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LECTURE NOTES:class 8-Biology and Predispositions to crime

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Western University
Sociology 2266A/B
Stacy Hallman

Week 8: Biology and Predispositions to crime Body types and crime • Some evidence suggests that body types are correlated with offending • Logic: Behavior is partly determined by physical abilities and limitations. Personality and body types are also believed to be linked (more controversial) • Three basic body types – Endomorph: soft and round, overweight – Mesomorph: athletic and muscular, larger bones – Ectomorph: thin and fragile, lean, smaller bones - Body types and crime • Empirically supported: weak support – Some evidence that offenders are more likely to have mesomorph bodies than non offenders • Limitations – Relationship probably involves basic rational choice: big people hit little people – Old theory. Does not receive much scholarly attention today. Mesomorph more likely to commit crime - if your bigger and stronger using violence is more of an option - not a lot of research on this - theory not used much for discussing criminal behaviour Brain damage/malformation and crime • Specific brain structures are directly involved with aggressiveness in human and many animals • When these brain structures are compromised by tumors, diseases, trauma, or malformations, verbal and physical aggressions are more likely (as well as many other behavioral and psychological problems). - if you have major form of brain damage you may have a tendency to be more aggressive The Brain • Prefrontal cortex: Provides ability to plan, reason, concentrate, and adjust behavior. Linked with violent behavior and psychopathy. Could explain why some offenders are impulsive and careless about the future. • Amygdala: Involved with feelings of fear and other emotions; reward learning; Linked with anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia. Could explain why some offenders are not afraid of sanctions. - psychopath may have ability to plan for future which might have to do with prefrontal cortex - amigdula is dysfunctional is the fear of going to prison they do not feel it Brain damage/malformation and crime • Sources of brain damage – Environmental pollutants – Ageing – Accidents – Heavy and prolonged alcohol/drug use: heavy use, regular basis – Random process: your born with it, bad luck, strokes, • Empirically supported: yes – Very well documented evidence – Rat experiment • Limitation – Rare cause. Most offenders do not suffer from brain damage/malformation. Heredity and crime • Many studies indicate that criminals often have close relatives who are also criminals – Biological or social link? Twin studies are useful to tease out biological vs. social effects – Monozygotic (identical) twins: 100% same genes – Dizygotic (fraternal) twins: 50% same genes on average Monozygotic twins are more similar in their criminal behaviors than dizygotic twins, suggesting the importance of genetic make-up above and beyond socialization; said additional to socialization there is a genetic effect - Relative share criminal characteristics Heredity and crime • Adoption studies are also useful to assess the effect of genes on criminal behavior: % of adopted sons convicted of crime Biological parents: criminals Biological parents: non-criminals Adoptive 24.5 14.7 parents: criminals Adoptive 20 13.5 parents: biological impact form parent you non- never met has a more likely to make criminals you a criminal than your adoptive parent suggests that genetics matter Prenatal factors • The developing f
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