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Crime Explanation Using Biology and Psychology

Comprehensive explanations on the theory of Cesare Lombroso’s have been discussed indicating that criminals could be picked out and determined by their physique, attributes and appearance. Another theory covered that supports this explanation is the theory of Bowlby’s that portrays maternal deprivation and violence coupled with trauma during childhood affects an individual’s personality and behaviour.

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Learning to commit crime and deterrence

This covers the children who are involved in crime and the punitive actions on them to avoid the occurrence of such cases.

Incapacitation, Retribution and Rehabilitation

This covers the understanding of punishment. It is critical to look into the conceptual basis and compare with various theories brought out to support infliction of punishment and morally justify them to the society. These theories include retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation and deterrence.

Crime explanation using Biology and psychology

The biological and psychological explanation of crime examined in this paper show growths in the area. A comprehensive explanation will focus primarily on the theory of Cesare Lombroso’s, as he believed criminals could be picked out and determined by their physique, attributes and appearance. Another theory that supports this explanation is the theory of Bowlby’s that portrays maternal deprivation and violence coupled with trauma during childhood affects an individual’s personality and behaviour.

Lombroso’s investigations on criminal bodies during post mortems revealed their physical difference from non-criminals. His constant assessment maintained that most criminals portray signs or stigmata. Lombroso explains that these stigmata’s are associated with an abnormal skull dimensions and abnormal jaw dimensions. The asymmetries of the body parts and especially the face were distinguished from non-criminals. Lombroso also claimed that different criminals’ portrayed different characteristics physically that he was able to distinguish (Albanese, 2012).

According to Lombroso, criminality is genetically passed down in family lineages. His main theory stated that there was biological determinism in criminality. This meant that individuals are restricted to a path in criminality, and they cannot go around it. This implied that there was no free that is involved in determining the way an individual turns out. The way individuals turn out is genetically controlled; this means that if the parents portrayed criminal characteristics, then it is apparent that the children will become criminals. Lombroso believed that children born in criminal lineages identified by physiognomic defects. These defects would confirm criminals as atavistic or savages.

In his work, Lombroso identified certain traits that he linked with various personalities. He identified defects as sloping eyebrow, which he linked to symbolize a person with low intellectual potential. He also identified the link between jaw and passion stating that a renowned jaw shows strong passion. According to Lombroso, individuals bearing such defects portray different behaviour to other members of the society. They have a low ability to portray any tiny bit of remorse or guilt.

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Lombroso’s work was highly inexistent or inconsistent. There were weaknesses portrayed in his established theories. He did not use control groups I his work, this therefore meant that he did not have anything of substantial nature for comparison to his results. This flaw faulted Lombroso’s theory and research. The flaws meant that his researches based on environmental causative of criminality. This emphasizes that he believed that the environment curved out criminal. This psychological aspect became Lombroso’s only supported theory.

The theory proposed criminality to be innate. The innateness distinguished through physical stigmata atavist and their deformities or, in other words, physiognomic attributes. Generally, humans evolve, but Lombroso believed that individuals with violent and criminal tendencies tend to devolve. This meant that criminals show past figurative appearance of human kind. Scanty beard, hard shifty eyes, high cheekbones, handles shaped ears and low sloping forehead is his perceived figure for a criminal. This is not true because a person can bear these disfigurements due to previous accidents. Therefore, Lombroso’s theory has a major weakness. Physical appearance is not a hundred percent accurate prediction of a criminal as other factors contribute to those attributes.

Moreover, apart from Lombroso’s theory, there is little other psychological evidence to prove that these behaviours only link to criminals as not only criminals portray abnormalities. This is another weakness to Lombroso’s theory. Lombroso has had many individuals criticizing his work but his main critic was Charles Goring. Charles took an in-depth look at Lombroso’s conclusions and not only had he criminal elements to study but he had a control group for comparison, a military group. Goring compared the two groups to ascertain the differences and similarity in their behaviour. His work found no significant difference between the two groups and this was a weakness against Lombroso’s theory. The only discovery made by Goring was that the criminals wee lighter and a few inches shorter than the military personnel do. The deduction could not be a hundred percent accurate as other factors affected the discovery. The diet was a key factor influencing these results.

Lombroso’s theory reflects to contemporary society with specific strengths. Sentencing of criminals for different crimes requires an impression portrayed by the criminal. Hence, less attractive personalities are often prejudged to be guilty. This is not the case for the attractive and there is a fifty percent difference in that aspect. Studies carried out shown sentencing of two black individuals for the same crime had a possible conviction. The less attractive black individual had a harsher sentence compare to the attractive counterpart. This is irrespective to the investigators and jurors ethnicity. Other research has also determined that women jurors are harsh to attractive female suspects. They tend to issue and treat other attractive female suspects ruthlessly as compared to less attractive suspects or male suspects. This might be because there is an assumption that the attractive women would try to capitalize on the beauty for their favor. Men favour attractive deeming them innocent. The only positive in these researches were that there was no prejudice towards white on whites or blacks on blacks.

