Biological theories of criminality



Biological theories discuss criminality as a behavior, and they help psychologists to establish whether criminality is a learned behavior or an inborn behavior. Biological theories state that individuals commit crime due to inborn negative physiological factors that foster criminal behavior in them (Linda 8). Specific causation of crime has not yet been established since psychologists argue that various factors enhance criminal behavior in different individuals. Some of these factors are internal while others are external. The United States’ Department of Justice has incorporated psychology in its endeavors of trying to understand why individuals commit a crime. The department aims at regulating crime in the country through the incorporation of psychology in its activities. The incorporation of psychology and biological theories in the United States has been encouraged by the increase in criminal cases in the country. The number of incarcerated individuals in the country is at an alarming rate demanding urgent attention. Biological theories state that the causes of criminal behaviors in individuals include biochemical and neurophysiologic conditions. Other causes of criminal behavior as indicated by the theories include genetic inheritances and low intelligence levels. The biological theory that addresses criminality is the biological positivism theory.

Biological positivism theory

The biological positivism theory states that individuals exhibit criminal behaviors due to chemical imbalances, genetic traits and cognitive abnormalities (Michelle 87). Physiological and genetic traits portrayed by individuals can solely cause criminal behaviors in individuals. The theory does not disregard the influence of individuals’ environments on their behaviors. The theory states that mental illnesses and low intelligence levels promote criminal behaviors among individuals. People of low intelligence levels are more likely to become criminals than people of high intelligence levels. The theory states that adrenaline and testosterone levels cause negative behaviors specifically criminal behaviors since they foster aggression and violence. Chemical imbalances are caused by factors such as excessive consumption of alcohol and adding chemicals that cause hyperactivity to food as food ingredients or additives. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes blood sugar levels to increase resulting in aggressive behaviors among individuals. Addition of chemicals that cause hypersensitivity to food can cause hypersensitivity that promotes criminal behaviors. Aggressiveness and hyperactivity are closely associated with criminal behavior according to the biological positivism theory.

Challenges surrounding the administration of justice in the United States

High incarceration rates

The United States has experienced a drastic increase in incarcerations over the years. The high incarceration rates put great pressure on correctional facilities since they are unable to handle a large number of incarcerated individuals effectively. Most individuals who are usually incarcerated in the United States are males. Some correctional facilities for males are currently congested due to the high number of incarceration in the U.S. These group of individuals are incarcerated for committing different crimes. The congestion in correctional facilities hinders the success of correctional programs that are set for the inmates. Changing the behaviors of the inmates from negative to positive becomes difficult since the staff in the correctional facilities cannot handle the high numbers of inmates.  Since the correctional facilities are congested, and staff working in the facilities cannot monitor the inmates effectively, some inmates tend to adopt new criminal behaviors while in the facilities. Adoption of new criminal behaviors by inmates while in the correctional facilities makes it difficult to transform them.

Increased alcohol consumption and drug and substance abuse

Drug and substance abuse rates in the country have increased over the years due to easy accessibility to illegal drugs and substances. New drugs that have very negative impacts on the behaviors of individuals have been introduced in the country. Alcohol has negative impacts on the behaviors of individuals, especially when consumed in excess. Drugs and alcohol cause chemical imbalances among individuals causing hypersensitivity and aggressiveness among individuals. Hypersensitivity and intensive aggression foster the development of criminal behaviors among individuals that abuse drugs and consume alcohol excessively. The increased alcohol consumption and drug and substance rates in the United States have contributed significantly to the increased crime rates experienced in the country. Reduced restrictions by the government on alcohol consumption have resulted in the increased alcohol consumption rates especially among youths. Criminal activities perpetrated by youths in the United States have increased. Psychologists and criminologists closely associate this to the increased consumption of alcohol and increased drug and substance abuse among youths.

Controversies surrounding the administration of justice in the United States

Wrongful convictions

Cases of wrongful convictions have increased in the United States. Individuals have been incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit while others have been awarded inappropriate prison sentences. Innocent individuals are at times incarcerated and even awarded extreme prison sentences such as life imprisonments and death penalties. Wrongful convictions promote criminal behavior since the incarcerated innocent individuals tend to adopt criminal behaviors while in prison (Terrance 18). The perpetrators of the crimes are usually left free and usually continue committing criminal activities. Wrongful convictions are major as a result of insufficient or wrong evidence presented during court trials. Another major cause of wrongful convictions is stereotyping of individuals by the U.S Justice Department. Judges at times judge individuals presented on trials based on their perception of different genders, social classes, and ethnicities.

Discrimination and underrepresentation of certain groups

The administration of justice in the United States is characterized by discrimination and underrepresentation of individuals based on their ethnicities. Most of the individuals employed in the country’s criminal justice systems are usually Whites. Minority groups are underrepresented in the workforce of the country’s Criminal Justice Department. Minority groups underrepresented in the system include African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Even though the country advocates for equality among its citizens, the Criminal Justice Department does not fully foster achievement of equality. Employees in the system from minority groups are further discriminated against by their bosses and colleagues from majority groups.


Biological theories state that the physiological traits and states of individuals influence their behaviors. Negative physiological traits cause criminal behaviors among individuals that portray those traits.  The biological positivism theory emphasizes that chemical imbalances, genetic traits, and cognitive abnormalities are the major causes of criminal behaviors among individuals. Challenges surrounding the administration of justice in the U.S include increased alcohol consumption, increased drug and substance abuse and high incarceration rates. Controversies surrounding the country’s justice system include wrongful convictions and discrimination and underrepresentation of certain groups in the system.

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  1. Dempsey, John S.; Forst, Linda S. An Introduction to Policing (8 ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 6-8, (2015)
  2. McElreath, David; Doss, Daniel; Jensen, Carl; Wigginton, Michael; Kennedy, Ralph; Winter, Kenneth; Mongue, Robert; Bounds, Janice; Estis-Sumerel, J. Michelle. Introduction to Law Enforcement (1 ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. p. 87, (2013)
  3.  Perri, Frank S.; Lichtenwald, Terrance G“When Worlds Collide: Criminal Investigative Analysis, Forensic Psychology And the Timothy Masters Case”Forensic Examiner. 18 (2): 226972, (2009)
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