Essay about Are Criminals Born or Made?

Essay about Are Criminals Born or Made?

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One of the earliest theories of criminality was Lombroso, who linked physiological features (mostly facial characteristics) to criminal behaviour. Lombroso argued that it is easy to spot criminals as they are not fully evolved, and are more throwbacks to a previous evolutionary state. This is known as atavism. He argued that criminals are born, not made. He argued that criminals have many distinctive characteristics including a large protruding jaw, low sloping forehead, high cheekbones, shifty eyes and fleshy lips and may have tattoos as an indication to a reduced sensitivity to pain. He also stated that different types of crime were committed by different types of criminal, and that these criminals could be distinguished by physical differences.

Goring’s study about physical features of thousands of English prisoners contradicts that of Lombroso as he found none of the distinctive facial characteristics noted by Lombroso. However, he did determine that a common factor amongst criminals were that they were of low intelligence. Since Lombroso’s main claim was that criminality is genetic, and that intelligence is determined by genes, this provides some support.

Overall, there are many limitations to Lombroso’s study as his findings based on the facial measurements of hundreds of criminals, and the skulls of deceased criminals were not compared to a control group of non- criminals. This is a problem as some people who are not criminals may contain some/ all of the above physical features too. Firstly, it is extremely deterministic as it assumes that people are born a criminal due to predisposed factors, and is unable to escape their destiny meaning that it does not take into account social or economic factors. This may raise...


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...sues with social desirability and as it is a self report method, there may be a social desirability bias.

A major problem with this theory overall is that there is little evidence to support it. However, Cochrane found links between the psychoticism and neuroticism, but not necessarily on extraversion. Therefore it can be argued that prison time could affect the rates of neuroticism – Thus, causing them to develop a certain type of personality. Again, it is reductionist and it ignores other reasons for crime by solely putting the blame on the individual ignoring things such as the role society (social inequality) and culture plays on crime.
In conclusion, these explanations of crime are simplistic and therefore it is probably better to take an interactionist approach, seeing genes, society, upbringing and personality all interacting to cause criminal behaviour.

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