Cesare Lombroso (CL) was a Psychiatrist that believed that criminals had common facial characteristics and that they were “born criminals” which he also referred to as “atavisms”. His theory was that genetic factors or abnormalities that are inherited influence individuals to commit crime and that it was the individuals destiny to become a criminal`. This can be identified through the shape of their skulls, large ears and lips, long arms and a flattened nose. He also believed that men were more likely to commit crime than woman as they were more narrow-minded of their interests. CL theory has been largely criticised as it is very much descriptive based rather than experimental.
Research into Kluver-Bucy syndrome supports these findings as humans with the syndrome, as a result of temporal lobe damage, become passive. This is attributed to damage to the amygdala. However, contradictory research from Wong et al (1997) suggests that reduced amygdala size leads to reduced activity in violent criminals. Ashford (1980) suggests that stimulation of the amygdala leads to intermittent explosive aggressiveness, as people with temporal lobe epilepsy become very aggressive. The prefrontal cortex is also part of the complex system of structures involved in aggression.
In terms of biochemistry, chemical imbalances in the brain may be involved in certain mental illnesses. Neurotransmitters, for example, play a very important part in behaviour – one theory links depression to low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline. However, the relationship between neurotransmitters and depression is very complex and therefore, more research is needed to discover the exact link between this and the disorder. People suffering from depression, also often have high levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is sometimes referred to as a ‘stress hormone’ because it is produced in times of stress.
This hormone was investigated by Dabbs et al, where testosterone levels in prisoners where compared to the level of crime committed. There was a significant link between the nature of the crime and the amount of testosterone found in the body (the higher the level of testosterone found the more aggressive the crime eg murder, rape). This supported the biological approach, however it was only a concordance rate and no direct affect can be established. This approach supports Darwins theory of evolution suggesting humans and animals have evolved biologically, meaning animals higher on the evolutionary tree are genetically similar to humans, eg monkeys and apes. The biological approach showed to be a strong explanation for many topic areas in psychology, one of which is gender
Which is the better explanation that elucidates the question: Are criminals born or made? Research has shown that criminal behaviour tends to run in families, it is likely that biological factors play a fundamental role in criminality. In order for psychologists to discover whether criminal behaviour results in the child’s genes or their surrounding environment, they need the information required by adoption studies. For example, if the criminal’s behaviour duplicates that of their adoptive parents then this could lead to the fact that the criminality is present in the environment. Mednick et al.
Research has been done by Silverstein et al in which it was found that biological factors may influence a person’s first positive or negative experience with their first cigarette. For example whether they feel nausea, or choke. Although this does not explain why a person initially picks up a cigarette it does give us an explanation for why some people continue the initiation of smoking. Those with worse experiences due to the biological factors may be less likely to continue to start smoking. Hall et al also suggests that nicotine addiction is likely to involve multiple forms of genes that each have a small effect that interacts with each other and environmental factors.
When serotonin is released by one cell, it enters the next cell through an area of the cell membrane called the receptor. In OCD, some receptors are thought to block serotonin from entering the cell. This leads to a deficiency in the neurotransmitter in key areas of the brain; i.e. people with OCD may have too little serotonin for their nerve cells to communicate effectively.Dopamine activity:40% of OCD patients do not respond to SSRIs, suggesting that, in some at least, other neurotransmitters are involved. Animal studies have shown that high doses of dopamine aginists induce stereotyped movements in animals that resemble the compulsive behaviours found in OCD patients.
What has been proven is that personality conditions such as psychopathic and schizophrenia can be inherited. The evidence that researchers have found is that you can predict if you are born into a family of convicted felons that you will most likely follow the same path. However my thought on the Biological theory is this: Yes if you are born into a family of convicted felons that continue to break the law, then perhaps you will follow but not because you inherited this factor from them, but because you were grown up in this environment and raised to think this type of behavior is allowed. Hence,
Though hard to determine rather antisocial behavior and genetic makeup is linked to being inherited, or just a product of a learned behavior; criminologists have tested the effects of inheritance on crime [ (Siegel L. J., 2011) ]. One way that it has been tested is through adoption studies. This study suggests that if a child’s behavior is closely in line with his or her biological parents rather than the adoptive parents; the idea that criminality is genetic can strongly be supported. A study conducted by Barry Hutchings and
The theory claims that learning crime takes place through observing people (like peers, parents and so on), from there if the person if exposed to more pro-criminal attitudes than anti-criminal attitudes then they are more likely to offend. This was supported by Farrington who carried out a longitudinal study of 411 boys from deprived areas from ages 8 till 50years. After the study, they found out that criminality developed in a context of inappropriate role models and dysfunctional systems of reward and punishment. Although this study seems to show that criminality develops from the environment methodological issues have to be taken into account. A limitation using a longitudinal study is that participants might withdraw from the study which might be an under representative of how criminality is measured.