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Chapter 5 Trait Theories. Foundations of Trait Theory The view that criminals have physical or mental traits that make them different or abnormal  William.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 5 Trait Theories. Foundations of Trait Theory The view that criminals have physical or mental traits that make them different or abnormal  William."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 5 Trait Theories

2 Foundations of Trait Theory The view that criminals have physical or mental traits that make them different or abnormal  William Sheldon suggested somatotype (body-build) makes people susceptible to delinquent behavior Mesomorphs – muscular/athletic (aggression) Ectomorphs – tall/thin (intellectual) Endomorphs – heavy/slow (fences)

3 Foundations of Trait Theory Impact of Sociobiology  Sociobiology reemerged in the 1970s (Edmund O. Wilson) Sociobiologists view the gene as the ultimate unit of human destiny Ensuring of survival (reciprocal altruism)  Modern Trait Theories Each offender is mentally and physically unique Humans do not posses equipotentiality (equal potential to learn and achieve) People develop physical or mental traits at birth or soon after that affect their social functioning over the life course and their behavior choices

4 Biological Trait Theories Biosocial theorists argue physical, environmental, and social conditions work in concert to produce behavior Learning Potential and Its Effect on Individual Behavior Patterns  The physical and social environment interact to either limit or enhance capacity for learning  Biochemistry and cellular interaction control learning  Instinct: Some biosocial theorists contend learning is influenced by instinctual drives (rape or desire of males to control females)

5 Figure 5.1 Biosocial Perspectives on Criminality

6 Biological Trait Theories Biochemical Conditions and Crime  Some trait theorists suggest biochemical factors contribute to criminality  Chemical and Mineral Influences: Over-or undersupply of certain chemicals and minerals are associated with antisocial behaviors  Diet and Crime: (depression, mania, cognitive problems, memory loss, or abnormal sexual behavior)  Sugar and Crime: Linked to violence/aggression  Hypoglycemia: blood glucose falls below necessary levels for normal brain functioning which has been linked to outbursts of antisocial behavior and violence.

7 Biological Trait Theories Hormonal influences: Some trait theorists suggest biochemical factors contribute to criminality (James Q. Wilson) Abnormal levels of male sex hormones (androgens) and testosterone have been linked to aggressive behavior High androgen levels increase stimulation and quest for thrills (left hemisphere of neocortex) Hormones may explain why males age-out of crime

8 Biological Trait Theories Premenstrual Syndrome: PMS linked to aggression in females Allergies: Defined as unusual or excessive reactions by the body  Cerebral allergies: affect the nervous system and produce enzymes which affect behavior  Neuroalergies – affect the nervous system Environmental Contaminants: Lead, copper, cadmium, mercury and inorganic gases  Lead levels: Linked to aggressive behavior (Deborah Denno)

9 Biological Trait Theories Neurophysiological Conditions and Crime  Neurophysiology is the study of brain activity  Cases such as Charles Whitman (brain tumor) have focused attention on neurological impairments  EEG abnormalities have been linked to violent criminals  Minimal Brain Dysfunction: (abnormality linked to cerebral structure) is manifested into episodic periods of explosive rage (PET scans)  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: (ADHD) has been associated with poor school performance, bullying, and stubbornness  Brain Chemistry: neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in low levels are linked to aggressive behavior

10 Biological Trait Theories Arousal Theory  Reaction of brain function in response to environmental stimuli  “Sensation seekers” may include aggressive/violent behaviors  Low heart beats rates related to seeking stimulation

11 Biological Trait Theories Genetics and Crime  Some trait theorists suggest personality traits may be genetically determined  XYY theory in the 1970s believed to be associated with violent crime in males  Parental Deviance: children inherit criminal tendencies from their criminal parents  Sibling Similarities: The effect appears greatest among same sex siblings  Twin Behavior: identical twins (monozygotic) research suggests criminal tendencies are due to genes and not environment (findings are controversial)  Adoption Studies: research supports a genetic basis for criminality (Mednick)

