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Whereas it remains true that African-Americans and other racial minorities continue to be overrepresented in the American prison population, both common sense and the general consensus of the criminal justice community and sociological experts suggest that this hardly a direct function of race. Rather, it merely reflects the unfortunate correlation between poverty, comparative lack of educational and employment opportunities in the American urban centers where many minorities reside, as well as of the social values that tend to prevail in many of those impoverished communities (Schmalleger 1997).
First, the quality of public school facilities and programs is directly related to the economic realities of their surrounding areas; second, within many segments of minority urban social culture, education is not valued the way it is in middle class and upper class communities and students who make the effort to apply themselves academically are more likely to be targeted for ridicule by other students than admired; and third, the urban environment is often dominated by street gangs and a criminal culture that elevates criminals to positions of perceived status on the streets (Pinizzotto 2007).
To make matters worse, urban gangs tend to recruit prospects for membership among middle school aged children who are both easily impressed by criminal role models and equally susceptible to intimidation and predatory victimization when they resist associating with neighborhood gang "sets" (Pinizzotto 2007). As a result, even exemplary parents who provide appropriate messages and parenting styles encounter difficulty when their efforts at home are contradicted by attitudes and values prevailing within the community to which their children are continually exposed.
Genetic Predisposition to Criminality:
As is the case with regard to every other conceivable aspect of human behavior, genetics contributes various components of predisposition to criminal activity.
Generally, children whose parents are athletic are more likely to be athletic; children whose parents value education are more likely to pursue advanced education; and children whose parents tend toward violence or who lack self-control are more likely than children of pacifists to have criminal records. However, the difficulty ascribing differences in human behavior to genes or environmental influence is in distinguishing inherent genetic tendencies from parenting influences (Gerrig & Zimbardo 2005).
Unlike the case with laboratory animals, humans cannot be bred or separated from their parents at birth for genetic research into the source of their behavioral tendencies.
Surely, traits of personality such as patience, impulsivity, quickness to anger, and self-control have specifically identifiable genetic profiles, making it even more difficult to connect parenting style to self-control issues in children, much less to such behavior that rises to the level of criminality.
significant portion of serious crime is not related to violence or a function of lack of self-control, regardless of what factors are responsible for the individual's gravitation toward criminal conduct. Most instances of violence are criminal and lack of self-control does account for some violent crime as well as some non-violent crime, but there are more non-violent types of crime than violent crimes. Furthermore, many instances of both violent crime and non-violent crime are not related to self-control issues; certain types of crime specifically require patience, self-control, and long-term planning.
Certainly, lack of self-control is sometimes a factor in criminal conduct, and some parenting styles exacerbate any natural tendency in that direction rather than addressing it positively during the formative childhood years. In some cases, there may indeed be a direct link between parenting style, lack of self-control, and crimes relating to self-control issues. However, this model likely applies only to a very narrow subset of the myriad forms of criminal conduct and personal tendencies in that direction. Ultimately, the self- control theory of crime applies only to that subset rather than explaining criminality in a broader sense.
Gerrig, R., Zimbardo, P. (2005) Psychology and Life 17th ed.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Innes, B. (2007) Serial Killers: The Stories of History's Most Evil Murderers. London: Quercas
Macionis, J.J. (2002) Sociology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Pinizzotto, a.J. (2007) Street-Gang Mentality: A Mosaic of Remorseless Violence and Relentless Loyalty. Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Journal. Vol. 76 No.9 (Sep/07).
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