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Explaining Crime and Delinquency
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Explaining Crime and Delinquency

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  1. Explaining Crime and Delinquency CC200 Youth Justice Chapters 5 and 6

  2. Social policy and theory • Social Responsibility Perspective – crime is an individual responsibility (nature). • Social Problems Perspective – crime is a manifestation of social problems (nurture).

  3. Origins of Human Aggression • Incorporate a biological, environmental, and psychological components into an exploration of the origins of human aggression. • NFB title • 2005

  4. Questions to consider • What are the primary explanations given for aggression in children and youth? • At what age are children most aggressive? • What factors influence their aggression?

  5. What potentials solutions are discussed in the documentary? What actions or responses to aggression displayed by children may, in fact, encourage greater aggression? How do biological, environmental, psychological components work together in explanations for aggression?

  6. Theory and Explanation • Classical School of Criminology – develops in the 18th century. • Based on belief that people have free-will and must be held accountable for their deeds. • Has as a starting point the idea that individuals have equal rights and co-exist in a society held together by common goals and beliefs.

  7. Built upon a structural functionalist foundation. Individuals are hedonistic beings who seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Individuals make rational decisions by engaging in cost/benefit analyses. Crime is repugnant and morally wrong.

  8. Cesare Becarria (1819) Italian Philosopher • One of the most influential of the classical paradigm. • He argued that offenders must be presumed innocent, that offences and punishments must be defined in a written code of law, and that the guilty must be held accountable and punished for their wrong-doings.

  9. Jeremy Bentham (18th century English Legal Scholar) • Built on Beccaria’s ideas. • Repeat offenders should be punished more severely, and that the punishment should fit the crime. • He also argued that individuals who committed similar crimes should receive similar punishments (continuity in punishment).

  10. We will return to the classical theories and theorists later.

  11. Biological Positivism • Biological and psychological approaches are based on the notion of individual pathologies.

  12. This means that certain individuals are pre-disposed to criminal behaviors due to either biological or psychological abnormalities.

  13. Cesare Lombroso (1835 -1909) • Argued that criminals could be identified by physical characteristics and were throwbacks to an earlier stage of human development. • He called this group “Atavistic man”

  14. Physical characteristics of atavistic man could include: • Asymmetry of the face • Eye defects and abnormalities • Excessive dimensions of jaw and cheek bones • Ears of unusual size, or very small, or ears that stuck out • Lips fleshy, swollen & protruding

  15. Excessive length of arms Supernumerary fingers and toes Nose twisted, upturned, or flattened, or aquiline or beaklike Receding chin, or excessive long, or short and flat Abnormal dentition

  16. He first argued that criminals were a throwback to a more primitive type of brain structure, and therefore behavior. He never claimed that the born criminal made up more than 40% of the total criminal population.

  17. He also looked at the female offender and argued that: • Most women are not criminal. • Those that are, are usually occasional criminals. • But some women are atavistic criminals. • They are harder to detect than men. • They are more cunning and more vicious.

  18. More recently research has indicated there are specific brain structures that influence aggressive behaviors. This has led to research in the areas of brain damage, epileptic disorders, and endocrine disorders and the direct impact that psychological disorders may have on criminal behaviors.

  19. Research has also focused on factors indirectly related to criminal behaviors. • This research focus has included: • Twin studies • Adoption studies • Learning disabilities • ADHD • Perinatal factors • Family studies • Minimal brain damage

  20. However, it is important to realize that these factors operate and interact with other non-biological factors in a complex process to create causal chains. Biological factors may only be indirectly linked to criminal behaviors.

  21. Psychological Theories • Tend to approach the challenge of understanding and explaining criminality by focusing on theories of personality or learning that account for individual behavior in specific situations.

  22. Sigmund Freud (circa 1953) • Is most closely linked to psychoanalytic theory. • While Freud did not specifically attempt to link his work to criminality, forensic researchers have used his work to explain the psychology of criminal behaviors.

  23. The foundation of this theory is that individuals progress through five overlapping stages of development. As well, personality is made up of three forces: The id – biological drives The ego – which controls and directs the id The super-ego – or conscience.

  24. The ego and super-ego are created when the individual successfully works through conflicts present at each of the five stages of development. Criminal behavior results when the internal controls found in the ego and super-ego fail to restrain the primitive, aggressive urges of the id.

