Many theories of crime are macro theories, which are used to explain crime based on a large group of people or society. While macro theories are the predominant type of theory used to explain crime, there are also a variety of “individual”, or micro, factors which are equally important. Two such individual factors s are maternal cigarette smoking (MCS) and cognitive ability, or Intelligence Quotient (IQ).
MCS has been shown to negatively impact the neurological development of a fetus, with serious damage to the nervous system. Medical studies have also concluded that smoking during pregnancy is a known cause of fetal hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, which can stunt fetal brain development. Studies have suggested that these physical impacts can stunt the development of cognitive abilities and cause anti-social behavior, which in turn can be linked to criminal behavior. (Piquero, Gibson, et al, 2002, Pg. 232) In 1999, a study conducted by Patricia Brennan concluded that maternal cigarette smoking was a predictor for both violent and nonviolent crime. (Piquero, Gibson, et al, 2002, Pg. 235) This study also concluded that a lack of cognitive abilities due to maternal cigarette smoking can lead to the development of antisocial behavior. Children who suffer from these effects grow into adults who are less likely to resist the temptation of crime and show signs of deviant behavior.
Cognitive abilities, or our IQ, are basic skills which enable us to learn, solve problems, and carry out simple tasks. Cognitive ability is important when attempting to explain crime because it has been suggested that individuals with low cognitive ability may not be able to understand the lasting effects or consequences associated with their actions. (McGloin, 2004, Pg. 606) Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime, also known as low self-control theory, suggests that low self-control puts us at risk of committing crime. They also suggest that one major cause of low self-control is “ineffective child-rearing.” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011, Pg. 233) Taking this into consideration, it is also conceivable that low cognitive abilities may influence social interaction (effective socialization, adequate control), which in turn could influence criminal behavior.
People who demonstrate a higher cognitive ability (higher IQ’s) have been shown to perform well academically and are able to achieve. A teenager, or even adult, with low IQ who does not perform well in school can be subject to peer pressure, which can lead to delinquent behavior. In turn, youths who demonstrate delinquent and anti-social behavior at an early age have difficulty forming social attachments, resulting in lower self-control. As we have studied previously, low self-control is but one means of predicting crime.
Terrie E. Moffitt’s theory argues that antisocial behavior can be 1) life-course persistent offenders who spend the majority of their life exhibiting antisocial behavior and 2)...