Causation of criminal tendencies is one of the most debated and researched on topics. Different scholars have developed different theories to explain why different individuals commit crime or what drives a person to commit or engage in criminal activities. Most of the theories used in criminology are based on psychological, behavioral, environmental and sociological effects on an individual. No theory is superior to the other or widely accepted as a major cause of crime but they are mostly used simultaneously in criminology since criminal tendencies of an individual may be as a result of a combination of these theories.
Some of the most controversial theories of crime are the atavistic theory which was developed by Lombroso and attachment theory which is attributed to the works of Sigmund Freud. According to Lombroso, criminal tendencies could be causes by throwbacks in development of an individual whereby an individual takes up characteristics of his ancestors. In the attachment theory Freud argued that id, ego and superego needs of an individual are the major driving force that makes a person to commit crime (Glaser, 2009). Atavism and Attachment Theories of crime and the advantages and disadvantages of using them in criminology
As mentioned above, the atavism theory was developed by Cesare Lombroso which he used to explain the tendencies of criminal traits in individuals. Under this theory of crime, scientific approach is used in explaining crime. Lombroso argued that there were people who were born criminals and he aimed at studying their mind and also their habits. He argued that during revolution, at times people may develop in a backward manner whereby some of the remote characteristics which had not being present for quite a number of generations reappear in individual.
Lombroso referred to this form of revolution as a throwback revolution. An individual could thus undergo a throwback revolution and take up criminal characteristics of his or her ancestors. According to him, such persons were born criminals and thus their criminal tendencies were not influenced by their environment or social and cultural setup. The reappearance of such criminal characteristics was attributed to their existence in the DNA of individuals (Cote, 2002). The attachment theory unlike the atavism theory took more of a psychological approach rather than a biological approach.
According to Sigmund Freud, a child is born with inherent needs for attachment to his or her caregivers. Criminal tendencies in individuals as explained by attachment theory are mainly caused by the emotional imbalance due to conflicting id, ego and superego needs. During the development stages of a child, the three components must be met to ensure emotional balancing in the future. Id needs are for young children who cannot move or even talk. During this stage, a child cries to attract attention of the caregiver. If the child’s needs are not met, this may create emotional imbalance in the future.
At ego stage, the child believes that every thing belongs to him and that his request must be granted. The super ego stage is where a child starts to differentiate the needs the id and ego needs which can be met and which cannot be met at a particular moment. Children who are brought up by uncaring and harsh caregivers tend to develop emotional insecurity and find it hard to trust strangers. If children are abused during the development stages, they also develop abusive characteristics in the future which are mainly attributed to criminal tendencies.
Attachment with caregivers and peer helps in shaping the emotional and psychological aspect of an individual. Individuals who have less attachment tend to be more unaware of other peoples emotions thus have criminal tendencies (Cantillon, 2006). The above two theories of crime have their advantages and disadvantages when applied in criminology. The atavism theory is relevant in that it is more scientific and thus can be proved. The existence of individuals with tails and hairs all over their body can be used to support this theory of atavism.
By the fact that human beings are thought to have evolved from animals, throwback evolution can be proved by the existence of people with tail in the modern generation. This theory is also bound to give more accurate reasons behind crimes tendencies since it is more scientific. However, this theory was refuted as being impractical in that other factors like the socio-biological factors as well as sociological effects may influence a person’s tendency to commit crime (Rafter, 2006).
Genetic atavism has also been highly criticized on the basis that some characteristics of individuals may be caused by other factors and not necessarily due to reappearance of a repressed gene of an ancestor. Also this theory can lead to discrimination based on race during criminal investigations. Under this theory, Lombroso also used resemblance as a means of identifying a born criminal. Physical attributes are used to deduce whether a person is a criminal or not. He argued that protruding jays, large ears, drooping eyes and long arms among others could be used to identify atavism.
Evidence has found this not to be true about criminals. This if used in criminal investigation may lead to wrongful convictions of innocent individuals. This approach of atavism also lacked scientific evidence to support the theory making it unviable (Sims, 2001). The attachment theory like the atavism theory also has advantages and disadvantages. Psychologists and sociologists have verified that deviant tendencies are as a result to the attachment on has with others close to him or her. Children who tend to be more attached to their peers or caregivers are less deviant that those who are not.
Attachment determines the self esteem of a person. Children who have strong attachment with their parents have higher self esteem than those who are not. Since this is proven, it is a more reliable source of crime tendencies in an individual. However, this theory has a limitation of that most of the criminals who have been convicted are found to have had a good upbringing as well as attachment to their parents and caregivers as well as their peers. As such, this theory is refuted as being inappropriate in itself.
Also, most of the children who are abused in the past during their upbringing tend to be more sensitive to abuse and are less likely to be abusers. As such, this theory is not sufficient enough for use in explaining criminal tendencies (Cantillon, 2006). Conclusion Criminology usually takes a sociological approach in trying to identify the causative factors of crimes as well as deducing the intentions of the criminal while committing a crime. Different criminal theories are employed in criminology which tries to unearth the underlying factors behind any crime.
More that one theory is used while investigating criminal activities. However, atavism theory has been ruled out as being an effective theory to explain crime tendencies of an individual due to its lack of concrete evidence to support it. While dealing with criminal cases, an investigator should focus on all possible causes or the driving force of the perpetrator for accurate results to be obtained. Reference: Cantillon, D. (2006): Community Social Organization, Parents, and Peers as Mediators of Perceived Neighborhood Block Characteristics on Delinquent and Prosocial Activities.
Journal article OF American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 37 Cote, S. (2002): Criminological theories: bridging the past to the future. ISBN 0761925031, Published by SAGE Glaser, D. (2009): A Review of Crime-Causation Theory and Its Application Crime and Justice, Vol. 1 Jewkes, Y. & Letherby, G. (2002): Criminology: a reader. ISBN 0761947116, Published by SAGE Rafter, N. H. (2006): The return to biological theory in 20th-century criminology. History of the Human Sciences, Vol. 19 Sims, B. (2001): A History of Criminological Thought: Explanations for Crime and Delinquency. Handbook of Criminal Justice Administration