Are Criminals Born or made

Essay by mountie31University, Bachelor'sA+, September 2002

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The statement 'Are criminals born, or made?' is wide reaching and still the subject of many debates. Beginning over a hundred years ago in the late 18th century social and criminal anthropologists began to wonder at the causes of criminality and delinquency and set about to investigate. Most theorists at the time believed that it had to be a deep-rooted trait, an innate tendency. 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, and some looking further into environmental causes. There are many factors surrounding the arguments for both sides, a few of which will be addressed in this essay. This essay will attempt to conclude which of these theories holds the most weight, and why.

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 theorised, a result of certain atavisms whereby the criminal would be both mentally and physically inferior to 'normal' human beings, and that they 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 past. This of course was the theory or Charles Darwin in his book "The Descent of Man", written in 1871. Lombrosso found that when a criminal displays a tendency towards crime, which results from pathological, physiological, and psychological characteristics it is necessary to search in the lower species for the characteristics that correspond...