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Friday, May 30, 2014

Crimogenic Differences in Siblings

Crimogenic Differences in  Siblings
   A brief survey of criminological theories can explain possible reasons for one or both of a pair of siblings to assume a criminally deviant lifestyle. In discussing these theories, the possibility arises that their shared environment can play a part in that deviant path, even in the event that one sibling does not assume deviancy. Social control theory may hold an explanation for different life paths. In addition, differential association theory may also explain these differences. If there is a gender difference between the siblings, this could also account for such differences. This discussion of sibling crimogenic differences may illuminate why most people in don't become criminals even when they originate in environments that should, according to theory, spawn mostly criminals.
    The survey of theory will begin with strain theory. Under this theory, stress in an individual is caused by the conflict between cultural goals and institutional guidelines when a person perceives that the guidelines are outside that person's abilities. This strain is dealt with by the method of adaption known as innovation in which a person achieves cultural goals while subverting or ignoring institutional guidelines. In other words, “a premium is implicitly set upon the use, of illegitimate but technically efficient means.(Williams & McShane, 1998, p .124) This strain would apply to siblings brought up in the same environment which implies both similar cultural goals and similar institutional guidelines. Moving on to differential association theory, the similarity of environment returns in that “differential association theory is entirely a product of the social environment surrounding individuals and the values gained from important others in that social environment”(Williams & McShane, 2014, p. 69) Of course, siblings would share the set of “important others” in most cases. To look at another theory, social control theory assumes that crime is a normal function of society, and occurs when control breaks down. “The most important way we exercise control is through the process of socialization. We teach the 'right' way to do things (rules, norms), both informally, as in the family, and formally, as in school. In fact, much of our early upbringing is designed to socialize us so we can function in society.”(Williams & McShane, 2014, p. 161). The learning of controls is based on reward and punishment;“Humans learn deviant behavior just as we learn any other behavior, Reinforcement increases the frequency of a behavior, while punishment decreases this frequency.” (South University Online, 2010, sidebar)Again, we assume that siblings commonly share the same family and school controls. In examing social learning theory, we return to the assumtion that siblings share “past events”; as this theory assumes that “behavior is a product of present and past events in the life of the individual. The contingencies of reinforcement and punishment (aversive stimuli) determine whether the frequency of any particular behavior is increased or diminished” (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.179). These “past events” would certainly imply that the siblings ahre the same punative and reawed stimuli. Finally, we return to the Classical mode of criminology, and assume that as individuals, the siblings may not share the same values that would be assigned in balancing risk/reward judgements made from free will.
    While these theories may partially explain a deviant mindset, they require some fine tuning to explain why one sibling might turn to crime while the other sibling turns out to be an upstanding citizen. This difference is particularly highlighted in which the environment may be considered highly crimogenic. Turner discusses the idea of “resiliency”; a term used to describe “high-risk youths who refrain from serious involvement in delinquency-that is who are 'resilient' despite the multiple adversities that they face.” (2001, p.2) Turner discusses the factors that may affect a person's resiliency. He categorizes them as ”four different domains: (1) intrapersonal; (2) family; (3) peer; and (4) neighborhood.”(2001, p.28) We can use these factors in further examination of social control theory and differential association theory. Filtering family and neighborhood factors through a social control theory prism, we could name possible contributors to a sibling difference: parental favoritism resulting in different punishments/rewards, family illness, a family move to a new neighborhood at different times in the sibling's development periods, a detioration of the neighborhood, and family changes such as divorce and new marriages. Any of these issues could definetely contribute to changes in the social environment that social controls are assigned. We could look at the peer factor as categorized by Turner and applied to differential association theory. This would especially apply during the adolescent period. Turner states that “The correlation between associating with delinquent peers and delinquent behavior is one of the strongest and most consistent findings in criminological research (2001, p38). This meshes with differential association theory in that the theory stresses the learning of criminal behavior from trusted intimates. Siblings can easily have seperate peer groups, especially as the age difference increases.
    A major factor that should be examined as a cause of deviant behavior in siblings is gender. Females commit crime at a far lesser rate than men do. Without wasting time on the nonsense of feminist theory, we can look to biological determinants for possible reasons this is so. One example of a biological determinant would be the presence of testostorone in males leading to more aggressive behavior in general. Another possible biological determinant would be evolutionary psychology: “Women have to be very careful in their use of aggression...because personal survival is more critical to women then men. That's because the bear the brunt of child care and their survival is critical to the survival of their offspring (Raine,2013, p.34)
    In conclusion, we can apply the fact the observation that sibling pairs may not share a path towards either deviancy or normalcy, even in a theoretically highly crimogenic environment, to the populace at large in such environments to potentially explain why the majority of that populace does not assume a deviant mindset. The ability to resist the environment, called resiliency, may rely on a number of factors which themselves are variable within such an environment. Finally, the individual may have the free will decision to avoid criminal acts.

Raine, A. (2013). The anatomy of violence: The biological roots of crime. Kindle Ed. Random House

South University Online. (2010). MCJ6003: Criminological Theory: Week 5: Rhode Island Truancy
Court (2 of 2). Retrieved May 5, 2014 from myeclassonline.com

Turner, M. (2001) Good kids in bad circumstances: A longitudinal analysis of resilient youth. National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/188263.pdf

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (1998) Criminology theory: Selected classic readings (2nd edition). Anderson Publishing Co.
Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology theory (6th edition). Pearson

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