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Chapter 5

Sociology 2267A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Copycat Crime, Auguste Comte, Ideal Class Group

Course Code
SOC 2267A/B
Lisa Lyons

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Chapter 5- Explaining Crime and Delinquency: In the Beginning:
Taken-for-granted understandings- beliefs accepted as true simply b/c either felt to be
true/ commonly shared as being true= based on immediate exp and rarely examined
Differ from sci beliefs accepted as true b/c beliefs been subj empirical testing (research)
o Empirical- adj describing knowledge based on observation, experience/
experiment rather than on theory/ philosophy
o Research- systematic process info gathering, analysis and reporting of findings
Postmodernists- those who reject/ challenge all been considered to be modern- western
theories, art, philosophy and knowledge dev 19th and 20th centuries- take position sci
knowledge, including academic theory, has no more claim to “truth” than taken-for-
granted understandings
The scientific method: Positivism and criminology:
Auguste Comte, founding father soc= among 1st argue society best understood by
applying sci method to its study- sci allow discover laws soc and behav
Assumed human behav det by nat laws and believed their task, as scientists, was to
discover these laws
Positivist- 18th cent philosophical, theoretical and methodological persp positing that only
that which observable through scientific method is knowable- behav det some factor/
factors beyond control individ
Causal relationships:
3 conditions must be met before causality can be est:
1. Est is relationship b/w concepts both within and among propositions that
constitute a theory (use stat tools like chi-square test/ correlation est relationship)
Concept- gen/ abstract term refers class/ group more specific terms (ex:
crime ref any number specific behavs, such as assault/ robbery)
2. Time priority been est b/w concepts- cause comes before effect = v hard est
3. Spuriousness- whether can be certain no other “causal” factor rel ex: watching tv
and committing crime, third variable could be boredom/ free time
Seldom, if ever, able establish causal relationships!!
News media reports crime events often rife w spurious statements about cause and effect,
many which have elements “copycat” crimes to them- never able est media and violence
“causes” youth violence ex: school shootings
Postmodernists reverse cause-effect chain and maintain reflection lived exp youths, rather
than cause behav
Challenges to positivism:
Fund assumption positivist trad universe knowable in objective sense, obj truth can be
discovered through sci method- objectivity maint rules and regs research process
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Some crims eventually began move away asking what causes certain kinds behav and
asked qs about nature and processes crime- made more sense ask about people’s exps=
subj (ex: how process through CJS affects person)- much truth obj research
Uses more qual methods like ethnography, unstruct interviews and first-hand exp
Positivist= bias from “subject” under observation be avoided, more subj approach argue
truth can come only from subject (all biased social position and exp)
Nineteenth-century theorizing about crime and delinquency:
Prior enlightenment period and sub dev sci methodologies, religion dom force soc-
religious frameworks used understand and explain events and behavs (possession/ devil)
Today psychiatry legit notion insanity and used explain bizarre/ crim behavs
Classical criminology:
Classical school of criminology- school of thought assumes people rational, intelligent
beings who exercise free will in choosing crim behav (must be held resp misdeeds)
Cesar Brecaria “On Crimes and Punishments” argued off must be presumed innocent, off
and punishment should be spec in written code crim laws, guilty people deserved
punished b/c violated someone else’s rights, punishment should fit crime and off must be
held resp for their behav
Jeremey Bentham- repeat off should be punished more severely, punishment should fit
crime and people commit sim off should be punished same manner
Biological positivism:
First positivistic crims focused bio and psych factors in search causes crim behav
The born criminal:
Cesar Lombroso= father sci crim- infl evol ideas= crims and non-crims dif stages evol
dev- physical features constituted evidence theory some people simply born criminals
Types of people:
Pauperism, crime and prostitution all inherited traits
Henry Goddard- 2 type people: feebleminded barmaid (full paupers, crims, alchs and
mentally deficient fam membs) and respectable girl from good fam
End 19th cent, lack intelligence/ feeblemindedness viewed major causal factor in crim
behav- low intelligence made people incapable understanding pot immorality their behav
and less able control emotions
Late 1800s tainted life blood believed rep passing on vices like drinking and prostitution
and cond feeblemindedness- gen class into 3 broad categories:
o Delinquent- could change ways if received some form guidance (adults too)
o Dependant- people well-being depended on assistance others
o Defective- lim abilities and some cases feebleminded, not held resp
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Eugenics- branch sci based on belief in genetic difs b/w groups result superior and
inferior strains people- considered defective, inferior/ feebleminded sterilized
1930s- laws permitted sterilization feebleminded, mentally ill/ epileptic- invol
sterilizations cont CN late as 1950s
The “dangerous class”:
Consisted largely poor- often not kids but parents seen def, del/ dep
Twentieth-century theories of delinquency:
Biological positivism:
Twin and adopted children:
Began 1930s, consistently shown identical twins tend have higher delinquency rates than
fraternal twins
Studies adopted kids shown kids more like bio parents than adoptive parents
Most early studies prob b/c involved v small samples- re-examined= magnitude genetic
effect as det adoption studies near zero
V poor evidence support heredity as causal factor crime and delinquency b/c merely
compare rate off in dif groups- remain highly influential in taken-for-granted explans b/c
strong argument inheritability crim behav
Body type:
Basic body type/ somatotype affect temp and personality, lead delinquent behav- basic
types are:
o Endomorphs- soft and round
o Mesomorphs- muscular and athletic (linked delinquent behav- both M and F)
o Ectomorphs- thin and fragile
Some M have extra Y chromosome= super M- violent crim behav, prop more in prison
Number M prisoners extra Y v small, incidence extra X chromosome equals/ exceeds and
M prisoners w extra Y least likely group within prison pop committed violent offence
IQ, LD and ADHD:
Lower IQ, higher prob delinquency- dif interpret b/c class and race bias inherent IQ test
itself and don’t know how much genes/ env and most based youth already in justice
system= IQ rel delinquency/ getting caught??
Existence LD poor perf school= push out/ toward ass sim peers and sub delinquency,
create physical and personal probs make susceptible delinquency, unable understand
relationship b/w behav and punishment- connection poorly understood
Addressing requires approach accommodates disability/ teach how make nec accom
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