Criminological trait theories

The legal system of any society distinguishes acts performed by deviant behavior into offences and crimes. The tort law recognizes certain acts as offences because they affect an individual, causing loss or injury. These laws protect personal privacy, family relations, reputation and dignity while providing remedies in case of any intrusion. In such cases, the wrongful conduct by someone renders the affected person for compensation or protection. These are basically civil suits by one person against another.

A crime on the other hand is an act of such magnitude that it is considered as an act against the society or state. A crime is a breach of duty owed to the society and criminal acts are prosecuted by the state. The crimes are classified in several ways within the criminal law. Among the oldest form of distinction between crimes is the Mala in se and Mala prohibita. Mala in se which is interpreted as ‘evil in themselves’ include core criminal activities like robbery and homicide while Mala prohibita or ‘prohibited wrong doings’ covers acts requiring behavior regulation like drug abuse, gambling, prostitution etc.

Another common classification of crimes is based on the seriousness of the offense, distinguished as felonies, which are serious crimes and misdemeanors, which are petty crimes. While crimes can be classified in terms of its severity, the causes of crimes and the psyche of criminals are dealt with in criminology. Criminology may be defined as the scientific study of the nonlegal aspects of crime including its causes, correction and prevention. It is an advanced, complex, theoretical study of crime.

The origins of criminology dates back to the late eighteenth century, when the Italian Cesare Bonesano Beccaria (1738-94) and Englishman Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) pointed out that laws and punishments should be equal to all and be proportionate to the crimes committed. Criminology was earlier a part of a larger branch of sociology and it still continues to be, in certain aspects. It is an extensive interdisciplinary field dwelling on subjects like psychology, economics, anthropology, biology, statistics and law.

Criminology covers various subjects including penology, or the study of prison systems; biocriminology which is the study of the biological basis of criminal behavior, feminist criminology which is the study of crime among women and criminalistics or crime detection. Criminology has provided great insight into the establishing and managing of crime judicial system. The conclusions and facts produced by these criminological studies have shaped the way in which the law enforcement and judiciary identify, judge and punish crimes. Early schools of thought

The three main schools of thought that advocated early views on criminology were the Classical School, Positive School and the Chicago School (DeMelo. 2006). The Classical criminology developed by the Classical School was in response to the harsh system of law and punishment, which prevailed before 1789. The Classical School, which existed between the late 1700s and the early 1800s, was more directed to law A brief analysis of crime theories 2 making and legal issues rather than criminals. It believed that individuals took to crime out of free will and that punishments are required to deter criminals from committing crime.

The theory advocated that punishment should be in excess to the pleasures derived from the act. The Positivists saw behavior as a result of biological, psychological and social traits. The Positivist School, which existed between mid 1800s and early 1900s, emphasized on criminal behavior rather than legal issues and sought to prevent crime through treatment of the offenders. A scientific approach was adopted and data collected to explain various individuals and associated social phenomena. The Chicago School however attributed human behavior to social and physical environment.

Theorists from the Chicago School combined individual case data with population statistics, which served as groundwork for several modern criminological theories. As the city of Chicago was used as a source for research, the school was appropriately named. Here, most scholars believed that crime was bred in the slums owing to social problems like poor sanitation, juvenile gangs and inadequate housing etc. Chicago school researchers focused on real world and phenomena than theoretical formulation. Development of criminological theories

Many criminologists consider crime as being a form of deviance, while some consider it as a type of anomie behavior. Others consider crime as a response to social conditions, stress and break down of law or social order. Criminological theories are logical facts, which help us in understanding and analyzing crime and their causes. These theories are formed using statistics, case histories, official records and sociological field methods on criminals and their activities. Criminological theories are mainly focused on crime and its causes.

Representation of the theories take the form of diagrams, figures, table of numbers, statistical data and correlated with a classic case. All theories have to some extent, a set of assumptions like human behavior under economic and social setups, elements of causation, etc. , based on which facts are interpreted and explained. There are several types of criminological theories. The oldest theory however is biocriminology dating back to 1876. The classification of theories can also be carried out based on their level of application.

Some theories operate at the micro level or at an individual basis while other theories can explain happenings at a macro level or groups. A theory can be identified as a macro theory or a micro theory by looking at what it predicts. Macro level theories express crimes in ‘rates’. It is noteworthy to state that it is not possible for any single theory to fully and perfectly explain every crime or deviant act. A good explanation of the crime can only be got by incorporating various theories. Once a theory is determined, its feasibility is tested as to its effectiveness.

