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The Positive School:
Biological and Psychological Factors
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The theories we will be discussing in the next few weeks differ significantly from the classical model. All presume that scientific study of criminal behavior will uncover the "causes" of such behavior, causes that are beyond the control of the individual. As such, these explanations are deterministic. Positivist criminologists shared a hope that criminal behavior could he controlled if it first could be understood. While some have argued that positivistic theories offered a humanitarian alternative to the punishment regime mandated by free will explanations, the former have been openly accepted by Fascists as well as libertarians.

For positivist criminologists Darwin was thought to be a good starting point for a valid scientific theory of criminal behavior. Darwin made the point that humans and other animal species were fundamentally related rather than uniquely different. While humankind was more highly evolved than any other animal species, differences were "of degree" rather than "of kind." It was in such an intellectual environment that Lombroso developed his theories. In addition, earlier biological explanations of criminal behavior such as phrenology had made inroads among educated populations in America and Europe.

BIOLOGICAL FACTORS AND CRIME: Early Theories of Heredity

Many criminologists start their discussion of biological criminology by pointing out how unpopular such views tend to be. Not many want to believe there is any such thing as a "bad seed;" that heredity can make criminal behavior unavoidable and inevitable for some individuals. Environment as a major determining factor in criminality is a much more palatable theory for many. Of course, biopsychologists do not believe that genetic or physiological components are the sole causal agents in behavior.

Theories Related to Physical Appearance

Lombroso was not alone in thinking that external physical appearance demonstrated that criminals were biologically inferior to the law abiding. Only gradually did biological criminology shift from searching for external signs of biological abnormality to looking for internal clues of biological dysfunction. Inferior heredity or intelligence is not something one can spot from a cursory exterior examination.

Two of the forerunners of Lombrosian criminology were physiognomy and phrenology. Both can be traced back to the late 18th century. Physiognomy was developed by Johan Lavater who published his 4 volume Physiognomical Fragments in 1775. Bearded women and unbearded men were looked upon with suspicion. Unusual physical traits were thought to be related to strange behavior, such as tattooing the body. Such facial features as "shifty" eyes, "weak" chins, or "arrogant" noses were also thought to be suspect. Lombroso incorporated many of these ideas.

Franz Gall beginning in 1791 expounded the theory of phrenology. Gall was an anatomist who believed that each section of the brain was responsible for a different aspect of human functioning. Gall believed that the brain had 26 departments of faculties; a later popularizer of phrenology, John Spurzheim, increased that number to 35. Unfortunately, the categories were not only too numerous, they were also inaccurate. Specifically, they felt that each section of the brain controlled a unique form of behavior. Included in Gall and Spurzheim's functionally controlled areas of the brain were friendliness, destructiveness, benevolence, and acquisitiveness. Within the brain itself these functions were grouped together into regions. Each of the brain's three regions controlled a major aspect of human behavior:

bullet(1) activity or the "lower" functions were controlled by one section,
bullet(2) another controlled moral sentiments,
bullet(3) the third housed the intellectual faculties.

In order to determine whether an individual suffered from brain dysfunction it was not necessary to do an internal examination of brain tissue, although phrenologists certainly performed brain dissections when given the opportunity. However, external examinations were believed to be an accurate predictor of internal brain development. In particular it was thought that enlarged or unusually undersized brain sections produced bumps or depressions in the skull respectively. This belief made it possible for nearly any "doctor" to perform phrenological examinations and describe the origins of a person's problematic behavior.

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Phrenology became quite popular in America and was used for classification purposes in 19th century American prisons. For example, at Eastern Penitentiary in PA phrenology was employed until 1904. In an 1856 phrenological examination of the prison's population, over 70% of the inmates were diagnosed as suffering from an overabundance of "acquisitiveness" while another 17% showed unusual development of the brain area responsible for "destructiveness."

