What Causes Criminal Behavior?

Essay by coloradosilverUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, August 2005

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The controversial question: "Are criminals born, or made?" is an argument that has been ongoing for many years and has become the subject of countless heated debates. In doing a little research, I have found that this question has been asked as far back as the 18th century by early sociologists and criminologists. Ever since, an investigation toward the answer has been pursued. Early theorists at the time had thought that it had something to do with an innate tendency, or even something as far fetched as a genetic flaw or a form of mental retardation. Over the years that followed, many other sociologists and psychologists have tried to decipher this complicated question. Some staying on the side of biological causes, some siding with theories that surround geographical location, and some state that criminals are direct products of the environment in which they were raised and behaviors that are observed of others.

There are many factors that effectively provide evidence for arguments on all sides of this question. In this essay, it will be proven that criminals are, in fact, made, and not born into existence.

Called "The father of Modern Criminology", Cesare Lombroso believed that particular physical characteristics or attributes could predict criminality, creating a "born" criminal. This was, he theorized, a result of certain atavisms whereby the criminal would be both mentally and physically inferior to "normal" human beings. Also, criminals would resemble our predecessor, the ape. He used certain physical characteristics as indicators of criminality, and measured them. These included: Size or shape of the head, Enlarged cheekbones and jaw, Fleshy protruding lips, abnormal teeth, and dark skin to name but a few.

His first conception of the criminal, which was greatly modified later, was that the criminal is an atavistic phenomenon reproducing a type of the...