Strengths And Weaknesses As An Explanation Of Criminal Behavior

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Professionals have tried to use different angles including biological, psychological and sociological angles to analyze why one will commit a crime.

Biological theories focus on the characteristics of individual criminals. Cesare Lombroso’s theories of ‘born’ criminal think criminal behavior is determined on the inheritance of the ancestors. If one ancestor is hunters, their posterity is more violent and tend to commit crimes. Yet, if one ancestor is farmer, their posterity having less chance to commit a crime. Besides, the early body type theory divides people’s physique into three types including endomorphs, ectomorphs, and mesomorphs to discern what body type will be more likely to be a criminal.

Biological theories proved that some criminal behavior can not restrain by the criminal as their genetic make them born to be a criminal. It introduces a scientific approach which can analyze criminals genetic or their characteristic according to the biological theories. Also, it explains some of the criminal behavior, like the crime committed by manic criminals who sometimes can not state the reason for crime commitment. Also, if we discover the children have the characteristic that matched the biological theories, the parent can bring them to see the doctor and prevent the child to have delinquency.

Yet, not everyone who has this characteristic must commit a crime, it stereotypes and labels people. People with the characteristic of criminals which mentioned in theories are more likely to commit crime as others may bully or discriminate them. Also, their appearance can be changed by external factors, like if one does exercise every day, he can change his body type from ectomorphs to mesomorphs. As the somatotypes are not fixed, it fails to use the physique to determine one will commit crime accurately. The biological theories emphasize that criminals are mainly affected by pathological factors and ignore the possibility of criminals affected by society.

Psychological theories focus on the characteristics of individual criminals like biological theories, yet it emphasizes the importance of unconscious mind, sex, aggression, and childhood experience. Sigmund Freud pointed there are three major elements in one’s mind, including the id, superego, and ego. The id is limited by superego and if the three elements cannot balance each other, one may commit crimes due to weak conscience. Many criminal offenders are characterized by no sense of guilt, no subjective conscience, and no sense of right or wrong. The balance of the three major elements depends on one’s childhood. If the child received the “faulty identification” from his or her parents, the child is more likely to commit a crime. Thus, loving relationships and attachment between children and their parents are the key points of child development.

The cognitive theory suggests criminal behavior comes from people’s thoughts about morality and the law. Lawrence Kohlberg came up with a theory concerning moral reasoning and stated that there were six stages including obedience, self-interest, social norms, law morality, social contract, and ethics. Children will reach a different level of moral development, such as the pre-conventional level and moral reasoning is based on obedience and avoiding punishment. At the end of childhood, the child reaches the conventional level and at this point, moral reasoning is based on the expectations that their family has for them. People who progress through the stages would value the laws of the social system, otherwise, they may arrest during their moral development, and consequently become delinquents

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For the strength of psychological theories, it explains delinquent and criminal behaviors are based on one’s personality. As individual personality would be developed from early childhood, so that poor parenting styles would negatively affect children and they are more likely to commit a crime.

However, these theories are unscientific as it is difficult to check the validity. It is impossible to test as one cannot see, identify, or measure the id, ego, or superego. It overemphasizes the importance and determination of the unconscious mind, sex, aggression, and childhood experiences do to criminal behavior. Also, psychological theories often neglect social and cultural factors.

sociological theories of criminology say that society creates conditions under which a person commits a crime. That is, people are influenced by society to commit crimes. both the biological and psychological approaches focus on the individual and treated crime as an individual problem. American sociologist, Robert K. Merton’s theory of anomie suggests that criminality results from an offender’s inability to attain his goals by socially acceptable means; faced with this inability, the individual is likely to turn to other—not necessarily socially or legally acceptable—objectives or to pursue the original objectives by unacceptable means. The strain theory, proposed by Robert K. Merton pointed out five types of people, including conformity, ritualism, innovation, retreatism, and rebellion due to their institutionalized means and cultural goals. One key idea that the sociological theories have in common is criminal behavior is not innate to humans and circumstances affect how people act. It proved that people are not born criminals, the environment in which they live that influences how they will turn out.

For the strength of sociological theories, it shifts more focus on how social factors influence one to be a criminal offender. For example, the number of crimes can determine by the working class demographics, there is less crime behavior during economic growth as many people can attain both institutionalized means and cultural goals. Also, it showed that anomie should blame not only the individual but also society. The types and seriousness of crime reflect what needs to be changed in society. If robbing is common in a society, it might reflect that most of the citizens are poor or even under unemployment, the government should have more education and welfare to change the social ethos.

However, it ignores the free will of one choose to commit crime as one may put too much strain and it causes anomie. Also, it fails to explain why some well-educated and wealthy people who would like to commit a crime, even they attain a higher social level. For example, some of them will rape a child and this criminal behavior might not be influenced by the societal factor, but it may due to a childhood experience or metal idleness.

In conclusion, biological and psychological theories of crime treated the crime as an individual problem, yet sociological theories tend to treat a crime is responsibility of society. Also, there are weakness and strengths of each approach, avoid just using or trust single angle point of view can analyze the crime behavior better.

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Strengths And Weaknesses As An Explanation Of Criminal Behavior. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from
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