12 Biological Trait Theories Evolutionary Theory  The competition for scarce resources has influenced and shaped the human species  Impulsive risk-taking behavior becomes intergenerational (passed down from parents)  Gender and Crime: Most aggressive males have the greatest number of offspring and impact the gene pool Rushton’s Theory of Race and Evolution: Migration produced evolutionary changes in behavior (racist undertones) R/K Selection Theory: Holds the “R” along a continuum reproduce rapidly compared to those along the “K” end who reproduce slowly Cheater Theory: suggests a subpopulation of men has evolved with genes that leads to cunning methods to gain sexual conquests

13 Biological Trait Theories Evaluation of the Biological Branch of Trait Theory  Critics charge biological theories are racist and dysfunctional Do not explain population differences  Biological explanations do not account for geographical variations in crime  Lack of empirical testing

14 Psychological Trait Theories Defective intelligence (Charles Goring) Crime could be controlled by regulating reproduction of the feebleminded Psychodynamic: Freud suggested people carry the residue of childhood attachments that guide future interpersonal relationships  Id (pleasure principal): unconscious biological urges for food, sex and other life-sustaining necessities  Ego (reality principal): helps guide the actions of the Id within boundaries of social convention  Superego (conscience): the moral aspect of one’s personality  Conflicts during psychosexual stages of development may lead to “fixations”

15 Psychological Trait Theories Psychodynamics of Abnormal Behavior  Inferiority complex (Adler): People with a drive for superiority  Bipolar disorder: Moods alternate between depression and elation  Disruptive Behavior Disorder (DBD) includes: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Defiance toward authority figures Conduct Disorder (CD) More serious and viewed as severely anti-social

16 Psychological Trait Theories Crime and Mental Illness  Some personality disorders are referred to as psychosis  Paranoid Schizophrenia: Delusions of wrongdoing and persecution  Despite evidence of mental illness: Recidivism among mentally disordered is less than the general population Behavioral Theory  Human actions are developed through learning experiences  Social Learning Theory: Social learning theorists argue that people learn aggression through life experiences Violence is learned via behavior modeling (family interaction, environmental experiences, and mass media)  An event that heightens arousal (abuse)  Aggressive skills (learned aggressive responses)  Expected outcomes (aggression = reward)  Consistency of behavior with values (aggression is okay)

17 Psychological Trait Theories Cognitive Theory  Focuses on how people perceive and mentally represent the world around them and solve problems  Sub-categories include: Moral development: (Jean Piaget) People obey the law to avoid punishment Humanistic psychology: Self-awareness approach Information Processing: How people process, store, encode, retrieve, and manipulate information

18 Psychological Traits and Characteristics Personality and Crime  Personality: is the reasonably stable patterns of behavior, thoughts, and emotions that distinguish one person from another.  Research has identified personality traits such as extroversion and introversion (Eysenck)  Antisocial personality/psychopathy/sociopathy: are antisocial persons suffering defects or aberrations  Research on personality: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) measures personality traits and may give clues to criminality.

19 Psychological Traits and Characteristics Intelligence and Crime  Some early trait theorists argued that criminals have a below average IQ Nature Theory (Goddard): argues that intelligence is determined genetically Nurture Theory: argues that intelligence is primarily sociological  IQ and criminality: Reemerged in 1977 with research by Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang.  Cross national studies: Research with Danish children suggest a relationship between IQ and delinquency  Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray suggest criminal offenders have an average IQ of 92  Critics charge the link between IQ and criminality is weak

20 Figure 5.2 Psychological Perspectives on Criminality

21 Public Policy Implications of Trait Theory Important influence on crime control and prevention programs  Primary prevention programs seek to treat personal problems before they manifest into criminal behavior  Secondary prevention programs provide treatment after one has violated the law  Use of mood-altering chemicals such as lithium, pemoline, imipramine, phenytoin, benzodiazepines are sometimes used to control behavior


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