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Is Criminal Behaviour Inherited Or Learned?

1693 words - 7 pages

Criminologists and sociologist have long been in debate for century's to explain criminal behaviour. The two main paradigms of thought are between 'nature' and 'nurture'. Nature is in reference to a learnt behaviour where a multitude of characteristics, in society influence whether a person becomes deviant such as poverty, physical abuse or neglect. Nurture defines biological features which could inevitability lead to a individuals deviant or criminal behaviour, because criminality is believed by biological positivist to be inherited from a persons parents. However, I believe that criminal behaviour is a mixture of characteristics that lead to deviant acts such as psychological illness & Environmental factors. Therefore, this essay will aim to analyse both biological positivist and psychological positivist perspectives in hope of showing to what extent they play a role in criminal behaviour. Firstly, the essay will look at Cesare Lombroso's research on physical features and how these ideas have moved on to then develop scientific ideas such as genetics to explain criminal behaviour. Secondly, the essay will focus on external factors which may be able to explain criminal behaviour such as the social influences, life chances and Material deprivation.

Ceasare Lombroso is one of the first scholars that developed ideas to explain the reasons why some people behaved more deviant than others or committed crimes. Lombroso conducted research on several prisoners measuring facial features and skull size. He later published a book called “the criminal man in 1876” (Dwyer, 2001 p.15). Lombroso believed that there was two different types of human beings, those who had evolved properly and another which did not. They were more primitive and had a tendency to be violent and uncivilised. He described these primitive people as “homo delinquents” which displayed features which he believed, directly contributed to criminality such as, “narrow slopping brow, prominent jaw, high cheek bones and large ears” (Dwyer, 2001 p.16). However, Lombroso's research was later discredited by several criticism such as the lack of scientific proof as the criminal “samples he used were often mentally disturbed” (Dwyer, 2001: 16).

Although Lombroso's idea of facial features and biology was under scrutiny by the criminological society, there were a few supporters who developed and applied this idea to their Field and research. Such as psychiatrist Ernst Ketschmer and psychologist William Sheldon (Hollin, 2013). Kretschmer focused on differences in body types to help explain psychological illness, and likely hood of criminal behaviour to occur more in a particular type of physique. For example, “classifying more than 4,000 criminal cases according to his three physiques. He concluded that asthenic types were likely to be involved in petty theft and fraud, the athletic were Wilton criminals and pyknics committed a range of crimes” (Hollin, 2013 p.59).

In comparison Sheldon...

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