Criminological schools of thought
In the mid-18th century, criminology arose as social philosophers gave thought to crime and concepts of law. Over time, several schools of thought have developed. There were three main schools of thought in early criminological theory spanning the period from the mid-18th century to the mid-twentieth century: Classical, Positivist, and Chicago. These schools of thought were superseded by several contemporary paradigms of criminology, such as the sub-culture, control, strain, labeling, critical criminology, cultural criminology, postmodern criminology, feminist criminology and others discussed below.
The Classical school arose in the mid-18th century and has its basis in utilitarian philosophy. Cesare Beccaria, author of On Crimes and Punishments (1763–64), Jeremy Bentham (inventor of the panopticon), and other philosophers in this school argued:
- People have free will to choose how to act.
- The basis for deterrence is the idea humans are 'hedonists' who seek pleasure and avoid pain and 'rational calculators' who weigh the costs and benefits of every action. It ignores the possibility of irrationality and unconscious drives as 'motivators'.
- Punishment (of sufficient severity) can deter people from crime, as the costs (penalties) outweigh benefits, and severity of punishment should be proportionate to the crime.
- The more swift and certain the punishment, the more effective as a deterrent to criminal behavior.
This school developed during a major reform in penology when society began designing prisons for the sake of extreme punishment. This period also saw many legal reforms, the French Revolution, and the development of the legal system in the United States.
The Positivist school argues criminal behavior comes from internal and external factors out of the individual's control. Its key method of thought is that criminals are born as criminals not made into them; this school of thought also supports theory of nature in the debate between nature versus nurture. They also argue that criminal behavior is innate and within a person. Philosophers within this school applied the scientific method to study human behavior. Positivism comprises three segments: biological, psychological and social positivism.
Biological Positivism is the belief that these criminals and their criminal behavior stem from "chemical imbalances" or "abnormalities" within the brain or the DNA due to basic internal "defects".
Psychological Positivism is the concept that criminal acts or the people doing said crimes do them because of internal factors driving them. It differs from biological positivism in the thought that that school of thought says criminals are born criminals, whereas the psychological perspective recognizes the internal factors are results of external factor such as, but are not limited to, abusive parents, abusive relationships, drug problems, etc.
Social Positivism, which oftentimes referred to as Sociological Positivism, discusses the thought process that criminals are produced by society. This school claims that low income levels, high poverty/unemployment rates, and poor educational systems create and fuel criminals and crimes.
The notion of having a criminal personality is derived from the school of thought of psychological positivism. It essentially means that parts of a person's personality have traits that align with many traits possessed by criminals, such as neuroticism, anti-social tendencies, and aggressive behaviors. There is no evidence of causation between these personality traits and criminal actions, but there is a correlation.
Typically women are born with XX sex chromosomes, whereas men are born with the XY sex chromosomes. Although rare, some men are born with an extra X chromosome making their sex chromosomes XXY, this results in Klinefelter Syndrome. As a result of this syndrome men may have enlarged breasts, less body hair, small reproductive organs, infertile, and even delayed puberty. This syndrome is also known as the criminal gene or criminal syndrome, because along with impotence, these men experience greater levels of aggression. Many studies have been done and the conclusion has been made that not all male criminals have this syndrome but that many males with this syndrome end up being criminals.
Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), an Italian sociologist working in the late 19th century, is often called "the father of criminology." He was one of the key contributors to biological positivism and founded the Italian school of criminology. Lombroso took a scientific approach, insisting on empirical evidence for studying crime. He suggested physiological traits such as the measurements of cheekbones or hairline, or a cleft palate could indicate "atavistic" criminal tendencies. This approach, whose influence came via the theory of phrenology and by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, has been superseded. Enrico Ferri, a student of Lombroso, believed social as well as biological factors played a role, and believed criminals should not be held responsible when factors causing their criminality were beyond their control. Criminologists have since rejected Lombroso's biological theories since control groups were not used in his studies.
Sociological positivism suggests societal factors such as poverty, membership of subcultures, or low levels of education can predispose people to crime. Adolphe Quetelet used data and statistical analysis to study the relationship between crime and sociological factors. He found age, gender, poverty, education, and alcohol consumption were important factors to crime. Lance Lochner performed three different research experiments, each one proving education reduces crime. Rawson W. Rawson used crime statistics to suggest a link between population density and crime rates, with crowded cities producing more crime. Joseph Fletcher and John Glyde read papers to the Statistical Society of London on their studies of crime and its distribution. Henry Mayhew used empirical methods and an ethnographic approach to address social questions and poverty, and gave his studies in London Labour and the London Poor. Émile Durkheim viewed crime as an inevitable aspect of a society with uneven distribution of wealth and other differences among people.
