Evaluate Psychological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour.
Throughout the history of civilisation the enduring problem of crime has bought with it huge social and economic problems. In order for a psychologist to understand the root causes of criminal behaviour it is necessary to investigate the definition of a crime.
Although no one definition of a crime is universally accepted, because of political and cultural differences, it is possible to give a broad definition of unlawful behaviour. Roe (2003) classifies a crime as â€œa wrong against a state, either by commission or omission, regarded by that body as a criminal and one to which a punishment has been attachedâ€. A societyâ€™s legal system is based on this premise, and therefore a violation of acceptable conduct is a violation of the laws of that society.
The study of criminal psychology has been given a number of names including forensic psychology, legal psychology and criminal psychology but under all these titles, psychologist have aimed to gain knowledge of criminal behaviour in order to both investigate and absolve crimes and ultimately to prevent them. .
One of the most famous theories pertaining to the psychological causes of crime is that of Genetic transmission whereby, it is suggested, criminal behaviour is directly inherited. One of the most famous advocates of this approach was the 19th century Italian physician Caesare Lombroso (1936-1909), who argued that â€œcriminals are the product of a genetic constitution unlike that found in the non-criminal population.â€.
In his book â€˜Criminal Manâ€™ (1876) he proposed that certain people are born with a powerful, innate, predisposition to behave in an antisocial way. Lombroso believed these unlawful tendencies were manifested because their perpetrators were of a lesser evolutionary status to the rest of society. This criminal class, which he called â€˜Homo Delinquensâ€™ displayed external characteristics which betrayed their criminal disposition These features included a narrow sloping brow, a prominent jaw, high cheekbones, large ears and extra nipples, toes and fingers.