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Friday, September 3, 2010



Cesare Lombroso has been called the father of modern criminology. One of the main drawbacks with his work was his assumption that congenital and physical characteristics were static, and so always available for observation. He paid little heed to transient characteristics or physical processes. For example, he, like others before him, carefully measured skulls in order to determine the cranial capacity of criminals he did this without knowing either the stature or the age of the criminal, factors which affect the capacity of size of the brain within the skull. Another major drawback with his work arose in his sampling. Many of the criminals he studied were mentally ill and were therefore unpresentative of the general criminal population.
Lombroso gave the concept of ‘born criminals’. By widely expounding the concept of born criminal, Lombroso let ‘society’ believe that criminality was not his fault; that it had nothing to do with poverty, environment or acquaintances and everything to do with the individual self. Logically, acceptance of the idea of a born or natural criminal would lead to the conclusion that punishing such individuals is not acceptable because the criminality is not their fault. In this situation, the individual should be helped by treatment or careful tuition, and this should be done not as part of punishment but instead of punishment.

Another chief exponent of the positive school of criminology was Enrico Ferri. He challenged Lombrosian view of criminality. Through his scholarly researches, Ferri proved that mere biological reasons were not enough to account for criminality. He firmly believed that other factors such as emotional reaction, social infirmity or geographical conditions also play a vital role in determining criminal tendencies in them. It is for this reason that he is sometimes called founder of ‘Criminal Sociology’.
He believed that just as non-criminals could commit crimes if placed in favourable circumstances so also the criminals could refrain from criminality in healthy surroundings. The major contribution of Ferri in the field of criminology is his “law of criminal saturation”. This theory presupposes that the crime is the synthetic product of three main factors:
1. Physical or Geographical
2. Anthropological
3. Psychological or Social.

Thus, Ferri emphasized that criminal behaviour is an outcome of a variety of factors having the combined effect on the individual. According to him social change, which is inevitable in a dynamic society; results in disharmony, conflict and cultural variation. As a result of this social disorganisation takes place and traditional patterns of social control mechanism totally break down.
In the wake of such rapid social changes, the incidence of crime is bound to increase tremendously. The heterogeneity of social conditions destroys the congenial social relationship, creating a social vacuum which proves to be a fertile ground for criminality. Ferri emphasized that a criminal should be treated as a product of the conditions, which played his life. Therefore, the basic purpose of crime prevention program should be to remove conditions making for crime.
Ferri worked out a five-fold classification of criminals, namely:
• Born criminals
• Occasional criminals
• Passionate criminal
• Insane criminals
• Habitual criminals.


Raffaele Gorafalo stressed the need for a closer study of the circumstances and living condition of criminals. He firmly believed that a criminal is a creature of his own environment. Garafalo defined crime as an act which offends the sentiments of pity and probity possessed by an average person and which are injurious to the society. He emphasized that lack of pity generates crimes against person while lack of probity leads to crimes against property. As to the classification of criminals, he rejected Ferri’s classification and placed offenders into four main categories, namely:
1. Murderers whom he called “endemic” criminals;
2. Violent criminals who are affected by environmental influences such as prejudices of honour, politics and religion;
3. Criminals lacking in sentiment of probity; and
4. Lascivious or lustful criminals who commit crimes against sex and chastity.


Gabriel Tarde was a critic of positive school of criminology. He asserted that influence of social environment was most emphatic on the criminal behaviour and the biological and physical factors only had a casual effect on it. He pointed out that law of insertion and imitation was responsible for the incidence of crime. The members of society are prone to imitate the behaviour of their associates. Likewise, the subordinate or inferior members have a tendency to imitate the ways of their superiors. Consequently, as regards crimes, the beginners have a tendency to imitate the acts of habitual criminals and thus they lend into criminality. Particularly, the impact of movies and cinema is so great on teenagers that it perverts their thoughts and actions which eventually makes them delinquents. Thus there is considerable truth in Tarde’s assertion that, “crime, like other social phenomenon starts as a fashion and becomes a custom”. He classified criminals into urban and rural types and expressed a view that crimes in urban areas are far more serious in nature than those of rural places.


A sociologist has its own perception of looking at human behaviour. He does not ignore personality traits but lays stress on learning and acquired aspects of behaviour. Crime is also one aspect of individual behaviour. The analysis of criminal behaviour should therefore focus on the following facts (Gibbons, 1977):

1. Learning of values, attitudes and behaviour patterns depends upon the process of socialization and interpersonal associations. It is therefore meaningful to approach individual’s crime by paying attention to his collection of his social roles picked up from the structure of society.
2. The etiological process that leads to criminalistic role behaviour involves a number of casual variables, i.e., criminal behaviour is the product of multiple causation.
3. Situations that block the achievement of goals contribute much to crime and delinquency.
4. Almost every person indulges in petty law violation in his lifetime and also entertains deviant and criminalistic motives; but criminals are persons who play criminalistic roles heavily, i.e., are involved in serious acts of law violation and are, therefore, identified by society as criminals or delinquents. Individuals who engage in petty and isolative acts of deviance are also sometimes labeled as law violation. Both are ‘criminals’ because they are so labeled by the official machinery of social control.
5. Crimes of a large number of criminals are not premeditated but are the result of situational pressures.
6. Male and female criminals and juvenile and adult offenders require different approaches in their motivational mechanisms for committing crimes.
7. There are character variations among criminals. The variations are both in their social characters as well as in deviant behaviour. Also, there are some persons who consider themselves as criminals but there are many who have no self image as a criminal.
8. Criminals play not only anti-social role but also many social roles as husband, father, employee, and so on.
9. Variations in societal reactions to criminality of different kinds as well as punitive handling determine continuation in criminality.
10. More the laws in society, more the police becomes ineffective. Thus, excessiveness of laws and ineffectiveness of police increase criminality.


