How would biosocial theories explain the high levels of violent crime in lower class areas?

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jameadows eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Biosocial theories of crime look at both the biological and social determinants of crime, as well as their interaction. In other words, this field of criminology looks at the way in which people are influenced both by what they are born with and the way in which their genetic inheritance interacts with their environment.

For example, some researchers in this field believe that a tendency toward aggression is inherited. In other words, people whose parents are more likely to show aggressive behaviors are themselves more likely to show these behaviors (both because the behaviors are learned and because the person's body reacts to stress in this way). Some people, for example, have lower levels of stress hormones, and these lower levels of stress hormones make them less likely to be fearful of the consequences of crimes. In a lower-income area, people are subjected to much greater stresses, including environmental factors such as noise, violence, instability in their living situation, and malnutrition, among others. People who have a tendency towards aggression are more likely to show these behaviors in a lower-income area, as that area is more stressful. Therefore, there are both biological and social factors that influence a person's likelihood to show criminal behavior.

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Biosocial criminology is a theory that human behavior is caused by a blend of biologically predetermined tendencies and their response to social or environmental factors. In a nutshell, undesirable social conditions can trigger the awakening of criminal instincts which, until that time, had remained dormant.

It must be noted that a lot of sociologists criticize this theory on the grounds that it becomes far too easy to profile somebody based on their ethnic group.

According to biosocial theory, when a particular biological tendency is introduced to an unstable socioeconomic environment, the result will be the unleashing of criminal tendencies that had previously remained dormant within a person.

With all this in mind, a biosocial interpretation of high crime in low-income areas might be that the lack of stability and social structure prevalent in these areas has "activated" or "awakened" tendencies towards violent crime. This would become a vicious circle, as violent crime would lead to other people who shared these biologically predetermined tendencies resorting to crime themselves.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Biosocial theories of crime are not solely biological.  They do also include a social element.  The social element is important in explaining why levels of violence are higher in lower class areas.

Biosocial theories of crime argue that there is a genetic and biological aspect to crime.  Some people are simply born with a predisposition to crime just as some people are born shy and others outgoing.  But these genetic factors do not completely determine whether a person will become a criminal.  Instead, they interact with social factors.  This is why crime (to biosocial theorists) is more prevalent in lower class areas.  Those areas are populated by people who are less able to rein in any inborn criminal factors that they and their children might have.  Parents have less time and money to spend on their children, for example, making it less likely that they can overcome any genetic predispositions their children might have towards crime.

Violence is more prevalent in such areas, then, because poor social conditions make it more likely that genetic predispositions towards crime will actually express themselves.

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