Researchers have tried to unravel the mystery of people committing crimes. Theories of
thought have been used to explain the reason why people indulge in crime. The classical
theory sates that crime is at the privilege of the individual. It also goes ahead to state that
human beings are rational and make decisions freely, with a good understanding of its
consequences. There is also the biological theory which believes that the major determinants
of an individual’s behaviour are genetic. It states that the behaviour of individuals is
genetically determined, with the interaction of nutrition, environment and hormones.
The sociological theory on the other hand sees the social environment as the case of criminal
behaviour, with defective family ties, serving as a catalyst to criminal trend. With the
sociological theory, criminals do not see the good in conforming to the usual norm of
obeying the law. They derive satisfaction from breaking the law. There are several theories
that can explain ‘why people commit crime’ and this essay will highlight the importance and
influence of Sociological positivism; explaining Emile Durkheim’s concept on crime and
psychological positivism; John Bowlby’s understanding on psychology and crime.
It is important to understand that crime is defined “as the making of laws, breaking of laws,
and of society’s reaction to the breaking of laws” (Newburn 2007, p 5). This definition leads
us in the direction of the study of those who commit crime and why they do it. Psychologist
John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist. He believed that the earliest bonds created by
children and their role model continue throughout life and that children desire to receive care
from a ‘primary care-giver’. This is known as ‘maternal deprivation’ and Bowlby believes that
the notion of ‘maternal deprivation can explain the behaviour of those committing crime.
Bowlby believed that when a child is separated from its carer that child will form signs of
deprivation. Bowlby from his evidence considered “that there is a strong case indeed for
believing that prolonged separation of a child from his mother stands foremost amongst the
causes of delinquent character development” (Prins, H 1973, p 68). This is evident in one of
Bowlbys case where it “involved a child who was hospitalised for almost a year. This Child
was reported to have called his mother ‘nurse’ when he returned home” (Newburn 2007, p
150). This shows the difficulties formed within the family relationship and it captures the
notion of maternal deprivation. Bowlby believes that without the love and care from a
primary care-giver, a child will form insecure characteristics and if continued will develop
traits of criminal behaviour. This form of deprivation can lead to criminal behaviour as “a
group experiences relative deprivation when it feels deprived in comparison to other similar
groups, or when its expectations are not met” (Haralambos 1990, p 642).
In contrast, Emile Durkheim focuses on the relationship between humans and society rather
than the individual alone. His focus was upon suicide rates and felt that suicide provided the
basis of demonstrating individualised forms of deviance. He identified four types of suicide
which he called “altruistic, egoistic, anomic and fatalistic” (Newburn 2007, p 173) and argued
that the rates of suicide could be controlled by social norms. He believes that people commit
suicide because of society. He believes that society either has failed to give that person a sense
of self, or that society had oppressed that person’s sense of self. Other people may argue that
there are many other factors that can put some people at a higher risk of committing suicide,
like age, gender, and genetics.
Crime for Durkheim is a social fact. He believes that crime “is normal and...
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