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  1. Criminology,The Developmental Theory


    Discuss how Biological, Social, psychological, economics and political forces may combine to produce crime


Subject Law and governance Pages 9 Style APA


The Developmental Theory and the Causes of Crime

Crime is among the highly intricate phenomenon, changing across cultures and with time. Consequently, some people have argued that there is no defined cause of crime. Activities that are unlawful in a country are sometimes unlawful in another country: as cultures change with time, conducts that at one time criminalized may become not criminalized, implying that there does not exist a single definition of cause of crime (White et al., 2017). Different theories have been advanced to explain the causes of crime. One such is the developmental theory, which asserts that social, biological, economics, psychological and political factors may combine to cause crime (Reckdenwald et al., 2016). Developmentally motivated criminologists take a null hypothesis that antisocial behaviours have to develop in an individual and are not mere expressions of certain primordial or underlying conditions (Fox et al., 2015). As opposed to attributing career criminality to an individual’s pathologies, the developmental theory point to life experiences that shape people and send them along particular pathways or trajectories (Frick & Marsee, 2018). Al-Yaaribi et al. (2018) contend that observed correlation between future and past behaviours in an individual based upon predictive powers of the original distribution of illegal inclination or conventional characteristics and opportunities of the population. On the contrary, developmental theorists hold the view that the correlation is founded on the notion that certain actions exhibited by individuals have animatedly increased the succeeding likelihood of crime by weakening the individual’s past inhibitions or buttressing past incentives for illegal activities (White et al., 2017). The aim of this paper, therefore, is to discuss the developmental theory explanation of causes of crime, explaining how social, biological, economics, psychological and political factors may combine to cause crime.

On a daily basis, crime rate continues increasing notwithstanding governments’ initiatives aimed at curbing the vice. Reckdenwald et al. (2016) argue that the world is a combination of several opportunities and mixed economies that explain why people feel delineated, hence being involved in criminal acts. Despite the many criminological theories that currently exist, the developmental/life-course criminology has arisen to be a novel theoretical viewpoint. Developmental theory of causes of crime concentrates upon offending behaviours over time and upon dimensions of the criminal career, making efforts to identify protective and risk factors that are related to life-course trends and patterns of offending (Al-Yaaribi et al., 2018).

The developmental theory’s origin is traced back to the rise of the criminal career paradigm, which Choy et al. (2015) summarize as the “characterization of the longitudinal sequence of crimes committed by an individual offender” (Frick & Marsee, 2018, p. 461). Fox et al. (2015) expound this quote by highlighting that the developmental/longitudinal viewpoint is that there are initiation points for each and every criminal act and the termination points. White et al. (2017) add that some people may have a prior onset age for criminal conducts such that they start their criminal acts during late childhood or early adolescent ages, while others may not start criminal acts into their mid or late adolescence or may still have an adult commencement. Moreover, other people may still commit criminal acts at one of their life-course’s developmental stage and stop from criminal acts within that same developmental stage, while others may continue engaging in criminal activities in more than one developmental stage of their life-course before starting to desist at some points later in their life (Reckdenwald et al., 2016). The presumption of an initiation and termination point of criminal activities in individuals suggests that duration/length of a person’s criminal involvement can calculated and determined as well. 

In addition to an individual’s criminal career components, there are several dimensions relevant to one’s criminal career structure. For instance, participation/involvement in criminal activities is regarded along with criminal frequency. That is, the prevalence rate of or participation in criminal activities refer to the proportion of people who are active criminally during any one time, while the frequency of engaging in criminal activities refer to the total number of criminal activities that have been committed  by the people who engaged in criminal activities during the particular moment under consideration (White et al., 2017). Research has shown that there is a small percentage (5%) of the offending population regarded as high-rate or chronic offenders that is associated with a great percentage of crimes conducted within a locality (Al-Yaaribi et al., 2018).