  25. In other words… • If the ego and super-ego do not fully develop through the early stages of development, criminal behavior is more likely to develop.

  26. Jean Piaget • Theories focusing on the idea of moral development supplement psychoanalysis with a chronological development argument. • Piaget (1932) studied children, game playing, and rule development. • He concluded that moral reasoning occurred in stages.

  27. L Kohlberg (1964) • Built upon Piaget’s work and hypothesized that moral development occurs in six stages and that all individuals went through these stages. • Some individuals spent more time in different stages and some never progressed past the first few stages.

  28. Criminal behavior was more likely to occur in individuals who had not successfully completed all stages of moral development.

  29. Hans J. Eysenck (1977) • Developed a theoretical explanation for the psychopathic personality. • Developed a more behaviorist approach to crime and personality. • He argued that children will naturally engage in deviant forms of behavior. • They will only refrain if they are punished each time they engage in the behavior.

  30. In other words… • Individuals must be conditioned not to engage in certain acts through fear of punishment. • Individuals who engage in deviant or criminal acts have not developed this fear as a result of poor conditioning by parents or they are less susceptible to conditioning generally.

  31. B. F. Skinner • Work begins in the 1930s. • Work on operant conditioning argued that individual behavior is influenced by both positive reinforcement and punishment (negative). • Behavior that is rewarded will continue.

  32. Behavior that is consistently punished will cease. Individuals who are rewarded, or escape punishment, for deviant and/or criminal behaviors will continue to engage in them.

  33. Social Learning Theory • Associated with Albert Bandura (1970s) • Suggests that aggressive behavior is learned (or modeled) from three sources. • Family • Social models and peers • Symbolic modeling – uses television (media) violence as a model of aggressive behavior.

  34. Summary • Like biological theories, both behaviorist and developmental psychological approaches attempt to explore the relationship between individuals and deviant or criminal behavior.

  35. Findings from this research indicates that psychological factors may play a role in determining behaviors.

  36. However, these factors operate and interact with other social and environmental factors in a complex relationship. These theories are still based on a primary assumption of individual badness and pathology.

  37. Okay, now back to the classical theories of crime and criminality. • Don’t forget, we said that this paradigm argues that individuals are hedonistic and seek to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. • And, they make rational decisions by weighing the pros and cons of their actions before undertaking them.

  38. So… • from this perspective, youth will naturally be drawn towards activities that bring them the greatest pleasure (risk-taking behaviors or criminal behaviors).

  39. In order to counter the rational decision by youth to participate in delinquent or criminal activities, society, through the use of social and legal sanctions must create an environment when the potential cost of this behavior outweighs the pleasure they may gain in participation.

  40. Deterrence • This can be accomplished through the implementation of either generalor specific deterrents.

  41. General Deterrence • Is accomplished by the development of a criminal justice system that makes evident the consequences for anyone who engages in a criminal behavior.

  42. Specific Deterrence • Accomplished by the use of punishment and/or consequences to the individual who engages in the deviant or criminal act.

  43. In order for punishment to succeed it must meet three criteria: • Certainty • Timeliness • Proportionality

  44. Simply stated… • Those that break the laws much know that they will be punished, the punishment should occur swiftly, and the punishment should be proportionate to the crime. • If these three conditions are met, deterrence will succeed because the cost will outweigh the benefits.

  45. From this perspective, the creation and implementation of policies or laws to curtail or control levels of criminal activity in society are the most important aspect of crime policies.

  46. Youth engage in criminal behaviors because they are inadequately monitored and controlled.

  47. The solution to the crime problem is to ensure they will be caught and punished for their criminal activities.

  48. The appeal of this approach is that it addresses public sentiment that youth are ‘out of control’ and more dangerous and increasingly punitive measures are needed to deal with the issue.

  49. Challenges to the theory.. • Do youth rationally weigh the pros and cons of their actions? • For some youth, engaging in criminal activities may be the most rational choice they can make. • For some youth, the greater certainty and severity of punishment can increase behaviors as a means of increasing status.

  50. And a last consideration… • The United States has the highest violent crime rate of all industrialized nations. • They also have the highest rates of incarcerations (except that Canada incarcerates more youth). • This contradicts the notion that imprisonment will reduce crime – the premise that ‘get tough on crime’ policies take that is based on the classical perspective.