Chapter 9Developmental Theories: Latent Trait and Life Course
Criminology 9thand 10th edition
Larry J. Siegel
© 2003 Wadsworth Publishing Co.
What makes crime-prone individuals?
Are personal traits more important
than social variables
as predictors of criminal activity?
Do you think there is a
general theory of crime
for all crimes?
- LATENT TRAIT THEORIES
- LIFE COURSE THEORIES
Life Course and Latent Trait Theories
Latent Trait Theory
- Master Trait: Personal attributes may be present at birth or established early in life, and it remains stable over time, i.e., damaged or impulsive personality, defective intelligence, genetic abnormalities, and environmental influences on brain functions such as drugs, chemicals, and injuries.
- Regardless of gender, those who maintain one of these suspect traits may be at risk to crime and criminal careers.
- Propensity to commit crime is stable, criminal opportunities fluctuate over time, maturity brings less opportunity.
- Early social control and proper parenting can reduce criminal propensity.
Latent Trait Theories
- The General Theory of Crime: Gottfredson and Hirschi
- The Differential Coercion Theory: Colvin
- The Control Balance Theory: Tittle
Crime and criminality are separate concepts. People choose to commit crime when they lack self-control. People lacking in self-control will seize criminal opportunities.
Latent Trait Theories:General Theory
GTC: Criminal Acts and the Criminal Offender
General Theory of Crime
GTC: Self–Control as a Stabilizing Force
The propensity to commit crime remains
stable throughout a person’s life.
Change in the frequency of criminal activity
is purely a function of change
in criminal opportunity.
due to inadequate
Crime and deviance
The General Theory of CrimeGottfredson and Hirschi
Analyzing the General Theory of Crime: Benefits
- Helps explain why some people who lack self-control can escape criminality, and conversely, why some people who have self-control might not escape criminality
- Integrating criminal propensity and criminal opportunity can explain why some children enter into chronic offending while others living in similar environments are able to resist criminal activity.
Criticisms of the General Theory of Crime
- Fails to address individual and ecological patterns in crime rates
- Although male and female crime rates differ, there is little evidence that males are more impulsive than females; the similar argument applies to minorities.
- It assumes propensity does not change; opportunities change.
- Research only supports a modest relationship between self-control as a causal factor in criminality over different forms of deviant behavior
- Evidence shows that criminals in other countries do not lack self-control, indicating that the theory may be culturally limited.
Do you think the General Theory of Crime
can explain either white collar crime
Differential Coercion Theory: Colvin
Low self-control is produced by experiences a person has with destructive social forces called coercion.
- Interpersonal coercion or direct coercion: Use or threat of force and intimidation from parents, peers, and significant others.
- Impersonal coercion: Coercion beyond individual control; i.e., economic and social pressure caused by unemployment, poverty, and competition.
- Prosocial Behavior: Low coercion, high self-esteem, strong moral and social bond.
According to Colvin,
what is coercive ideation?
The amount of
control one can exercise over others – excessive control can lead to:
The amount of
control one is subject
to by others – deficit
control can lead to:
Conformity results when these two elements are in balance: control imbalances produce
deviant and criminal behaviors
Control Balance Theory
Life Course Traits
- Criminality is influenced by individual characteristics, social experiences, economic and environmental factors.
- People change over the life course.
- Criminal involvement changes over time as a result of life transitions.
- A variety of pathways to crime.
What is the problem behavior syndrome (PBS)?
To a life course theorist, what are pathways to crime?
How does Age of Onset relate to the
Continuity of Crime?
Who are “life course persisters?”
Loeber’s Pathways to Crime
Life Course Theories
- Social Development Model (SDM): Weis, Catalano, and Hawkins.
- Theory of Delinquent Development: Farrington
- Interactional Theory: Thornberry
- Age-Graded Theory: Sampson and Laub
- General Theory of Crime and Delinquency: Agnew
Questions That Are Important to Life-course Theorists
- Why people begin committing antisocial acts?
- Why do some stop or desist, while others continue or persist?
- Why do some escalate the severity of their criminality - that is, go from shoplifting to drug dealing to armed robbery- while others de-escalate and commit less serious crime as they mature?
- If some terminate their criminal activity, what, if anything, causes them to begin again?
- Why do some criminals specialize in certain types of crime, while others are generalists engaging in a garden variety of antisocial behavior?
Combines elements of social structural, social control, and social learning theories. Accounts for variations in the crime rate.
Weak social controls produce crime. A person’s place in the structure influences his or her bond to society.
Developmental Theories:Social Development Model
The Social Development Model of Antisocial Behavior
Integrated Cognitive Antisocial Potential (ICAP) Theory
People with antisocial potential (AP) are at risk
to commit anti-social acts.
AP can be viewed as both
a long-and short-term phenomenon.
Identifies different types of criminal propensity
and shows how they may influence behavior
in both the short and long term.
Developmental Theory:Interactional Theory
MAJOR PREMISE - Criminals go through lifestyle changes during their offending careers.
STRENGTHS - Combines sociological and psychological theories.
Overview of the
Interactional Theory of Delinquency: Thornberry
- Bonding variables
- Attachment to parents
- Commitment to school
- Belief in conventional values
- Social class
- Learning variables
- Association with delinquent peers
- Formation of delinquent values
Developmental Theory: Age-graded Theory: Sampson and Laub
Shows how crime is a developmental process that shifts in direction over the life course.
CRIMINAL CAREER TRAJECTORIES CAN BE REVERSED.
As people mature, the factors that influence their propensity to commit crime change. In childhood, family factors are critical; in adulthood, marital and job factors are key.