The theory is applied to the real world for evaluation. A theory is determined as incorrect if the tests fail to support it. It is not meaningful to test other aspects of the theory if it fails a particular test. Sadly, most theories of crime are never completely supported or refuted. Some empirical tests may support the theory; while some might offer partial support while the others might refute the theories. It is for this reason that theories are A brief analysis of crime theories 3 examined based on ‘weight of the evidence’.

It should be determined whether majority of the tests support the theory or whether certain aspects of the theory is supported more than others and also whether high-quality research designs support the theory. The classification of theories can also be carried out based on their level of application Theories may generally be simple or complex depending on the issues it is intended to address. Crime causation theories are complex as human behavior is complex. Most crime theories are formulated based on current and previous research on criminal behavior, also incorporating detailed observation and careful logic.

Theories serve as a framework for understanding observed patterns. Theories generally are not directly specific to crime causation, but they are more specific on behavior, which helps us to understand crime in a bigger perspective. Psychological and ecological criminology Psychological criminology and ecological criminology developed only during the early twentieth centuries. Early psychological criminology suggested that there is an IQ difference between the criminals and the non-criminals. Many psycho criminologists had attributed crimes to personality disorders, psychopaths, sociopaths, and antisocial personalities.

Emotional disorders are generally considered as cause for crime, which are mostly rooted in childhood experiences where the criminal attempts a suppressed wish or desire. Ecological criminology is the first sociological criminology, which sought to link crime with environment, suggesting a connection between crime and the disorganized eco-areas where people live. Few criminologists believe that certain offenders are born into environments like high poverty, discriminated minority groups that are likely to induce criminal behavior than most other environments.

The Social Learning Theory The behavior theory which is perhaps the most relevant to criminology is Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. Bandura attributed the aggression in adolescents to the environment, which caused the behavior. Since behavior also contributes to the formation of the environment, Bandura called the concept as reciprocal determinism. A person’s behavior and the world compliment each other. Bandura saw personality as an interaction of three factors namely environment, behavior and the individual’s psychological state.

The psychological state being the ability to engage language and images in the mind, which helps in the understanding of observational learning and self-regulation. Bandura’s studies with the bobo doll have been extremely popular. He made a film of one of his young woman student thrashing a bobo doll. The bobo doll is an egg shaped inflatable balloon type creature, which gets back to its right position each A brief analysis of crime theories 4 time it is knocked down. The woman shouted “sockeroo” and other aggressive words as she punched, kicked and hit the doll with a small hammer.

The film was shown to a group of kindergartners who seemed to have liked it a lot. The kids were let out into a playroom having a bobo doll and small hammers. The kids soon began shouting “sockeroo” and pounced on the doll, kicked it, sat on it; hit the doll with the small hammer, emulating the lady in the film. Bandura called this process as observational learning, which his theory refers to as the social learning theory (Boree, 1998). The tough side of this therapy is the fact that it is difficult to get the actors and the relevant set up together each time.

But it has been observed that even recorded versions of the therapy hold good and produces results. The social learning theory well supports and convincingly justifies aggression. The theory has been consistently developed over the last four decades to incorporate newer findings, and is applicable universally to men, women, boys and girls. Freud’s theory however is mainly based on hypothesis without empirical evidence. His theories do not incorporate observation of children. As the theory is based on the thinking that aggression is inborn, it helps very little in attempting to reduce aggression.

Bandura emphasized that if aggression in children were diagnosed at the early stages, the children can be refrained from becoming adult criminals. Strain theory The strain theory is also known as anomie theory, which sees crime as an obvious outcome of hopelessness and loss of belief, leading to breakdown of rules of conduct. The theory suggests that with dreams of opportunity, freedom and prosperity, people dream big and it becomes a powerful cultural and psychological motivation.

But when the opportunities are less and when the dreams are not realized for the people, they take to crimes to realize their dreams, while others drop out as deviant individuals like drug abusers, drunks etc. This theory is based on the French sociology invented by the father of modern sociology, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). Control Theory Control theories mainly deal with an individual’s social relationship and its deviance. It analyzes a person’s relationship with his teachers, parents, preachers, coaches or police officers emphasizing that effective bonding with authority indicates bonding with society and keep people out of crime.

Control theories view crime as being due to insufficient attachment to others. A brief analysis of crime theories 5 Conflict Theory The conflict theory has roots in Marxist theories, which recognizes crime as a result of conflict between the different classes. This theory believes that society is based on conflict between opposing groups like rich against poor, management against labor, man against women etc. , and that the laws of the society are formed more by conflict than by consensus. The laws are formed by the persons in power to control the people out of power.

