19-28 yrs. 
  • offences peaked at age 17, those starting criminal careers at 10-13 commit more crimes on average
  • most important risk factors for children - family criminality, daring beh, poor school attainment, poverty.
  • 7%=chronic offenders. (over 50% of reported crimes), risk factors = convicted parent or sibling, young mother, low popularity, disrupted family and large family.
  • 93% admitted to commmitting some form of offence in their life. 
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Farrington 2

Conclusion - most crimes committed by those that started at age 10-13 so this age group should be targetted.

Evaluation -

  • large sample = reliable
  • self reports liable to demand characteristics/socially desirable responses = lower validity
  • objective data given by criminal record data
  • useful to target risk factors
  • longitudinal study allows for development to be seen =more reliable than snapshot
  • supports the nurture debate (main risk factors)

Perspectives - Psychodynamic - Early experience lead to criminality (convicted parent)

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Theory of Differential Association

1) The more a person associates with criminals, compared to time spent with non-criminals, the more likely it is that the individual will offend

2) Criminal beh. is learned in interaction with others (social learning)

3) The largest influence on criminal behaviour is intimate personal groups (family, friends and peers) - sutherland feels impersonal relations (media) are unimportant

4)learning includes techniques to commit a crime as well as attitudes and beliefs

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Sutherland 2

Evaluation -

  • theory needs rigorous testing to establish its credibility (v. difficult to test)
  • Potential to be out of date as the influence of the media is discounted
  • behaviourist perspective (beh. is learned/imitated)
  • supports the Nurture debate
  • very reductionist as doesnt take into account any other factor than intimate personal groups/ignores media)
  • Deterministic as ignores the fact that individuals have free will and could not imitate behaviour
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Wikstrom and Tafel

Aim- Longitudinal study to test a range of factors (poverty, disadvantage, substance abuse etc) and to identify which is most significant in predicting criminal behaviour and the interation between risk takes and its influence on offending rates

Sample - 14-15 yr olds (in 1957) from 13 state schools in the peterborough area

Method - cross sectional, snapshot study. Interveiw and snapshot study


  • 45% of males and 31% of females have committed atleast one of the studied crimes (vandalism, theft, violence)
  • 10% of males and 4% of females have committed serious crimes (robbery)
  • high frequency offenders commit a wide range and the most serious crimes
  • offenders often use drink or drugs more than non-offenders
  • Risk factors affecting involvement in crime = a) individual characteristics (poor self control/antisocial) and b) lifestyles (high risk-bad school attendance, drink/drugs lots of time spent in public with peers)
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Wikstrom and Tafel 2


  • large reliable sample
  • lacks generalisability (geography and age) - although appropriate given early onset of offending behaviour
  • self report - lacks validity
  • wide range of factors = holistic But doesnt investigate biological factors
  • useful - identifying predictive behaviours for offence
  • supports nurture debate and social determinism debates
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