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Theories of Delinquency and Juvenile Offending Why do some kids commit crimes… and how come some kids don’t?

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Delinquency and Juvenile Offending Why do some kids commit crimes… and how come some kids don’t?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Theories of Delinquency and Juvenile Offending Why do some kids commit crimes… and how come some kids don’t?

2 Where do Laws come from? Laws may be “natural” or “man made.” – Natural law – basic rules, same everywhere. – Mores – critical norms crucial to safety & survival. – Mala in se crimes = acts that are immoral or wrong themselves, stable over time and culture. ___________________________________________ – Man made law – encompasses natural law and other acts as well. – Folkways – expectations that change in cultures. – Mala prohibita crimes = acts that infringe on others’ rights, change over time, statutory law.

3 Laws – Do we really need them? Max Weber says we need them to regulate human interactions and support social order, but law has served many purposes: – Protect the interests of society – Deter antisocial behavior – Enforce moral beliefs – Support those in power – Uphold individual rights – Identify lawbreakers – Punish lawbreakers – Seek retribution for wrongdoing

4 Consensus vs. Conflict Theory Consensus Theory – Individuals agree on basic values and define what is right and wrong then laws express these values. Dates back to Plato & Aristotle o Social Contract Theory – (Thomas Hobbs) free people agree to form a community and give up some of their individual freedoms to benefit the security of the entire group. Laws express values. o Social Solidarity – (Durkheim) punishment is necessary to preserve the values of society and revenge is necessary to restore moral order.

5 Consensus Theory continued Emile Durkheim believed punishment of crimes: – Preserves shared values of society – Transforms threat to social order into a triumph of social solidarity – Reinforces that authorities are in control – Reinforces that crime is an aberration – Restores and solidifies social order – 2 key elements of Social Solidarity theory: Involvement of general population with punishment gives punishment legitimacy Punishment is an emotional and passionate reaction to crime Anomie = breakdown of norms

6 Conflict Theory – Laws are established to keep the dominant class in power. Criminal Justice reflects unequal distribution of power. – DMC criminal laws focus on minorities and disadvantaged. Segregation laws Vagrancy laws – Focus shifts from law making to law enforcement. – Public demands more attention to “street crimes” which are applied predominantly to minorities and poor citizens.

7 Marxist Theory continued MARXIST PERSPECTIVE Marx believed punishment: Enhances power of upper class Is used to control the lower class Marxism in American Juvenile Justice History Crime is seen a response to poverty, and rather than provide vocational training, job opportunities, and financial assistance, the “Child Savers” investigated “unsuitable” homes and removed poor children to “preferable” environments and moral education. Instead of fixing the economic inequities, the focus was on “rescuing” the children.

8 Competing World Views Classical World View – Humans have free will and are responsible for their own behavior. (Cesare Beccaria, 1764) – Laws should provide happiness to most people. – Harsh and immediate punishment will deter crime, but must be in proportion to the harm. – Incapacitation, NOT rehabilitation, is the purpose of incarceration or institutionalization. – “Just deserts” (they get what they deserve) is a legitimate purposes of criminal law. – Focus is on the crime (in contrast with juvenile justice). – Contemporary version is rational choice theory. – Punishment is effective deterrent Specific Deterrence General Deterrence

9 Competing World Views Positivist World View – Humans are shaped by society, environmental and cultural influences. – Criminals are BORN with a predisposition toward crime, but environment influences outcome. – Human actions are determined by biological and cultural factors, NOT free will. – Purpose of law is to prevent revolution and reinforce social order. – Focus is on the criminal rather than the crime. – Treatment and rehabilitation, NOT punishment, will prevent future crimes.

10 Competing World Views Positivist World View continued: – Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) studied brains of criminals and believed criminals were born with a predisposition to crime and believed the primary cause of criminal behavior is biological. – Determinism – Human behavior is a product of multiple environmental influences. – Treatment/rehabilitation for crime involves altering one or more of the factors that caused the unlawful behavior.

11 What Causes Crime and Delinquency? Free Will? Biology? – (genetic, chemical, neurological) Psychology? – (social learning, cognitive, psychoanalytic) Society? – (ecological, disorganization, functionalism, strain, learning, social control) Combination of the above? – (labeling, conflict, class struggles) Victims?? (Really!?!)

12 Rational Choice Theory Crime and Delinquency are product of conscious decisions made by weighing, in advance, the costs and benefits of illegal behavior. Lifestyle Theory – crime is one part of an antisocial, high-risk lifestyle that.