Differential association (subcultural)
Differential association (subcultural) posits that people learn crime through association. This theory was advocated by Edwin Sutherland, who focused on how "a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law." Associating with people who may condone criminal conduct, or justify crime under specific circumstances makes one more likely to take that view, under his theory. Interacting with this type of "antisocial" peer is a major cause of delinquency. Reinforcing criminal behavior makes it chronic. Where there are criminal subcultures, many individuals learn crime, and crime rates swell in those areas.
The Chicago school arose in the early twentieth century, through the work of Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess, and other urban sociologists at the University of Chicago. In the 1920s, Park and Burgess identified five concentric zones that often exist as cities grow, including the "zone of transition", which was identified as the most volatile and subject to disorder. In the 1940s, Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw focused on juvenile delinquents, finding that they were concentrated in the zone of transition. The Chicago School was a school of thought developed that blames social structures for human behaviors. This thought can be associated or used within criminology, because it essentially takes the stance of defending criminals and criminal behaviors. The defense and argument lies in the thoughts that these people and their acts are not their faults but they are actually the result of society (i.e. unemployment, poverty, etc.), and these people are actually, in fact, behaving properly.
Chicago school sociologists adopted a social ecology approach to studying cities and postulated that urban neighborhoods with high levels of poverty often experience a breakdown in the social structure and institutions, such as family and schools. This results in social disorganization, which reduces the ability of these institutions to control behavior and creates an environment ripe for deviant behavior.
Other researchers suggested an added social-psychological link. Edwin Sutherland suggested that people learn criminal behavior from older, more experienced criminals with whom they may associate.
Theoretical perspectives used in criminology include psychoanalysis, functionalism, interactionism, Marxism, econometrics, systems theory, postmodernism, genetics, neuropsychology, evolutionary psychology, etc.
Social structure theories
This theory is applied to a variety of approaches within the bases of criminology in particular and in sociology more generally as a conflict theory or structural conflict perspective in sociology and sociology of crime. As this perspective is itself broad enough, embracing as it does a diversity of positions.
Social disorganization (neighborhoods)
Social disorganization theory is based on the work of Henry McKay and Clifford R. Shaw of the Chicago School. Social disorganization theory postulates that neighborhoods plagued with poverty and economic deprivation tend to experience high rates of population turnover. This theory suggests that crime and deviance is valued within groups in society, ‘subcultures’ or ‘gangs’. These groups have different values to the social norm. These neighborhoods also tend to have high population heterogeneity. With high turnover, informal social structure often fails to develop, which in turn makes it difficult to maintain social order in a community.
Since the 1950s, social ecology studies have built on the social disorganization theories. Many studies have found that crime rates are associated with poverty, disorder, high numbers of abandoned buildings, and other signs of community deterioration. As working and middle-class people leave deteriorating neighborhoods, the most disadvantaged portions of the population may remain. William Julius Wilson suggested a poverty "concentration effect", which may cause neighborhoods to be isolated from the mainstream of society and become prone to violence.
Strain theory, also known as Mertonian Anomie, advanced by American sociologist Robert Merton, suggests that mainstream culture, especially in the United States, is saturated with dreams of opportunity, freedom, and prosperity—as Merton put it, the American Dream. Most people buy into this dream, and it becomes a powerful cultural and psychological motivator. Merton also used the term anomie, but it meant something slightly different for him than it did for Durkheim. Merton saw the term as meaning a dichotomy between what society expected of its citizens and what those citizens could actually achieve. Therefore, if the social structure of opportunities is unequal and prevents the majority from realizing the dream, some of those dejected will turn to illegitimate means (crime) in order to realize it. Others will retreat or drop out into deviant subcultures (such as gang members, or what he calls "hobos"). Robert Agnew developed this theory further to include types of strain which were not derived from financial constraints. This is known as general strain theory".
Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Anomie Theory
The Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Theory stems from a pre-existing theory, one that was discovered by Merton, named Strain theory. Rosenberger took his findings from it and offered a different approach to the definition. It was based on the notion that everybody should already have "the assumption that the 'American Dream' produces a society that is dominated by the economy and obsessed with the pursuit of success." The Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Theory has many different views and definitions by many people, therefore, this becomes a very flexible theory.
Larine Hughes found a correlation between economic pressure and how it links the "American Dream" and "Individualism" to a high crime. Hughes came to final decision that "Therefore, individuals that do not have the drive to succeed and achieve this "goal" will fail, despite social and cultural pressures.
