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What are the dangers of explanations of crime and offending based upon the characteristics of the individual.

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Introduction

What are the dangers of explanations of crime and offending based upon the characteristics of the individual. Cesare Lombroso, a criminological positivist, popularised the notion of genetically determined criminal types. He believed that criminology needed to focus on a biological basis of crime. He stated that criminals were specific physical types and were throwbacks to Neanderthal man. He believed that there were four categories of criminals: born criminals, who had physical atavistic characteristics, insane criminals, criminaloids, who were occasional criminals with traits to predispose them to criminality and criminals of passion, who were motivated by anger, love and honour. Lombroso's research was flawed, however it showed both the importance of examining clinical and historical records of criminals and the need for multi-factor explanations of crime, i.e. not only hereditary but social, cultural and economic. ...read more.

Middle

He believed that it was not crime and criminality that were innate, but a balance of cortical arousal in the brain that causes introversion and extroversion. The extraverts need for excitement can lead to anti-social behaviour. He described extraverts as people who were sociable, impulsive and optimistic, whereas introverts are reserved, cautious and controlled. Eysenck argued that neuroticism is about the intensity of emotional reactions. Those people high on the neuroticism scale tended to be moody, anxious and would over react to stress. He described that the neuroticism-stability continuum relates to the automatic nervous system which produces the 'fight or flight' response to a situation. Neuroticism acts as a drive and encourages anti-social behaviour. A neurotic-extravert is the most likely personality type to be involved in criminal behaviour. Eysenck's model deserves attention as it is one of few comprehensive statements on the role of genetics in anti-social behaviour. ...read more.

Conclusion

This showed that Afro-Caribbean's in the UK had become vulnerable to the stresses of living in the UK despite their genes. Mullins refers to the lack of support for genetic explanations. He stated that "no one would maintain that the inheritance, whether biological of psychological, can be directly a cause of crime." However he later observed that "delinquency is closely associated with the lower-grade and mentally deficient." There is a long history of socio-biological explanations of crime, yet there is still much to be explored. It is evident that there is no single cause of crime; it is a mixture of biological factors and the environment. A key danger of blaming genes for crime is that criminals can use it as an explanation as to why they committed a crime and may receive lighter punishment. Genes are proteins, not behavioural determinants. It seems that it is more a case of inheriting behaviour from parents rather than actual criminal genes. ...read more.

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