The ones that commit crimes are not fundamentally different from the rest of the population. The radical theories of criminology, also involving Marxist sees crime as an outcome of fundamental economic differences. The set up here allows things as if there is a huge number of billionaires and millionaires, while actually the majority live in poverty. Here crime is seen as a class struggle with criminals taking the role or rebels without any idea. Left realism, Peacekeeping and Postmodern Criminology Left realism developed around the mid 1980s and focuses on criminal attacks within the working people.

It suggests that victimization of the poor by their own race and kind could be reduced by a powerful police, but would not want the police to be invasive or intrusive. Peacekeeping criminology which came during the 1990s finds that the wars on crime can only make things worse. Formation of mutually dependent communities and spiritual uplift of the masses is suggested as a solution. The postmodern criminology shows how crime originates from a feeling of being disconnected and dehumanized, due to thoughts and conceptions that limit our understanding.

Replacement of the current larger legal system into informal social controls or neighborhood tribunals is recommended. Labeling theory The labeling theory was at its infancy during the 1960s and 1970s and focuses on criminals who carry out a minor crime or act, only to be engulfed by a massive government sponsored labeling or shunning reaction. Once they are stigmatized and labeled as criminals, people tend to get stabilized in their criminal activities. The theory recommends that minor offences be sparred or rehabilitation procedures undertaken for these people to get re-attached to their communities.

It is interesting to note that the social control theory is more appropriate for initiation into delinquent behavior while the negative labeling aspect of the labeling theory causes delinquent behavior to be persistent. (Smith and Brame, 1994). A brief analysis of crime theories 6 Choice theory The mid 1970s saw the classical approach of criminology becoming more popular. The ideas of positivist criminology wasn’t providing the intended results. The positivist approach of providing jobs and economic opportunities in an effort to rehabilitate criminals did not yield results.

The positivist idea was that crime was caused by social or psychological factors and rehabilitation would help in the reduction of crime rate. However several surveys showed that rehabilitation failed to prevent future criminal activity. Criminologists began to suggest that only punishments could reduce or suppress criminal activity, rather than spending public funds, trying to improve their social conditions. The relationship between law, punishment and crime has been influenced by the view that criminals choose to commit crimes. Choice theories are classified into several divisions (Siegel, 2003).

Rational choice – Offenders take to crime after weighing their personal requirements and prevailing situation, taking into account the risk and difficulty of committing the crime. The theory suggests that high-risk groups do not engage in delinquency constantly, due to their assessment of risks. Routine activities – Here crime and delinquency are attempted by motivation. The availability of suitable targets and absence of restriction, encourage people to take to crime. This theory shows how victim behavior can influence criminal motivation.

General deterrence – The general deterrence theory suggest that people take to crime when the benefits of crime is more than the risks associated with it. The severity, certainty and speed of punishment is assessed by criminals to analyze the risks and benefits. Specific deterrence – The theory of specific deterrence is based on the belief that criminals will not repeat their delinquent act if the punishment is sufficiently severe. The appropriate use of punishments serves as a strategy to reduce crime. Incapacitation -: Incapacitation of known offenders by restricting their presence helps to curb chronic offending.

Biocriminology It was in the nineteenth century, when criminology took a scientific approach by incorporating biological and medical findings in its study and biocriminology was born. Italian Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) found that criminal behavior is associated with certain body characteristics like cranial, skeletal, and neurological malformations. However, subsequent criminologists have disputed this theory that biology is responsible for creating a class of criminals. Today biocriminology A brief analysis of crime theories 7 has established that heredity and body organ dysfunctions can induce an inclination towards crime.

Modern researches indicate that chromosomal abnormalities, hormonal and brain chemical imbalances, diet, drugs and alcohol are factors that contribute to criminal behavior. The hormone ‘testosterone’ in men has been identified as the main cause of aggression and crime committed by most men. In the journal ‘Research in Corrections’ (June 1988, Vol. 1, Issue 2), by Diana Fishbein and Susan Pease; it was found that there was abnormal insulin and blood glucose responses to a glucose tolerance test among male offenders diagnosed as violent and impulsive.

Several case studies indicate that certain foods or food constituents induce neuropsychological disorders in the form of allergic or pharmacologic reactions which may even lead to chemical imbalances in the brain, resulting in behavioral disorders. Adoption and twin studies too indicate that genetic influences play a major role in development of criminal behavior. Molecular genetic investigations and epidemiological studies suggest that criminal activity may be genetically linked to mental abnormality. Prenatal disturbances or altered normal fetal development due to maternal smoking in pregnancy period is linked to violent offsprings.

