5 Individual Theories of Delinquency: Choice and Trait Explanations “The unexamined life is not worth living.” - Socrates
Individual Theories • Blame delinquency on either free will or personal traits such as temperament, genetics, and brain chemistry. • Reject the idea that environment plays a significant role in the onset of delinquency. • Two Types: • Choice Theories • Trait Theories
Choice Theory • Traced to the Classical School of Criminology. • Emerged in the 18th Century. • Children have free will, they are rational and intelligent people who make informed decisions to commit crime based on whether they will benefit from doing so.
Social action is based on the utilitarian principle of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Crime is an injury to society, and the only rational measure of crime is the extent of the injury. Crime prevention is more important than punishment. In criminal procedure, secret accusations and torture must be abolished. The purpose of punishment is to prevent crime. Punishment must be swift, certain, and severe. Imprisonment should be widely used. Criminal behavior is based on free will. Classical School of CriminologyCesare Beccaria: On Crime and Punishments
Jeremy Bentham • People seek pleasure and avoid pain. • The “best” punishment was one that produced more pain than the pleasure the offender received from committing the crime. • Punishment must fit the crime and no one punishment was always best. • The purpose of criminal law is to provide for the “greatest happiness for the greatest number” of people.
Neoclassical School Theory Like the Classical School, Neoclassicists agreed that people were rational, intelligent beings who exercised free will. But they also thought some crimes were caused by factors beyond the offender’s control.
Mitigating circumstances, such as age or mental condition, sometimes influence the choices that are made and affect a person’s ability to form criminal intent or mens rea (guilty mind). This is why children under age seven cannot legally commit a crime – they are presumed to be not capable of having a guilty mind. Individual Justice, the idea that criminal law must reflect differences among people and their circumstances was triggered by permitting the introduction of mitigating circumstances at criminal trials. Neoclassical School
Rational Choice Theory • Delinquents are rational people who make calculated choices regarding what they are going to do before they act. • Offenders collect, process, and evaluate information about the crime and make the decision whether to commit it after they have weighed the costs and benefits of doing so.
Routine Activities Theory • Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson • Examines the crime target • Before a crime will be committed, three elements must converge: • Motivated offenders • Suitable targets • An absence of people to deter the would-be offender
David Fogel’s Justice Model • An idea that promotes fixed-time sentences, abolishing parole, and using prisons to punish offenders. • Indeterminate sentences should be abolished and replaced with determinate sentences. • Grounded in retribution: the idea that criminals deserve to be punished because of the social harm they have caused.
Utilitarian Punishment Model • Offenders must be punished to protect society. • Grounded in the idea that punishment deters crime.
Trait Theory • Rooted in the writings of Charles Darwin. • Positive School of Criminology. • Lays the blame for delinquency on factors over which children have very little, if any control, such as defective brain chemistry, hyperactivity, low intelligence, etc.
William Sheldon’s Three Body Types • Endomorphs – relaxed, comfortable, extroverted “softies” • Mesomorphs – active, assertive, lust for power • Ectomorphs – introverted, overly sensitive, love privacy
Eugenics • Francis Galton • Describes the science of improving the human race through better breeding. • An inherited substance in the blood called germ plasma that is present at conception determines all of an individual’s mental, moral, and physical characteristics.
Sterilization and the Supreme Court • Buck v. Bell (1927): sterilization laws are unconstitutional. • Skinner v. Oklahoma (1935): the involuntary sterilization of criminals is illegal. • This ruling only applied to chronic offenders. • Relf v. Weinberger (1974): People living in mental institutions cannot be involuntarily sterilized.
Intelligence Quotient How your IQ is calculated: IQ = MA/CA x 100 • MA = Mental Age • CA = Chronological Age
IQ and Crime • Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang concluded that IQ is a better predictor of involvement in delinquency than is race or social class. • The IQ of an average delinquent is about 8 points lower than that of non-delinquents. • IQ predicts the type of crime someone was likely to commit.
How IQ Affects DelinquencyFive Possibilities • IQ may have no effect. • Criminal offenders are more likely to suffer from brain dysfunction as a results of birth complications, environmental toxins, and head injuries, which leads to problem behaviors and having a low IQ. • Adolescents with a low IQ may be more impulsive or lacking in moral reasoning. • IQ influences delinquency indirectly. • The abilities measured by IQ tests may be genetic.
1st Twin in Prison 2nd Twin in Prison Percent Match Monozygotic Twins 13 10 77% Dizygotic Twins 17 2 12% Twin Studies of Johannes Lange
1st Twin Criminal 2nd Twin Criminal Percent Match Monozygotic Twins 67 24 35.8% Dizygotic Twins 114 14 12.3% Twin Studies of Karl Christiansen
Monozygotic Twins (Same Sex) High Degree of Concordance Dizygotic Twins (Same Sex) Moderate Degree of Concordance Dizygotic Twins (Different Sex) Very Little Concordance Twin Studies of Heinrich Kranz
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Inattention and hyperactivity that cause: • Difficulty in school • Poor relationships with family and peers • Low self-esteem • Depression, speech and language impediments, and/or learning disabilities
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder • Half the children who received medication for ADHD did not have the disorder! • Skeptics believe the “ADHD problem” has largely been created by the drug companies. • The most common treatment for ADHD is the stimulant Ritalin, an amphetamine that has a paradoxical effect on ADHD children.
Psychological Theories • Psychological factors cause delinquency. • Psychodynamic theory: unconscious mental processes that develop in early childhood controls a person’s personality. (Sigmund Freud) • Behavioral theory: proposes that behavior reflects a person’s interactions with others throughout his or her lifetime. (B.F. Skinner)
Sigmund Freud Personality Consists of Three Parts: • Id – basic biological and psychological drives • Ego – mediator-problem solver; deals with reality • Superego – moral code, conscience, norms,and values
B.F. Skinner • Environment shapes behavior • Operant Conditioning • Rewards and punishments • Children will repeat rewarded behavior and abort punished behavior
Albert Bandura • Theory of aggression • By modeling and imitating others • Mass media affects aggression • Bobo doll experiment demonstrated that children learn aggression by observing and imitating others
Viewing violent entertainment affects children in at least one of three ways: Children see violence as an effective way to settle conflicts Children become emotionally desensitized toward violence in real life Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place and increases the fear of victimization Media Violence and TV
Video Games and Delinquency When children play violent video games it tends to increase their • Physiological arousal • Aggressive cognitions • Aggressive emotions • Aggressive behaviors