Also included in the criminal dimensions of the developmental theory is the concept of versatility or specialization and offense escalation. Studies have indicated that most offenders are versatile, particularly the chronic or frequent offenders, implying that their offending repertoire varies and is unlimited only to one particular kind of crime (despite a tendency of specializing in some kind of criminal acts, like computer crimes) (Frick & Marsee, 2018). Relatedly, studies suggest that whereas certain escalation in criminal activities may happen over one’s developmental phases, like beginning with property crimes before advancing to drug crimes and eventually moving into violent criminal acts, this scenario is untypically the usual (Fox et al., 2015).  Conversely, the usual is that active, and especially frequent, criminals’ crime pasts are diverse, displaying patters of crime switching and versatility versus specialization in violent crimes or escalating to violent points and  discontinuing from all forms of crimes apart from violence (White et al., 2017).

Whereas there are several detailed reviews regarding developmental theory, two arguably help in understanding the causes of crimes. First is Moffitt’s (1993) taxonomy of lifecourse–persistent and adolescentlimited offending. Moffitt’s taxonomy posits that life-course-persistent criminals are those people who initiate/start their problem conducts early on during childhood and continue with their criminal activity/delinquent/antisocial across their life-course (Reckdenwald et al., 2016). For example, the life-course-persistent criminals are those who are hitting and biting during their early childhood, become truant during their late childhood or early adolescent age, steal vehicles and use/abuse drugs during their mid-adolescence, commit violent and serious crimes in their late adolescent age or early childhood, and may eventually advance into committing domestic violence or frauds in their adulthood (Choy et al., 2015). According to this notion, there is little hope that one will completely discontinue their criminal activity, while they may have durations of inactivity during their life-course. According to Al-Yaaribi et al. (2018), the life-course-persistent criminals’ origins are rooted in cognitive and neurodevelopmental deficiencies and adverse ecological life conditions.

Contrarily, Moffitt’s adolescent-restricted criminals represent a greater percentage of the offending population within the society, despite their criminal or delinquent behaviours being restricted to adolescence (Frick & Marsee, 2018). Consequently, these people do not originate from adverse ecological settings or exhibit any neurodevelopmental damages or early childhood behavior challenges. Conversely, the individual’s criminal behavior only triggers during adolescent stage and terminates soon after that stage. According to Moffitt’s taxonomy, delinquent criminal activities are the outcome of two factors: the maturity gap and social mimicry (Fox et al., 2015). White et al. (2017) explain that social mimicry connotes the process whereby a youth who is or has not been involved in crime or delinquency in their life at a particular time begin observing the social status and associated benefits or fame that some of their peers are realizing as a result of their truancy, drug use, and/or shoplifting, among other criminal activities. It is during such moments that a youth who was previously non-delinquent may start becoming engaged in certain criminal activities in their bids to realize their desired power and social status in their peers’ eyes (Reckdenwald et al., 2016). Additionally, formerly non-delinquent youth during their adolescent stage may equally start participating in other deviant conducts, like alcohol drinking and premarital sex, owing to their view about maturity gap wherein they hold the belief that they are mature physically or are “adult enough” to engage in these kinds of acts yet society does not allow (Fox et al., 2015). Nonetheless, notwithstanding the criminal or delinquent activity of the adolescent criminals, their criminal peers are comparatively erratic and brief and generally do not include violent crimes.

Second viewpoint about the development theory is the one advanced by Loeber (1996). Choy et al. (2015) note that the crucial distinction in Loeber’s pathway model is the notion that human behaviours occur in an ordered and logical development process. According to Loeber’s pathway model, a person is believed to advance to higher-order steps solely by first progressing via the lesser-order steps, and not the reverse. The first pathway according to Loeber is the overt path wherein an individual’s ordered progression is depicted by a commencement of involvement in minor aggression acts, followed by fighting, to the commission of extra violent and serious crimes (Al-Yaaribi et al. (2018). Comparatively, the covert pathway (second pathway) according to Loeber refers to the progression of conducts from minor deviance activities to property damage activities to extra serious kinds of criminal acts (Fox et al., 2015). Lastly, Loeber proposed the third pathway, authority-conflict, a pathway that is largely restricted to stubborn and minor defiance and deviance acts, like running away (Frick & Marsee, 2018). 