Some scholars using socio-structural approach have explained crime in terms of the economic structure of society. They focus on the impact of economic conditions on criminal behaviour. This explanation holds that a criminal is a product of the economic environment which provides him his ideals and goals. It was the Italian scholar Fornasari who talked of the relationship between crime and poverty in 1894. he maintained that 60% of the Italian population was poor, and of the total crimes in Italy, 85% to 90% criminals belong to this section of the poor. Economic system thus provides ‘climate of motivation’ for criminal behaviour. In 1916, a Dutch scholar Bonger also emphasized relationship between crime and the capitalistic economic structure. In a capitalistic system man concentrates only on himself and this leads to selfishness. Man is interested only in producing for himself, especially in producing a surplus which he can exchange for profit. He is not interested in the needs of others. Capitalism, thus, breeds social irresponsibility and leads to crime.
A British criminologist Cyril Burt, analyzing juvenile delinquency, found that 19 per cent juvenile delinquents belonged to extremely poor families and 37% to poor families. He concluded that though poverty was an important factor in crime, yet it was not the only factor. In 1915, William Healy and Augusta Bronner studied 675 juvenile delinquents and found that 5% belonged to the destitute class, 22% to the poor class, 35% to the normal class, 34% to the comfort class and 4% to the luxury class. Thus, since 73% delinquents belonged to classes which were economically normal or well-off, poverty cannot be considered to be a very important factor in delinquency.
While Bonger used facilitating approach, Karl Marx used that private ownership of property results in poverty which distinguishes those who own the means of production from those whom they exploit for economic benefit. The latter turn to crime as a result of this poverty. Thus, though Karl Marx did not specifically develop a theory of criminal causation but he believed that the economic system was the sole determinant of crime.


This explanation evaluates crime on the basis of Geographical factors like climate, temperature, humidity, etc. It is supposed by scholars like Montesquieu, Quetelet, Kropotokin, Champneuf, and many others. Montesquieu in his book Spirit of Laws laid down the law that criminality increases in proportion as one approaches the equator, and drunkenness increases in proportion as approaches the poles. About a century later, Quelet formulated his famous ‘thermic law’ of delinquency in which he claimed that crimes against person predominated in the South and increased in summers, while crimes against property predominated in the North and increased during the winter time. Champneuf supported this hypothesis of the relationship between the nature of crime and the climate on the basis of his study conducted in France between 1825 and 1830. he found 181.5 property crimes against every 100 crimes against persons in North France, and 98.8 property crimes against every 100 crimes against persons in South France. On the basis of his study of property crimes conducted between 1825 and 1880, the French scholar Laccasagne also found the highest number of property crimes in December, followed by January, November and February. In a study on the effect of climate on an individual’s behaviour made in 1904, the American scholar Dexter found that crime and geographical conditions like barometric pressure, heat, humidity, etc. were highly related with one another. He found that crimes of violence were most numerous during the warm months of the year, during periods of low barometric pressure, and during periods of low humidity.
In 1911, a Russian scholar kroptokin established that the rate of murder in any month/year can be predicted by calculating the average temperature and humidity of the preceding month/year. For this he gave a mathematical formula 2 (7x + y), where x is the temperature and y is the humidity. Multiplying the average temperature x of the last month with 7 and adding the average humidity of the last month y to it, and then multiplying the total figure with 2, we will get the number of murders to be committed in a given month.


Sutherland proposed ‘differential association theory’ in 1939 and elaborated it in 1947. Initially, he applied his theory only to ‘systematic criminal behaviour’, but late on, extending his theory, he applied it to all criminal behaviour. Sutherland’s main thesis is that individuals encounter many inharmonious and inconsistent social influences in their lifetime and many individuals become involved in contacts with carriers of criminalistic norms and as a consequence become criminals. He called this process ‘differential association’.

The theory of ‘differential association’ presented nine propositions:
• Criminal behaviour is learnt and never inherited.
• It is learnt in interaction with other persons in a process of communication.
• The principal part of the learning process (of criminal behaviour) occurs within intimate, small, personal groups.
• The learning includes techniques of committing crime, and specific direction of motives, drives, rationalistaions and attitudes.
• The specific direfction of motive or drive is learnt from definitions of legal codes as favourable or unfavourable.
• A person becomes a criminal because of an excess of definitions favourable to violation of law over definitions unfavourable to violation of law, i.e., criminal behaviour is determined in a process of association with those who commit crime. This is the principle of differential association. Differential association is possible because society is composed of various groups with varied cultures. Thus, cultural conflict is the underlying cause of differential association. The origin and persistence of cultural conflicts are due to social disorganization.
• Sifferential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity, i.e., the chance that a person will participate in criminal behaviour is determined roughly by the frequency and consistency of his contacts with patterns of criminal behaviour.
• The processes of learning criminal behaviour by association with criminal and non-criminal patterns are fundamentally the same in form as the processes which result in lawful behaviour. Individual differences among people in respect of personal characteristics or social situations cause crime only as they affect differential association or frequency and consistency of contracts with criminal patterns.
• While criminal behaviour is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by these general needs and values since non-criminal behaviour is an expression of the same needs and values.


  1. Hello, I need to cite this. Could you please give me your publication details and name (Harvard referencing style) so I don't plagiarise? Thanks.

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