what makes a criminal?

background- Physiological explanation: Genetic (variant of MAOA gene)?
A point mutation on the X chromosome of the MAOA gene, which codes for the production of enzymes which break down monoamine neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline causes aggressive, impulsive behaviour.
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evidence, brunner 1993? sample
5 males from one family in the Netherlands where males had historically, and at the time, had issues of anti-social behaviour
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Analysis of urine samples taken over a 24hr period to measure waste products from enzymes breaking down monoamine neurotransmitters.
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findings and conclusions?
Males had shown criminal behaviours such as arson, sexual assault of their sister, and attempted murder of their boss (all violent behaviours). Physiological tests indicated lower than expected break down products of monoamine neurotransmitters
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what does the first finding suggest?
suggesting that there were lower levels of enzymes which break down these neurotransmitters
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second finding and conclusion?
As the behavioural traits were mainly observed in males in the family, and were found in successive generations
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third finding and conlusion?
the researchers concluded that the MAOA gene, that codes for production of these enzymes, must be mutated, and that the mutation must occur on the x chromosome or these behaviours would be observed equally in the women of the family.
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Social explanation: Sutherland’s theory of Differential Associations?
This theory suggests that the more contact individuals have with criminal behaviour, the more likely they are to commit crime, as it create a social norm they will conform to and increases exposure to risk factors.
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what does the social explanation also suggest?
It also suggests, using principles from social learning theory, that criminal or violent parents are more likely to produce criminal offspring, because they model anti-social behaviours.
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evidence Farrington? 2006 sample
411 boys (mostly white working class) from East London, first tested aged 8 and 9 and 93% of the sample were last interviewed at age 48.
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At regular points in individuals’ lives from age 8/9 to age 48, they were interviewed on their offending behaviour and information was collected on them from school and police records.
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finding/ conclusions?
Chronic offenders shared characteristics such as convicted parent and a delinquent sibling (criminal role models), young mother, disrupted family and a large family size (poor monitoring of behaviour)
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finding and conlusion 2?
Farrington concluded that the most important social risk factors were poor child-rearing (not goof role models), and poverty and poor school performance (lack of alternative options to attain resources they want).
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Cognitive explanation: Undeveloped moral reasoning?
Kohlberg suggested that there are 3 levels of moral reasoning and that criminals may be operating at a lower level of cognitive development.
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The pre-conventional level?
is the lowest, in this stage the individual obeys authority figures to avoid punishment, or because a certain behaviour will bring the most benefit to them
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The conventional level is the 2nd level?
this involves making a moral decision based on the consequences of conforming/ not conforming to social norms, and appreciating the importance of following the law for social order/ for society to function
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evidence, palmer and hollin (1998) sample?
126 convicted male offenders aged between 13 and 21 (the offences committed were mostly burglary and car theft) 332 mixed-gender non-offenders aged 13-22
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Experiment using psychometric tests to compare moral reasoning.
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Male offenders had the least mature moral reasoning and were predominantly reasoning at Kohlberg’s pre-conventional level, compared to the majority of non-offenders who were reasoning at the conventional level
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This means offenders tended to make the decision to commit crime because they gained from it, and perhaps because their authority figures did not punish anti-social behaviour
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key research, raine? (1997)
Physiological explanation (brain abnormality)
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To study brain activity in murderers and non-murderers to find out whether there were differences in areas thought to be involved in violent behaviours.
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41 tried in the State of California (39 men, 2 women) with a mean age of 34.3 years who had been charged with either murder or manslaughter
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why were they recruited?
They were recruited because they had been referred for other reasons: to provide evidence for a not guilty by reason of insanity defence, or for an inability to stand trial judgement because of mental incompetence
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why were they recruited? 2
for a reduced sentence because of mitigating cognitive/ physiological reasons
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why were they referred?
They were referred for different reasons including schizophrenia, abuse of psychoactive substances (drugs that alter perception of reality), head or brain injury, etc..
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how were they matched?
Each murderer was matched with a participant, who’d had a PET scan at the same centre, who was the same age and sex, and mentally healthy- apart from those with Schizophrenia, who were matched on their condition as well.
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what was the method?
PET scan after being medication free for 2 weeks. Urine tests confirmed this. Continuous performance task (CPT) was carried out in the scanner, which required concentration so should activate the pre-frontal cortex.
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what did the task require participants to do?
search for targets on a screen and press a button to indicate when the targets were spotted
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what measured activity?