As common sense and conventional wisdom would suggest, early family life is crucial to an individual’s antisocial and social development. From the foregoing, it is evident that neglect or defective upbringing in families is the fundamental cause of crime. Studies have demonstrated that dysfunctional families are the environments that cultivate chronic criminality, with a variety of factors, like extent of parental affection towards a child, family size, the level of monitoring and supervision of a child, parental engagement in deviance, parental psychological health, and parental temper and aggressiveness, being associated with people’s criminal behaviours. Evidently, the developmental theory borrows from an array of disciplines, including developmental psychology, early childhood development, social control, strain, labeling, and differential association. From the biological point of view, crimes that are exhibited by individuals as they grow are born criminals as a result of biochemical conditions (like hormone imbalance or poor diet), neurophysiological conditions (like learning disabilities that are caused by brain impairment), genetic abnormality and/or inheritance, and the level of intelligence. Proponents of developmental theory argue that the fundamental determinants of human behavior are genetics, which are passed from generation to generation. They argue that the criminal behaviours exhibited by people can be impacted upon by human DNA, nutrition, brain trauma, hormones, environmental pollutants, and alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy along with body chemistry. Frick and Marsee (2018) reason that exposure to harmful agents in the surrounding, like lead and pesticides, can impair or delay a person’s intellectual development, and therefore impact the conduct and its control.  Regarding this, teratogens have a specific significant role in inclining certain individuals to a criminal life.

Similarly, from a sociological viewpoint, human behaviors are influenced factors within their external environments: their peer groups, family, and neighbourhood. According to Reckdenwald et al. (2016), social environments cause criminal behaviours by weakening and breaking bonds, with school, religion, family, and by making people see no benefit of complying with conventional social believes and values that crime is a way of improving their financial and social conditions. Choy et al. (2015) reason that poverty is usually cited as a socioeconomic condition associated with crime. The strain, stress, and frustration that are experienced by individuals lacking the financial resources that they need to meet their individual needs as well as fulfill their wants via legitimate means  render the individuals more inclined to committing criminal acts relative to well-off people who have ready access to genuine means (Al-Yaaribi et al., 2018).  Akin to this are economic factors. Choy et al. (2015) reason that factors that contribute to an increase in the foreseeable costs of crime (like increasing the possibility of apprehension or punishment severity) or minimize the predictable benefits (like improved employment or educational opportunities) can minimize crime incidence. Similarly, growing up in families characterized by violence can shape children’s behavior to responding to their individual challenges with violent means.  Additionally, from the psychological point of view, the role played by parents in the form of neglect, attachment, abuse, child-rearing practices, and parents’ criminal or anti-social behaviours, are significant in defining the behaviours exhibited by their children.

To conclude, this paper aimed at discussing the developmental theory explanation of causes of crime by explaining how social, biological, economics, psychological and political factors may combine to cause crime. This paper has demonstrated that criminal behaviours are not static human attributes, yet ebb and flow over people’s life-course. Criminal behvaiours tend to follow some distinct psychological patterns. While it is comparatively uncommon during childhood, criminal behaviours are instigated by criminals during adolescence, flourishing in late adolescent and early childhood stages, and often diminish during mid-20’s. Nonetheless, the development theory asserts that this pattern is not common to all individuals since some never commit crimes while others become criminals during their life course. The pattern, therefore, has significant implications for theories about delinquency and crime since it does not only explain how one is initiated into, or maintained in, and desist from criminal involvement, but also gives an intuition into why criminal activities flourish during and beyond adolescence. While traditional theories about delinquency and crime have usually failed to separate among various stages of criminal life course, the developmental theory takes into consideration the developmental transformations that happen across people’s life course, transformations that can explain and coincide with the patterns and causes of criminal behaviours. 



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Appendix A:

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