Bowlby’s theory emphasizes on maternal deprivation. He was interested with the happenings that constitute of separation (Phillipson, 1971). With careful research he found out that, there were different attachment patterns that led a new path into his research that related consequences of insecurity versus security. Bowlby believed that mothers and children form attachment with each other automatically using inherited genetically skills. These skills include crying, smiling, breast feeding and facial expressions. The motherly love accord at infancy is a great and vital step for mental growth and mental health. This component of mental health growth is as important as vitamins and proteins are important to physical health growth.

Bowlby portrays that there would be negative consequences if the mother and child bond is irreversibly terminated in the initial years of the child’s life. There would be immense emotional problems later in life that would lead to distress and crime. Holmes focused maternal deprivation and discovered that the results linked to those that bring about the criminality trait. According to Bowlby, the consequences of maternal deprivation are depression, social maladjustment, dependency anxiety affectionless psychopath, retardation intellectually, delinquency and aggression.

The society has changed immensely hence the rise in crime. In the early 1900, it would be normal for a standard family to consist of two children, a father and a mother. Mothers assigned the duties of caring for their children at home while the fathers went to work. As time passed, the society has changed and divorce is the order of the day. The society is more diverse with more same sex marriages with adopted children and single parent homes. Majority of homes, both parents go out to work and these are weaknesses to Bowlby’s theory. Strengths’ in the theory show that there is will by the government to accord children the required motherly attention. There is systems setup that assist inmate mothers see their children. Inmate children accorded to stay together in so that there is maximum childcare in its initial years. The government believes that until two years the children requires the connection with their parents. The bond would in turn assist the children avoid a murky future.

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The case study by Robert Napper on Nickell portrays the strengths’ of Bowlby’s theory. The early life of Napper witnessed brutal attacks on their mother by their father. The brutal attacks on their mother caused trauma in the children placed under psychiatric care in their new foster homes. The child descended to behaviour disorders, paranoia, aspersers’ syndrome, mental illness and degenerate to dark moods. Robert was teased a lot in school and he had no friends causing his intellect to range averagely. His character changed to become violent as h started insulting and bullying other students to and extent of shooting another student in the face with an air gun. Later in life, he became a rapist for some time before escalating to murder for the profound hatred of women.

According to Bowlby, this condition was affectionate psychopathy that meant there was no remorse or guilt for victims and crimes committed. Robert earlier been raped in the place he comforted the woman whom he brutally killed. Both Lombroso’s and Bowlby’s studies show crime explanation by link with physiology and biology. The new research shows biological coupled with genetic factors and social factors play an equal role in causing crime. The breakthrough brings out new implications for crime prevention and more recommendations (Conklin, 2010).

Learning to Commit Crime and Deterrence

There are more and more children in juvenile facilities across the nation. This means that more children are learning to commit crime and deterrence. As young as 12 year olds locked up in the juvenile facilities. Others are serving in adult prisons for committing immense crimes. Learning to commit crime is taken up at childhood as these cases show. Some children rose in abusive families and the boys are turned into the aggressive male adults as the females learn to become victims as a normalcy.

If the male is mentally or physically abusive to his spouse and the female will continue staying in the relationship. This makes the boys perceive the relationship as a proper way for males to act. The females will see the relationship as a way for males to treat them. During their teenage years, the teens take up most of the characters of their peers. The teenagers then take up their parent’s s role models. When they grow into adults, the male are expected to foster their energy into socially accepted outlets.

At birth, children as presumed to be at blank slates with no conformation or motivation to crime. This brings out two strong question portrayed by the theory.

The micro-level seeks to identify the desire for one to participate in executing crime. The answer to this query will stress the learning process. The Social learning theory works on the symbolic interactionism. Symbolic interactionism is a theory of social psychologically based on human behaviour and individual’s communications. Individuals communicate with symbols that are depicted as social in origin. There are various debates of teenage delinquency imprisonment. The majority believe that rehabilitation is vital to saving these individuals, but at this age, they are learning to commit crime. This makes others believe that isolation and hardship would be a better option. Crime is an under pin to every life circle in the universe since inception.