A radioactive tracer measuring glucose metabolism in the brain was injected: glucose indicates which areas are the most active as it should be metabolised most in regions requiring the most energy.
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when was the task done in PET scan?
Participants practiced the task before the PET scan and began the actual tasks 30secs before the PET procedure began to ensure that the novelty of the task did not influence brain activity.
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results and concluions, : The Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity killers, compared to controls had?
Differences in activation of the limbic system which controls emotional expression. This could explain why murders find it hard to control expression of emotions like anger, and show higher levels of fearlessness, leading to more risky behaviours.
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results and concluions, : The Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity killers, compared to controls had? 2
Lower activity in pre-frontal cortex which reasons long-term consequences of behaviour, so can inhibit emotional impulses. Killers may have committed crime because they didn’t think through the legal repercussions before they acted.
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results and concluions, : The Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity killers, compared to controls had? 3
Lower activity in corpus callosum, the area that communicates between left and right hemispheres. In most people the left, the more logical side, is dominant and can inhibit impulses from the right, which is more emotional.
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what does findings and conclusions 3 suggest?
Again suggests that killers had less control over the expression of anger
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application ?
The Mauritius Child Health Care Project: A Physiological Intervention
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Raine identified that one of the biological risk factors associated with criminal behaviour was a low resting heart rate- which may be a physiological sign of abnormal brain development, with individuals having to take greater risks to get a high
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background 2?
He also suggested that early interventions providing mental stimulation, nutrition and physical exercise can stimulate neurogenesis and aid normal brain development, which reduces the risk of developing criminal traits like greater daring/ risk takin
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study 1 ,aim?
To test the effectiveness of a multi-dimensional (addresses more than one factor) intervention on preventing the development of criminal traits.
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study 1, method?
Longitudinal, independent measures design study
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study 1, sample?
100 children aged 3 years with low resting heart rates, were selected and compared with a matched control group of another 100 children.
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The experimental group received a three-part intervention program.
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first part of three part program?
Nutrition – milk, fruit juice and a hot meal a day of fish or chicken or mutton with salad.
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second part of three part program?
Physical exercise – afternoon sessions of gym, structured games and free play were run
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third part of three part program?
Cognitive stimulation – the children went to two specially constructed nursery schools that provided a multimodal curriculum aimed at cognitive stimulation based on toys, art, handicrafts, drama and music.
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what was the control group?
The control group followed the normal curriculum and had no nutrition or exercise intervention beyond that which was offered in the normal nursery schools in Mauritius at that time. The children were followed up at age 11 and 17.
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findings and conclusios age 11?
Could focus their attention better than the controls o Had more mature brains and the level of arousal in the brains had increased.
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findings and conlusions at age 17?
Scored significantly lower on conduct disorder ratings (anti-social behaviours) than controls. o Were less cruel to others, less likely to pick fights, not so hot-tempered and less likely to bully other children.
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what were the improvments?
In the intervention group, those poorly nourished at before the start of the intervention showed greater improvements than those who were well nourished (a 52.6% reduction in conduct disorder at age 17 compared to 9.4% in controls)
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what is the improvments indicating?
indicating nutrition was one of the most influential elements of the intervention on criminal behaviour.
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study 2, aim?
To test the effectiveness of nutrition alone to prevent development of criminal traits. Sample: A further 100 Mauritian children were selected.
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study 2 method?
Experimental group: Daily intake of juice containing Omega-3. * Control group: Daily intake of juice- no Omega-3.
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study 2 findings and conclusions?
: Measures reported by parents after 12 months (6 months after the daily supplements ended) showed a significant reduction in aggression, delinquency (anti-social behaviour) and attention problems for those taking the omega-3
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findings and conlusions 2?
A simple nutritional intervention, which is less expensive than a multi-dimensional approach, can have significant impacts on anti-social behaviour improving processes of neurogenesis and neurotransmission, and regulating gene expression
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what is regulating gene expression?
which genes are turned ‘on’ affecting development and behaviour
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findings and conclusions 3?
Omega-3 supplements may reverse the brain dysfunction that may predispose children to anti-social behaviour and aggression that, might lead to adult violence and crime.
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Sutherland’s theory of differential association/ Farrington (2006): A Social intervention
Can design an intervention based on improving parenting, or providing positive role models for at risk children, or additional social support for parents with large families/ single mothers/ children in poverty
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evidence, brunner 1993? sample


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