Reading deficits are sometimes developed in impulsive aggressive people, which could be attributed to their early school experiences. Here, impulsive and aggressive acts are caused due to inability in discriminating visual information during social situations. Rapp (1981) showed the relationship between food allergies and antisocial behavior on a eleven year old black boy Donald. His disruptive, hyperactive, hostile and rude behavior was found to persist due to his normal diet of milk, wheat, eggs, cocoa, sugar.

When all these were removed from his diet, he responded significantly that his parents were surprised. He became calmer and his activity levels became normal. Most efforts directed to prevent high-risk children from taking to crime, like rehabilitation of offenders, tougher laws, etc. have failed. This is mainly because criminals have brain malfunctions, which avoid them benefiting from counseling or related interventions (Wacker Foundation, 2007). It has been observed that chronic offenders have poor social skills, a lack of insight, lack of fear, a low anger threshold etc.

This results in them being unable to learn from experience, or realize the results of their actions. Workplace crime ‘Workplace crime’ is defined as any harmful act committed by a person or a group of persons during the course of a legitimate occupation (Ismaili, 2001). It is conceived as a crime specifically generated by the workplace and is broken down into occupational crime, corporate crime and workplace crime. While occupational crimes and organizational crimes look obvious, the workplace is just a setting and cannot be further involved in crime generation or in analyzing the crimes generated.

(Friedrichs, 2002). The term ‘workplace crime’ is applicable to conventional crimes, but needs to be further A brief analysis of crime theories 8 differentiated in terms of whether they involve insiders and outsiders. Sygnatur and Toscano suggest that the probability of one becoming an occupational homicide victim depends on the kind of occupation one is involved. Workers engaged in cash transactions are generally at greatest risk of workplace homicide, particularly taxicab drivers and chauffeurs.

The Pearson Correlation procedure determined the existence of a significant relationship between unemployment rates and occupational homicide rates. Since the publication of Clinard and Quinney’s ‘Criminal Behavior Systems: A Typology,’ occupational crime has been considered as an important aspect of white-collar crime. However recent use of the term ‘occupational crime’ is far from its original meaning of white-collar crime. The term is used along with other terms like ‘occupational deviance’ and ‘workplace crime’, which results in occupational crime including activities not related to white-collar crime.

The three terms are differentiated by restricting the use of ‘occupational crime’ to illegal and unethical activities committed for individual financial gains or to avoid personal loss, during a legitimate occupation. The term ‘occupational deviance’ should imply deviance from normal occupational practices like sexual harassment, drinking while on job etc. and ‘workplace crime’ should only imply conventional crimes like murder, rape etc. committed in the workplace. (Friedrichs, 2002). White collar and corporate crime The term ‘white collar crime’ had been evading a clear definition for a long time.

Only some writers on white-collar crime would attempt to define the term and that too very briefly, before moving to other issues and findings on the subject. Definitional and conceptual issues on white-collar crime lie mainly on the description of the criminal-non-criminal distinction. The term generally means an illegal act or a series of acts committed by an individual or a business entity using non-violent means to obtain a personal or business advantage. The concept of white-collar crime was introduced by Edwin Sutherland during his address to American Sociological Society in 1939.

His major work on white-collar crime focused on crimes of corporations. White-collar crime overlaps with corporate crime, which are crimes committed by a corporation, as the corporation is represented by individuals having an interest in it. Certain corporations in the guise of legitimate business perform secret criminal activities mingled with legal activities to escape detection. They amass wealth through their illegal activities and use the corporation to launder their ill-gotten wealth. The world’s gross criminal product has been estimated at 20 percent of world trade.

(de Brie 2000). As the corporation is only a legal entity, the person or persons at the helm of the corporation’s affairs was previously held accountable. The corporation lacking a mind of its own was not found capable of a crime and therefore could not be held guilty of a crime. However, this is no longer the situation today. At one level, corporations develop new technologies and economies of scale which serve the economic interests of mass A brief analysis of crime theories 9 consumers by introducing new products and more efficient methods of mass production.

On another level, given the absence of political control today, corporations serve to destroy the foundations of the civic community and the lives of people who reside in them. Both, the corporation as an entity and its directors are liable for criminal acts. The relevance of gender in crime Some social criminologists consider the body as being independent from the mind, for understanding crime engagement. They consider the body as having no importance, from the viewpoint of crime. There has been great controversy over the ability of current theories to address female deviance.

