A Comparison

Topics: Criminology, Crime, Genetics Pages: 6 (1896 words) Published: March 29, 2013
A Comparison|
Social Learning Theory and Biological Trait theory |
Carrie Procita|
Criminology, CJ 200Professor Christensen24 September 2011 |

This paper compares and contrasts two of the theories of crime; the Social Learning Theory, and the biological trait theory. It considers the historical foundations of the study of criminal behavior; and examines ways in which society should respond to criminal behavior in terms of prevention.|

A. Description of theories
B. Thesis Statement
A. How genetics influence criminal behavior
1. History of Biological theory
2. Who defends this theory
3. How this theory is applied

B. How environmental factors influence criminal behavior
1. History of Social Learning Theory
2. Who defends this theory
3. How this theory is applied

C. My Opinion
1. Both theories contain valid points of view
2. Multiple factors contributing to criminal behavior

A Comparison: Social Learning Theory and Biological Trait Theory

Criminal behavior has always been a focus for psychologists due to the age old debate between nature and nurture. Is it the responsibility of an individual's genetic makeup that makes them a criminal or is it the environment in which they are raised that determines their outcome? In studying criminal behavior, many psychologists have developed theories meant to explain deviant characteristics. The major debate in these theories centers on the concept of genetic makeup and criminal activity. While some theorists believe that the environment influences criminal behavior, others hold to the idea of criminals having inherent characteristics that cause them to become criminals (Robertson, 2011). Two theories of crime that attempt to explain why people commit crime are the Social Learning Theory and Biological Trait theory. Social Learning Theory states that environmental factors influence criminal behavior, Biological Trait theory states that genetics and environmental factors influence criminal behavior, while both attempt to explain why people commit crimes; together they provide a comprehensive explanation. Biological theories state that individuals commit criminal acts due to biological or genetic defects. Crime is a result of these abnormalities, and not a choice made by the offender. In the late 19th century, Italian "father of criminology" Cesare Lombroso claimed he could prove scientifically that criminality was inherited, and criminals were incurable. Cesare Lombroso studied cadavers of executed criminals to scientifically determine whether law violators were physically different from people of conventional values. Lombroso thought that there were common physical traits shared by criminals. He describes criminals based on distinct characteristics in the jaw line, teeth, and nose as well as a common "intracranial feature." It was his opinion that certain people were born criminals (Volkert, 2007). Twin and adoption studies have been one of the major focuses in research that relates to criminal behavior and genetic influence. Twin studies manipulate the environmental factors of behavior by examining if identical twins raised apart are different from twins raised together. These studies examine the similarities between identical twins that are separated at infancy; research indicates that such twins are often extremely similar even though they grew up in completely different environments (Tibbetts). Adoption studies allow genetic factors of behavior to be tested by taking advantage of the fact that an adopted person shares their genetic makeup with their biological parents but was actually raised by people other than the biological parents. So, if a behavior is genetic the person should resemble their biological parent but if a behavior is more environmentally influenced, the person will resemble the parent that raised the person. In one adoption study in...

References: Robertson, S. (2011, April 12). Inherited criminal characteristics. Retrieved from
http://www.ehow.com/info_8211415_inherited-criminal-characteristics theory.html#ixzz1YyBsgdPT
Volkert, F. (2007, May). Choice theory and trait theory on crime control. Retrieved from
Siegel, L. J. (2010). Criminology: The Core. (4th ed.).  Belmont, CA: Thompson/Wadsworth.
Omrod, J.E. (1999). Social learning theory. Retrieved from
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