CRIM 402 Mid-term

  1. Question of biology, crime, and the environment
    While we are all born with a brain, what we do with it is a complex mixture of the brain itself, the inherited part, and the social environment, which is the most important part. Biological relationship to crime has been misused in the past (ethnic cleansing, slavery, genocide of WWII), causing the academic boycott of considering genetic and biological explanations. These atrocities were not based on science, but rather prejudices. Biological view offers more hope for those afflicted with criminal predisposition than social explanations, because they can be treated and possible changed.
  2. Promise of biological research
    • DNA does not mean destiny. Any potential biological influences result only in a predisposition towards a particular behaviour. There is no gene for crime and none will ever be found. Biology and social environment always work together
    • Biological studies of crime must look at both environment and physiochemistry in order to compare the two and determine the effect of one versus the other. Some clear biological influences on behaviour are: menstruation, pregnancy, and puberty.No complex behaviour can be entirely biological in origin
  3. Further Cautions
    This is an interactionist biological explanation of behaviour to approach crime. Difficult to define crime because it is a social construct. Breaking the law cannot simply be equated with a biological cause such as disease or genetics. The disease metaphor as a definition of crime is highly limited. Crimes that are mala in se are those that are inherently bad. Crimes that are mala prohibita are those that are considered bad because they are prohibited. Do not usually consider biological influences for socially constructed labels. When considered crime in the context of biology, violent crime is the usually concern.  Violent crime is typically viewed as being inherited or caused by physical determinants such as hormones. However, some research shows a predisposition to nonviolent crime
  4. Several cautions should be considered in relationship to all studies of crime:
    Adolescence: Adolescent crime is so common it is the norm and can skew research. Research sample: People with criminal records are not necessarily representative of all people who have committed offenses. Self-reporting: May not be accurate. Representative statistics: Many crimes, even violent ones, are not reported. Biased sampling: Comparisons are usually made between criminals and non-criminals (the control group). Criminals may be in the control group if they are not incarcerated. Ephemeral crimes: Delinquency is often a transient phase. Mistaken explanations: Must take into consideration heritable attributes that in turn have social implications (ie: skin colour).
  5. History of biology and crime
    Gall established phrenology, the relationship between mental attributes and head size and shape. Lambroso’s modern biological theory on atavisms, to identify criminals based on facial types. Sheldon classified people into three different groups, believing certain behaviours correlated with each of the three body types. Endomorphs: soft, rounded bodies. Mesomorphs: athletically built. Ectomorphs: thin people. Body build may be linked to delinquency and crime, but the link is probably through social learning, not genes. Later social and psychological explanations of crime by Durkheim, Marx, Weber, Freud. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution revolutionized science, but due to people misreading his work, dangerous and erroneous relationships between evolution and crime began. Galton (Darwin’s cousin) established eugenics, believing that everything could be a heritable trait, including poverty and crime. Positive eugenics is encouraging those who were considered most fit to reproduce more. It was eventually replaced by negative eugenics and many people were sterilized or killed.
Card Set
CRIM 402 Mid-term
Units 1-7