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Biology and Crime. Early Positivism: the legacy of the early 1900s Sociological Criticism and Dominance New Directions in Biological research Heredity research Biological Harms Biological Correlates Biosocial Theory. Early Biological Positivism. Lombroso’s “born criminal”

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Biology and crime
Biology and Crime

  • Early Positivism: the legacy of the early 1900s

  • Sociological Criticism and Dominance

  • New Directions in Biological research

    • Heredity research

    • Biological Harms

    • Biological Correlates

    • Biosocial Theory


Early biological positivism
Early Biological Positivism

  • Lombroso’s “born criminal”

    • Darwinist theory of “atavism”

  • Various theories of the “feeble-minded”

  • Charles Goring, E.A. Hooten

    • body stature and weight

  • The XYY supermale

  • Commonality of all these theories?


Biology from 1940 1980s
Biology from 1940-1980s

  • Any hint of “biological research” was ridiculed, ignored, treated as “taboo.”

    • Current Sociologists? Criticism was warranted

    • Current Psychologists? “Knowledge destruction techniques”

  • 1990s-present: rebirth of biological research

    • Is modern biological research or theory any better?


The heritability of crime
The Heritability of Crime

  • Family Studies

    • “Jukes,” and “Killikaks” (major flaws)

    • BUT – crime does appear to run in families

  • Twin Studies

    • Christianson (1977)

    • “Concordance” rates: MZ (36%), DZ (12%)

    • Criticism of twin studies?

  • Adoption studies

    • “cross fostering” analyses

    • criminal history of biological parents vs. adoptive parents


Cross fostering analysis mednick et al 1984
Cross Fostering AnalysisMednick et al. (1984)


Molecular genetics
Molecular Genetics

  • Gene Linkage Analysis

    • Hans Brunner and associates and the crazy Dutch family

      • However, such “one gene one disorder” (OGOD) situations unlikely to explain much crime

  • The Human Genome Project

    • Genome = the total DNA in an organism

      • Some evidence for genes related to “novelty seeking” and ADD/ADHD

      • Combinations of genes may “nudge” behavior


Biological harms
Biological Harms

  • Prenatal or Perinatal insults

    • Maternal drinking/smoking, delivery complications, low birthweight, etc.

  • Exposure to toxins– lead

    • Especially for kids (brain/CNS still developing)

      • Sources of Lead Exposure

      • Cincinnati Lead Study (and others)


Assuming that something is inherited or harmed
Assuming that something is inherited or harmed...

  • Biological Correlates of Crime

    • Brain Activity & Central Nervous System

      • PET scans

      • Neurochemicals (serotonin)

      • Frontal Lobe = planning, self-monitoring, etc.

    • Autonomic Nervous System

      • Heart rate, skin conductance

    • Indirect measures (IQ, neuro-psych tests)

    • ADD/ADHD, personality traits .....


Many things point to arousal
Many things point to “arousal”

  • Simple explanation = under aroused seek out thrills (such as crime)

    • Related = higher level of fearlessness

  • Others = arousal may relate to conditioning

    • Mednick’s biosocial theory


Mednick s biosocial theory
Mednick’s biosocial theory

  • Children refrain from crime when consistently socialized to do so (similar to?)

    • Parental efficacy (consistent rewards/punishment) and social context of parenting

    • Children have different “learning ability”

      • Some do not feel the “sting” of punishment

      • Low cortical arousal, low nesting heart rate, etc.

  • Potent mix = poor parenting and low arousal


Policy implications
POLICY IMPLICATIONS

  • Early Positivism

    • Eugenics (quotes from Hooten, others)

  • Biosocial Criminology

    • Biology may identify “high risk” kids

    • Prevention can target “social” factors


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