Samantha Applin then took an approach relating genders and The Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Theory. Stated in an article by S. Applin, "males make up what is considered "normal subjects", and due to this, force woman to lie on a boundary that expectation is outside the dominant cultural frame." Therefore, setting women back in the beginning stages of Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Theory.
Brian Stults began to research studies on the violence between youth and the correlation that it has on Messner and Rosenfeld Institutional Anomie Theory. Stults stated, "As well as the results showed graduating high school represents an important developmental stage in American society, as it ends the compulsory education, and is often followed by a significant decline in daily need and extra resources from your parents."
Following the Chicago school and strain theory, and also drawing on Edwin Sutherland's idea of differential association, sub-cultural theorists focused on small cultural groups fragmenting away from the mainstream to form their own values and meanings about life.
Albert K. Cohen tied anomie theory with Sigmund Freud's reaction formation idea, suggesting that delinquency among lower-class youths is a reaction against the social norms of the middle class. Some youth, especially from poorer areas where opportunities are scarce, might adopt social norms specific to those places that may include "toughness" and disrespect for authority. Criminal acts may result when youths conform to norms of the deviant subculture.
Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin suggested that delinquency can result from a differential opportunity for lower class youth. Such youths may be tempted to take up criminal activities, choosing an illegitimate path that provides them more lucrative economic benefits than conventional, over legal options such as minimum wage-paying jobs available to them.
Delinquency tends to occur among the lower-working-class males who have a lack of resources available to them and live in impoverished areas, as mentioned extensively by Albert Cohen (Cohen, 1965). Bias has been known to occur among law enforcement agencies, where officers tend to place a bias on minority groups, without knowing for sure if they had committed a crime or not. Delinquents may also commit crimes in order to secure funds for themselves or their loved ones, such as committing an armed robbery, as studied by many scholars (Briar & Piliavin).
British sub-cultural theorists focused more heavily on the issue of class, where some criminal activities were seen as "imaginary solutions" to the problem of belonging to a subordinate class. A further study by the Chicago school looked at gangs and the influence of the interaction of gang leaders under the observation of adults.
Sociologists such as Raymond D. Gastil have explored the impact of a Southern culture of honor on violent crime rates.
Another approach is made by the social bond or social control theory. Instead of looking for factors that make people become criminal, these theories try to explain why people do not become criminal. Travis Hirschi identified four main characteristics: "attachment to others", "belief in moral validity of rules", "commitment to achievement", and "involvement in conventional activities". The more a person features those characteristics, the less likely he or she is to become deviant (or criminal). On the other hand, if these factors are not present, a person is more likely to become a criminal. Hirschi expanded on this theory with the idea that a person with low self-control is more likely to become criminal. As opposed to most criminology theories, these do not look at why people commit crime but rather why they do not commit crime.
A simple example: Someone wants a big yacht but does not have the means to buy one. If the person cannot exert self-control, he or she might try to get the yacht (or the means for it) in an illegal way, whereas someone with high self-control will (more likely) either wait, deny themselves of what want or seek an intelligent intermediate solution, such as joining a yacht club to use a yacht by group consolidation of resources without violating social norms.
Social bonds, through peers, parents, and others can have a countering effect on one's low self-control. For families of low socio-economic status, a factor that distinguishes families with delinquent children, from those who are not delinquent, is the control exerted by parents or chaperonage. In addition, theorists such as David Matza and Gresham Sykes argued that criminals are able to temporarily neutralize internal moral and social-behavioral constraints through techniques of neutralization.
Psychoanalysis and the unconscious desire for punishment
see main article Psychoanalytic criminology
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory (and therapy) which regards the unconscious mind, repressed memories and trauma, as the key drivers of behavior, especially deviant behavior. Sigmund Freud talks about how the unconscious desire for pain relates to psychoanalysis in his novel, Beyond the Pleasure Principle,. Freud suggested that unconscious impulses such as ‘repetition compulsion’ and a ‘death drive’ can dominate a person's creativity, leading to self-destructive behavior.
Phillida Rosnick, in the article Mental Pain and Social Trauma, posits a difference in the thoughts of individuals suffering traumatic unconscious pain which corresponds to them having thoughts and feelings which are not reflections of their true selves. There is enough correlation between this altered state of mind and criminality to suggest causation. Sander Gilman, in the article Freud and the Making of Psychoanalysis, looks for evidence in the physical mechanisms of the human brain and the nervous system and suggests there is a direct link between an unconscious desire for pain or punishment and the impulse to commit crime or deviant acts.