Compare and Contrast the Explanations of Any Two Major Thinkers as to Why People Commit Crime.

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  • Topic: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Anomie
  • Pages : 5 (740 words )
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  • Published : March 1, 2011
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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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