The theories were mostly developed and tested for males. Criminologists have argued that the criminological trait theories are related to men and should not be used to understand delinquent behavior of females. It has been suggested by theoretical criminologists that there is qualitatively different fundamentals which give rise to male and female delinquency. There has also been a parallel argument for a more general, theoretical framework free from gender base. They considered gender-based theories to affect the development of deviance theories.

The relationship between crime and gender has been immense throughout the long period of offence observation. Men and women have differing offence rates and offence patterns, both as offenders and as victims. The sex of offenders has always been recorded throughout the history of criminal record keeping. Although generally speaking, criminal law is the same for men and women, there are some exceptions and opportunities that can be favorably interpreted for women. While homosexual acts among men have been included under criminal law as crime, lesbian acts are not recognized as crimes.

Male and female prostitution are differently seen from the legal point. Until 1925, women charged with crime committed in the presence of their husband were treated as acted on compulsion, under the English law. A difference in gender attitude is also seen in the pattern of socialization. Socialization among men tends men to become more aggressive and more likely to solve problems through violence. On the contrary, socialization among women tends women to be less aggressive and seek non-violent solutions to problems. The male is projected as a breadwinner of the family by the media, while the female is projected as a caring person.

Organized and professional crime is heavily based on gender. Here again women are more associated with their caring and domestic roles. Males see the crimes they commit as being too dangerous for women and may even not be willing to accept women as their bosses. For forming gender specific theories it is important to look at the factors that need to be considered while forming them. Delinquency in runaway females is attributed to childhood sexual victimization, but is not associated among males. A large A brief analysis of crime theories 10

number of delinquent females living on the streets have actually run away to take refuge from sexual abuse at home. The powerful effect of adolescent victimization and childhood abuse can be understood from the childhood experiences of adult women offenders. Certain problems during childhood are responsible for a girl’s introduction to drug use, youth homelessness, survival sex, prostitution and other more severe crimes (Lind, 1997). The involvement of girls in deviant groups is limited and women gang members are generally under the strict control of their male equivalents.

The feminist criminology can be rightly said to have matured in the 1990s, despite feminist ideas of revolt being in existence for decades. Here male domination or patriarchy is the main cause of crime, with feminists wanting more attention to their voice. Feminist Criminology Feminist criminology refers to the criminological research and relevant analysis on women. Women’s struggle for equality with men in all walks of life has been around for about three to four decades, after centuries of domination by men.

The study of women and crime may be attributed to the efforts of Elizabeth Fry who during the early nineteenth century advocated for separate prisons for women and rehabilitation for them. Hard female criminals were considered to have the equivalent criminal attributes of their male counterparts plus the worst qualities of a woman. It was believed that cunningness and deceitfulness were part of the women criminal profile, which was absent in males (Lombroso and Ferrero, 2004). This suggested that women criminals had genetically more male characteristics than female characteristics and so were biologically abnormal.

Women, who were considered criminals or socially deviant from typical standards of normal women, were considered affected and unwell, requiring treatment. Some criminal theorists like Thomas (1907), were of the opinion that criminality in women was mostly induced by the social conditions they are exposed to and also linked to pathology, than being induced genetically Until now, deviance in women have been studied and formulated by considering biological, psychological, morality with home and family settings. Thus these studies are restricted to individual aspects and limited to attachments and conflicts.

The focus of these studies is based on the widely accepted principle that deviance in women results from personal psychological conditions like inferiority complex or depression. (Giordano,1996). Today, gender based studies and validated conclusions are important, given the high proportion of female offenders in both the juvenile system and the adult justice system. However till date, the gender-based studies in criminology are far from adequate. These are needed to evaluate existing systems including law, conviction, rehabilitation and protection of women; and suggest whether reforms are needed. A brief analysis of crime theories 11

Most crimes by women involve sexual delinquency like running away from home, which accounts for a big number of crimes by young females. This perhaps explains why older females are not much involved in crimes like older males. Women are controlled differently in our society compared to the males, as female attitude is closely watched within her family and female sexuality is policed vigorously compared to males (Abbot and Wallace) When females are given more freedom, they are more likely to get engaged in criminal activities leading to higher levels of criminalization and arrests, which currently appears to be the trend.

Criminologists are of the opinion that women are always less likely to commit crimes than their males and this gender gap is considered universal. Women’s role in crime has been largely associated with a big amount of indifference compared to men, in criminology. Women have been traditionally expected to perform their domestic family roles as obedient wives, daughters. They were mainly more perceived to be sexual objects in a male dominated society, with primary interests in homemaking and caring, till the end of the century. Those who fell short of meeting these requirements, inc