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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

‘crime & deviance’

Biological Factors in Crime #2

PART 2 Hormones In 1980 Dan Olweus et al (1980) measured blood testosterone level in institutionalised delinquent and non-delinquent 16-year-old boys and assessed aggression using a questionnaire. High levels of self-reported physical and verbal aggression were associated with higher levels of testosterone – though the results were not statistically significant. It was also noted that those with higher levels of testosterone were likely to respond more vigorously in response to challenges from teachers and peers. John Archer (1991), in a meta-analysis of 5 studies covering 230 males, found a low positive correlation between testosterone and aggression. However, the type of participant and the form and measurement of aggression differed substantially between the studies. Angela Book, Katherine Starzyk & Vernon Quensy (2001), in a meta-analysis of 45 studies, found a mean correlation of 0.14 between testosterone and aggression – though John Archer, Nicola Graham-Kevan & Michelle Davies (2005) challenged Book, Starzyk & Quinsey’s findings on the grounds of methodological problems with the study which meant that a correlation of 0.08 was more appropriate.  James Dabbs et al (1987) measured salivary testosterone in 89 violent and non-violent criminals and found those with a history of primarily violent crime had the highest levels of… Read More

When BLUE fails, call for Clint!

Updated: 25 August 2016 For those of us who were raised in the 1960s and 1970s, Clint Eastwood was arguably the ultimate ‘big screen tough guy’. Never impossibly-muscled like the generation of ‘action men’ who came after him – the likes of Arnold Schwarzenneger and Sylvester Stallone – and rarely prone to the ridiculous levels of single-handed mass slaughter commonplace in their movies, Eastwood mostly played far more believable characters. And, because they were far more believable, Eastwood’s anti-heroes exuded a far greater sense of menace. Though Eastwood has long since moved on to become acclaimed as a director and filmmaker of quality, character-driven films with strong narratives, on the occasion this now rather-old actor gets his fists flailing, he is still believable as someone who would very willingly do you serious harm. Periodically there are still Eastwood seasons on TV, usually built around one or more outings of his 2 main anti-heroes, the mysterious ‘Man with No Name’ gunslinger and the homicidal maverick cop ‘Dirty Harry’. That Eastwood can still command a TV season of his films, when most of his contemporaries are forgotten by all but the most devoted, is testament to the enduring power of the myth Eastwood… Read More

Underclass: the Excreta of Capitalism

Updated: 15 September 2016 Though records indicate there have always been a small minority of criminals and ‘wastrels’ who formed an ‘underclass’ at the bottom of whatever social stratification any society had at whatever stage in its history, it was Charles Murray (1989) who first identified this social class as an emerging and important factor in contemporary British society. Murray says of the term: “By ‘underclass’, I do not mean people who are merely poor, but people who are at the margins of society, unsocialised and often violent. The chronic criminal is part of the underclass, especially the violent chronic criminal. But so are parents who mean well but who cannot provide for themselves, who give nothing back to the neighbourhood, and whose children are the despair of the teachers who have to deal with them…. When I use the term ‘underclass’ I am indeed focusing on a certain type of poor person defined not by his condition – eg: long term unemployed – but by his deplorable behaviour in response to that condition – eg: unwilling to take jobs that are available to him.” Those long-term unemployed who fraudulently claim benefits while doing ‘black market’ jobs, the addict who deals… Read More

Social Change

Updated: 17 May 2017 Social change means some aspect of society, culture or sub-culture changes. The changes may be overt and dramatic and obvious to everyone or they may be more discreet and less obvious…until people come to a realisation society around them has already changed. An example of this is the attitude of the general public in the UK towards welfare and benefits. As Elizabeth Clery shows in the results of the 2012 British Social Attitudes survey – see graphic above – there is an increased perception that people on welfare are over-reliant on their benefits and that cutting benefits won’t harm too many people too badly. The following 2 years’ surveys  showed only the most marginal reversal (3%) of this trend (Sarah Alcock, 2015) and the election in 2015  of a Tory government determined to cut even more could be seen as voter approval of these strategies. This is actually a major attitudinal shift in a country that, for many years, had largely prided itself on a generous attitude to welfare. Yet these more subtle changes in public perception often only become news when surveys like the British Social Attitudes annual survey pick them up. Of course, sometimes a slow growth in… Read More

Suicide?

