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Theories Of Criminal Deviance Essay, Research Paper

AtavismThe theory of atavism, also referred to as sociobiology, was a concept developed by the criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) that offers a biological explanation for criminal deviance. His theory states that criminal deviance is inherited and this inheritance is visible in the shape of the human skull. Through biological determinism Lombroso attempted to show that physical traits would be determinants of criminal behavior. His ideas were part of the 19th century movement known as positivism. Lombroso applied positivism to the field of criminology in an attempt to create a field of study known as criminal anthropology. Criminal anthropology was based on the earlier work of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution and Lombroso s theory of atavism. Drawing on Darwin s theory of natural selection, Lombroso reasoned that, in any population, a small number of individuals were likely to exhibit extremely primitive instincts and that they would have difficulty functioning in a civilized culture. They were, in effect, evolutionary throwbacks, or atavistic anomolies as Lombroso termed them. In early human societies, individuals with atavistic traits were more likely to be fit for survival. A strong desire to kill, for example, would have made them successful hunters and desirable mates. However, in civilized urban Europe, atavism, the reversion to evolutionarily primitive traits, was highly likely to cause criminal behavior. Assuming that Nevet and Begonia are the same age and may be twins since they are graduating at the same time, this theory would explain that the behavior exhibited by the children was a result of their skull structure. Since they are brother and sister their skull structure is more than unlikely to be relatively similar. However, for this theory to hold true, there needs to be evidence that their parents also had atavistic traits or behavior or a past criminal behavior. Since there is no evidence of either, this theory can not be legitimately used to explain their behavior. Differential AssociationThe idea of differential association was introduced by the American criminologist Edwin Sutherland in 1962. The theory of differential association explains deviant acts as following a change in attitudes of the prospective deviant acquired through association with established deviants. More simply put, people become deviants, because they associate with deviants. The most important changes in thinking are the definitions or right and wrong and legal and illegal. The prospective deviants values change and he/she acquires a new set of attitudes that condone or even promote criminal activity, motivating the prospective deviant to commit future deviant acts in an attempt to fit in.

This theory would say that their behavior is a direct result of the company they keep. From the information given, no conclusion is drawn that known or established deviants directly influence them. They are described as being very popular, so the only deviants directly affecting them are each other. Labeling TheoryLabeling theory is associated with Howard Becket and was introduced in 1963. Labeling theory is the theory of deviance that views deviance as a label assigned to behavior and individuals by particular figures of authority. That means that no one is actually a deviant and no action is deviant unless specified by society. The acts that are considered deviant today, may be acceptable or even normal tomorrow or in another part of the world.This theory doesn t plausibly explain Nevet and Begonia s behavior. Strain Theory French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858 1917) used the term anomie to describe a state of normlessness in society, when many people are unclear as to the expectations others have of them (Durkheim, 1951). The importance of Durkheim s study for an understanding of deviance is his focus on the way a society can actually create strains in the lives of its individual members. Anomie theory in essence states that deviant behavior is encouraged by strains builkt into the very fabric or society.Durkheim s concept was borrowed from American sociologist Robert Merton in his study of deviance. Merton (1956) analyzed societal strains by pointing out the variety of ways that people might respond to such strain. As the strains occur in all walks of life so too do the (often-deviant) adaptations. The rebellion response to strain explains Nevet and Begonia s action by offering that they were encouraged to act deviantly because there was so much strain of them to be perfect.


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