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The General Theory of Crime - Essay Example

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This global outlook will also extend to the non-criminal acts of low self-control individuals: "they will tend to smoke, drink, use drugs, gamble, have children out of wedlock, and engage in illicit sex... people who lack self-control will tend to be impulsive, insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), risk-taking, short-sighted, and nonverbal, and they will tend therefore to engage in criminal and analogous acts".
Such traits appear where parental supervision has been lacking, and/or where discipline has been harsh and inconsistent, where the children are stigmatized and rejected, as opposed to shamed and reintegrated (Braithwaite 1989). The traits are evident to teachers as early as the first grades and they tend to persist throughout the life cycle. This is the stability theorem, and it has considerable relevance in penology since it makes later life rehabilitation unrealistic.
A General Theory is important because it is quite clear about the probable relevance of a number of other key life experiences to delinquency and misconduct - the school, delinquent friends, drugs, and criminal justice interventions. Contrary to suggestions of school critics, the school is not a primary source of experience which fosters criminal careers. The school makes demands of control, discipline, and accountability which are difficult for the low self-control student to meet, and, for this reason, early school leaving is a result of low self control, not a cause of it, and hence not a cause of delinquency (McLaughlin et. al., 2003). Children from fractious families may be at greater risk of early leaving because their families have ill-equipped them to behave appropriately or have already lost any control they themselves have over the children.
Delinquent peers were traditionally thought of as the crucible of criminal careers, especially in the context of the contemporary images of the power of gangs over ghetto adolescents. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) also argue that the drift of adolescents towards gangs follows a loss of parental controls. Adolescents seek out people like themselves who are thrill seekers, renegades, and who reject conformity. Unlike Sutherland's differential association theory which suggested that gangs were a sort of counter cultural fraternity where the positive labelling of crime outweighed the negative, and where the gang became a repository for the acquisition of specialized knowledge, contacts, and attitudes, A General Theory argues otherwise. Crime is its own reward, but gangs are only attractive to people who are already impulsive and hedonistic, and lack normal restraints. In fact, the relationships within gangs are notoriously fractious and unstable because gang members have common selfish, impulsive, and insensitive traits (McLaughlin et. al., 2003). This conclusion is important since it advises that the impact of criminal peers is not a primary source of criminality. Changes in individual training can be expected to influence the subject without second-guessing how the peer group dictates the individual's life course trajectory.
Many commentators argue that the causes of crime like robbery or breaking and entry are narcotics, solvents and/or alcohol abuse. If the ...Show more
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Summary

In terms of crime's general theory of action, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) argue that all crimes occur because they are chosen. They say that there is significant variation in the extent to which people choose to act offensively or recklessly based on their underlying "criminality"…
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