13 Victimization Theory  Victimization Theories – Victims contribute to or cause crime by certain behaviors or by placing themselves in danger.  Routine Activity Theory – identifies three elements necessary for crime: A motivated offender A suitable target Lack of a capable guardian

14  Propensity for criminal behavior is heritable and interacts with the environment. o Hormonal Influences o Genetics – brain-based differences (self-control, IQ, aggression and negative emotionality are heritable traits) o Family Studies – crime more concentrated in some families o Twin Studies – Identical twins more likely to have similar criminal behaviors, even when raised in different households o Adoption Studies – adopted children turn out to more like their biological parents than their adoptive parents- especially true for criminal behavior o Brain Research Imaging (heavy metals, neurotransmitters, functional MRI allows study of active brains)

15 Can You Spot the Criminals? Handsome, charismatic l law student Soft, easy going endomorph Clown at children’s parties Defiant 42 year old black woman Soft spoken southern gentleman Repeat offender - 13 arrests Indicted for conspiracy To interfere with business Without a just cause

16 Psychological Theories of Crime  Psychological Theories  Poor Environment can lead to disturbed personality & antisocial behavior.  Criminals are Morally Insane, don’t know right from wrong.  Personality develops in early childhood and is not changed by later associations. “I believe that which doesn’t kill us only makes us …stranger.”  Certain people have little or no control over their Impulses.  There are “Criminal Families.”  Mental and Moral Degeneration cause crime.  Certain factors differentiate delinquents from nondelinquents: low impulse control, intelligence, callousness, lack of empathy, temperament, personality

17 Psychodynamic Theory of Crime  Psychoanalytic Perspective– Freud’s theory emphasizes connection between early childhood and personality development.  Defense mechanisms such as denial or Rationalization help people make sense of their reality. – refers to how one processes environmental cues. Serious delinquents process their environment through an “aggressive lens” that supports an aggressive world view. Cognitive Theories

18 Sociological Theories of Crime 1. Sociological Theories – Social conditions & environment produce criminal behavior. Criminals are made, not born. Children who are not corrected are more likely to ignore social rules and develop antisocial values. Most serious misbehavior occurs during adolescence. Criminal behavior is the result of: – Lack of education, poor housing, low income, slum conditions, conflict within the home, low achievement expectations. – A “subculture” that advocates criminal behavior. – Learned behavior.

19 Sociological Theories of Crime 2. Ecological Model – cities go through same stages of growth as natural environments:  Invasion – new species takes hold  Domination – new species may take over the environment  Stabilization – various species co-exist in a stable “biotic balance”  Symbiosis – different species live together in a mutually beneficial relationship 3. Social Ecology Theory – delinquency can be predicted by studying the environment, e.g., gang membership is a normal response to certain social conditions.

20 Sociological Theories of Crime Social Disorganization Theory – Urban areas produce delinquency because of: – weakened social controls, – acceptance of delinquent behavior, and – little opportunity for legitimate employment. Functionalism – Crime has a purpose and a function and serves a greater purpose for society by: – promoting social solidarity and – clarifying and maintaining social boundaries. Anomie or Strain Theory – Crime is caused by frustration of lower class within a wealthy society that denies them access to social status and material goods. Crime is produced by strong emphasis on monetary success and weak emphasis on legitimate means of obtaining it.

21 Sociological Theories of Crime  Learning Theories – criminal behavior is learned through imitation and modeling or positive or negative reinforcement.  Social Control Theories – Why do people NOT act criminally?  Strong moral bond with society  Attachment to others  Commitment to conventional behavior  Involvement with conventional activities  Belief in the moral order of law  Understanding the potential consequences of nonconformity

22 Learning Theories  Both psychological and sociological theories.  Criminal behavior is learned and through imitation or modeling.  Principle part of learning criminal behaviors occurs within intimate personal groups (small groups or by watching others).  Learning criminal behavior is like learning any other behaviors.  Positive reinforcement (providing stimulus increases behavior)  Negative reinforcement (removing stimulus increases behavior)  Punishment (aversive stimulus reduces behavior)

23  Critical Theories – Humans are BOTH self-determined (critical theory) AND society-determined (positivist theory).  Labeling Theory – humans act on the basis of the meanings the things have for them. ▪ Primary deviance – initial criminal act ▪ Secondary deviance – criminal acts committed after one has accepted the label of “delinquent” or “criminal.”  Conflict Theory – emphasis is on political nature of crime production.  Radical Theory – crime is the product of capitalist society that encourages competition (intra-class and interclass struggles) and exploitation.

24 General Theories of Crime Crime occurs when constraints are low and motivation for crime is high. Life domains [individual, family, school, peers, work] interact with one another in affecting crime. Individuals with low self-control, when given an opportunity, are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than individuals with high self-control. ▫Low self control means inability to delay gratification, lack of diligence, engage in risky, thrill seeking activity, impulsivity, self-centered, insensitive to needs or feelings of others, disinterest in long term pursuits.

25 What do YOU think? Which theory on the causes of crime and delinquency makes the most sense to you? Do you believe different factors cause youth to commit crimes v. cause adults to commit crimes? Do you think different geographical areas have different factors contributing to crime, e.g., New York City v. Presque Isle, Maine? Given what you’ve learned of the causes of delinquency, what are some ways to PREVENT it?


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