Deterrence is punishment for fear so as others do not follow suite. Death penalty is seen as a deterrent as there is no allowance for rehabilitation. The said criminal is killed to serve as an example to others. There is supporting research and statistics that show that the death sentence is effective in deterring crime. Even so, many activists are against it. Any prejudice, discrimination or wrongful conviction will mean the killing of an innocent person. Another contributing factor is the denial of the said party for a chance to reform and rehabilitate. This is seen as discrimination. Most individuals are forced into crime because they had no alternative. Therefore, deterrent measures are not assisting them as the situation will present itself again and the individual will be forced into the same action.

Drug addiction is an example of forcing situations. When drug addicts are jailed to enforce fear so as they would not repeat the act again, they just postpone there problem and immediately they find themselves in that situation again, they do not hesitate repeating the crime. Rehabilitation would have led the drug user away from drugs, hence, avoid future constricting situations. This would work for all crimes. Another case is a case of a mother who stills food to feed her children. If the mother were used as an example for others using deterrent measures, the children would suffer and would end up stealing themselves. Rehabilitative measures will ensure the mother changes her ways and takes in more appropriate measures of finding food. Hence, the children will be safe. The deterrent effects of solving crime cannot be avoided in totality. The aspect of inflicting fear to deter crime is still a principle human concept. The main characteristic of this aspects come from ancient times. This means that the character is entrenched in peoples mind frames and it would massive task to etch it out of their mindsets.

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Incapacitation, Retribution and Rehabilitation

For better understanding of punishment, it is critical to look into the conceptual basis and compare with various theories brought out to support infliction of punishment and morally justify them to the society. These theories include retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation and deterrence. In recent years, restorative justice has cropped up. Crimes are configured in three aspects criminological, philosophical and sociological so as punishment.

Punishment has a philosophical approach in two main categories utilitarian theory and retributive theory. The two categories have further been generated o discussions that concern retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation and deterrence. These theories are set as the goals for punishment. The prevention of future crime is labelled as deterrence and its theories are labelled as utilitarian because they come from utilitarian philosophy. Theories that focus on the past offences of the offenders are retributivist theories. This theories focus on the past offences committed by the offenders. They focus on the retribution of the offenders. Punishment does not have deterrent effects individually. Nagin (1998) portrays the difficulty in differencing between rehabilitation and individual deterrence.

Retribution theory portrays punishment as justified, as it is deserved. Many retribution systems of crime have existed for a long time. The best in the Biblical times being the lex talionis that opted for the choice of a tooth for a tooth, eye for an eye or life for life. The morality is linked to crime and punishment in this theory as the retributionists see punishment as a responsibility question. They also perceive punishment as a question of accountability. Rules are set up in the society to represent moral orders. This is as perceived by the retributivist, the legal rules reflect on moral order and the society has learnt accept these rules. Retributivists often cannot query the rules legitimacy.

Retribution is argued to operate on a consensus society model where the society acts with the rules of the legal system as rightly and wrongly against acts of criminality. It will therefore follow that retributivist position does not allow social change and social condition. It specifically looks at the criminal aspects. This raises the issue cause of crime socially and questions the crime punishment effectiveness. The lex talionis, historically, was not a retribution demand, but instead limited the retribution nature and prevented the imposition of extensive penalties for vengeance instead.

Incapacitation should be primary goal of punishment. The probability of imprisonment for the first minor is unlikely. They have portrayed the will to victimize innocent individuals from time to time. For that, there is need to protecting the society by isolating them from it. Rehabilitation should be the target to hand the prisoner the capabilities necessary to thrive outside the prison without conforming to crime again. This is more than work skills, but also psychological assistance. Presently, the concept of punishment in the United States combines the retributive and utilitarian theories. However, retribution is the most accepted punishment rationale in the United States.

Utilitarian theory states that punishment should be rehabilitative and reformative on the offender. The punishment is aimed at changing the offenders’ perception and assisting him accept his wrong and change for better. When the offenders’ values are changed, they will refrain from criminal activity and will be consider as a reformed individual. This change is different as the individual will not refrain from criminal activities due to fear of repercussions, but they will do so because their attitudes have changed. Proponents of the rehabilitation policy claim that the punishment of individual offenders should be tailor made to fit their crime to facilitate their rehabilitation.

Rehabilitationists portray crime as a social disease and the need to cure the individual is not through fear but lessons. The society should support and provide treatment to criminals to assist them out of their predicament to a more fruitful lifestyle. Rehabilitative philosophy does not relate, in any way, the association of guilt and punishment but they utilize crime and rehabilitation.


Albanese, S. (2012). Professional ethics in criminal justice: Being ethical when no one else is looking (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Conklin, E. (2010). Criminology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Nagin, D. 1998. Deterrence and Incapacitation. New York: Cengage Learning.

Phillipson, M. (1971). Sociological aspects of crime and delinquency. New York: Routledge.

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