Updated: 20 July 2013 Early in 2013 The Guardian’s James Meikle, based upon data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reported that 6,045 suicides were recorded in the UK among people aged 15 and over during 2011. This figure represented a significant rise that, unfortunately, was part of an upward trend. (In 2001, Kevin Brewer noted that suicides in the UK were about 4,000 per year.) The suicide rate was 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest since 2004. In England, the suicide rate was 10.4 deaths per 100,000; highest in the north-east, at 12.9, and lowest in London, at 8.9. In Wales, the suicide rate was 13.9, up from 10.7 in 2009. Meikle acknowledged that suicide rates were slightly lower in Northern Ireland  – ie: 289 suicides in 2011, down from 313 in 2010 – and Scotland, though clearly still concerning. The ONS figures reveal an effect of age and gender:- The male suicide rate in 2011 was the highest since 2002, and among 45-59-year-old men the highest since 1986. For men, the suicide rate was 18.2 per 100,000 population. The rate was highest among males aged 30-44, at 23.5 per 100,000. Among 45-59-year-old men the figure was 22.2… Read More

Biological Factors in Crime

Updated: 7 December 2016 Are criminals born or ‘made’? This is a question which has vexed philosophers for millennia and psychologists and sociologists since the dawn of the behavioural sciences early in the 19th Century. The deterministic view offered by biological explanations for criminality – ie: you have no real choice, it’s in your biological make-up – have major implications for how society treats criminals – especially violent ones.  Biological theories assert criminal behaviour has a physiological origin, with the implication that the ‘criminal’, therefore, has difficulty not committing crime because it is ‘natural’ –  ie: the ‘born criminal’ concept. Biological determinism can be used to undermine the legal concept of criminal responsibility: criminals are held to be personally and morally accountable for their actions. Only when the Law of Diminished Responsibility is applied in cases of self-defence and mental illness – and in some countries (eg: France) ‘crimes of passion’ (temporary insanity) – is the defendant assumed not to have acted from their own free will. 3 cases illustrate how biological arguments have been used as mitigating factors to reduce the level of criminal responsibility:- In 1994 Stephen Mobley was sentenced to death for shooting dead the manager of an American branch of Domino’s Pizza. He was also found… Read More

Crime & Deviance – the Difference

14 January 2012 Crime can be defined as the form of deviance that involves an infraction of the criminal law and is subject to official punishment. Not all laws are criminal – civil law and constitutional law are 2 other key areas of the law. Not all illegal acts are necessarily deviant – eg: in the UK it is illegal to use your mobile phone (without it being handsfree) while driving but the sheer number of people who do so suggests that they do not see that behaviour as deviant. Sociologists have suggested 2 distinct definitions of deviance: normative and relativistic. Deviance: the Normative Definition This definition can be summed up as ‘the violation of social norms’. Thus, deviance is culturally determined. Deviance is often thought of in terms of deviation from accepted social standards – eg: certain kinds of sexual behaviour or drug use. However, people who are mentally ill are often treated as deviants. (See What is Mental Illness? ) Even harmless eccentrics may be considered deviant – or, according to Erich Goode (2008), people who have been heavily tattooed or pierced. In some cultures, deviation from a strict political and/or religious orthodoxy is considered deviant and may invoke penalties under… Read More

Symbolic Interactionism

Updated:  19 May 2017 Symbolic Interactionism is an Interactionist approach in Sociology – although it also has a strong influence in Social Psychology, particularly in the use of phenomenonology to exolore the unique experience of the individual. It contrasts with approaches like Marxism and Functionalism which seem to suggest that people are like puppets controlled by the relations of  production or the pattern variables,  Rather than people slotting into their respective slots in the structure of society, Interactionism sees ‘society’ as being created by people actively working at relationships and thus morphing and changing as the dynamics of those relationships morph and change. Symbolic Interactionism is about creating and responding to symbols and ideas (memes). It is this dynamic that forms the basis of Interactionists’ studies. Sociological areas that have been particularly influenced by Symbolic Interactionism include the sociology of emotions, the sociology of health and illness, deviance and crime, collective behaviour/social movements, and the sociology of sex. Interactionist concepts that have gained widespread usage include definition of the situation, emotion work, impression management, looking glass self and total institution. Symbolic Interactionism derived initially from the writings of George Herbert Mead (1934). He argued that people’s selves are social products –… Read More

Functionalism

Updated: 18 May 2017 Functionalism is a Structuralist theory – hence it is sometimes known as Structural Functionalism. It is a ‘top-down’ theory that focuses on society rather than the individuals within it. As such, it is a powerful concept for exploring the Lower Right in 4Q/8L and how it influences and is influenced by the Lower Left – structuration, in Anthony Giddens’ (1984) terms. In Functionalism society is the focus because the individual is produced by society – ‘social products’, as George Herbert Mead (1913) termed them. People are the product of all the social influences on them: their family, friends, educational and religious background, their experiences at work, in leisure, and their exposure to the media. All of these influences make them who and what they are and how they perceive themselves: the confluence of schemas in their selfplexes. In this view, people are born into society, play their role in it – like cogs on a wheel – and then die. However, the deaths of individuals do not mean the end of society. Society continues long after they are gone. According to Émile Durkheim (1893), beliefs and moral codes are passed on (memetically) from one generation to the next.… Read More