The decline of phrenology had both to do with the fact that it was unprovable and that it was unpopular with the general public and lawmakers who continued to press for a free will explanation of behavior. While Gall argued that phrenology was not deterministic, most critics believed that it was.

The earliest biological explanations of crime to enjoy widespread popularity come from the late 19th Century and the writings of the Italian Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso borrowed from both physiognomy and phrenology as he developed his own descriptors of atavistic criminals. While biological, criminal characteristics were not always directly passed on from parents to children.

Later in his career Lombroso modified his beliefs and admitted that other factors than biology could be involved in producing criminality. Atavism accounted for only about 1/3 of the criminal population. Environmental factors played a role in a number of types of criminality.

Lombroso cited 6 categories of criminality that were not necessarily biologically determined. Among these were the following:

bulletHabitual [or career] criminals had chosen crime as their occupational niche (i.e. Mafia soldiers). Lombroso believed prisons acted as breeding grounds of crime for many.
bulletJuridicial criminals were those who acted impulsively.
bulletCriminals of passion acted criminally for noble reasons [Jack Katz's righteous slaughter fits this category].
bulletCriminaloids were weak natured and too easily followed the, bad example of others [Sutherland's differential association fits here].
bulletMorally insane criminals did not know the difference between right and wrong.
bulletHysteric criminals displayed psychological abnormalities.

In America, Lombroso's ideas met with an eager response. The late 19th Century witnessed the birth of American sociology and one of its major concerns was criminal behavior. Lombroso's ideas seemed to mesh well with those who shared his social evolutionary outlook. There were, however, some differences. A number of American scholars favored a non-Darwinian form of evolutionism first exposed by Lamarck. He believed that traits learned by one generation could be passed on through heredity to the next. American criminologists such as Charles Loring Brace and Charles Henderson applied the theory to such behaviors as criminality, drunkenness, and laziness. If the parents were involved in these behaviors their children would most likely be as well. Proof that criminality ran in families was stated in such books as Dugdale's The Jukes and Goddard's The Kallikak Family. Inherited feeblemindedness (mental retardation) was a major culprit.

Lombroso's findings did not go unchallenged by other scientists and such criticisms probably go a long way toward explaining why, over time, he found less and less "born criminals." Lombroso's most severe critic was the Englishman, Charles Goring. Goring wrote The English Convict, a study in which he analyzed the physical characteristics of 3000 inmates.

However, unlike Lombroso, Goring included a control sample in his study by comparing the convicts to an equal number of noncriminal British citizens. Included in the comparison group were college students, army members, and hospital patients. Goring was able to disprove that criminals showed physical anomalies when compared to the general population. He also found no significant differences in such traits as eye or hair color or left-handedness. The only differences Goring could document had to do with stature and body weigh. He found criminals were on average 2" shorter than noncriminals and weighed 3 to 7 pounds less. [short, but not short and stocky]. Goring believed these differences demonstrated hereditary inferiority. However, Goring continued to assert that criminals were primarily selected from the class of normal men, but may demonstrate "extreme degrees from the normal average." In other words, criminals were simply not that different from the rest of us. While Goring felt he had successfully defeated the Lombrosian claim of biological inferiority, in the 1930s, E. A. Hooton of Harvard University attempted to repopularize the external biological model.

Biological criminology was closely related to the Eugenics movement in America. Also, the emphasis of Lombrosian and other forms of biological criminality had a significant effect on American penology. Ultimately it led to a nationwide moral crusade in favor of sterilization as the ultimate solution to the problem of hereditary criminality. In 1914, one such moral entrepreneur came up with the following model law regarding sterilization:

Harry Laughlin's model law called for the sterilization of all those who were potential parents of socially inadequate offspring. The socially inadequate, by his definition, consisted of the feebleminded, insane, criminalistic ("including the delinquent and way-ward"), epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and dependent ("including orphans, ne’er-do-wells, the homeless, tramps and paupers") . The potential parents of such offspring would be subject to sterilization -whether inside or outside an institution-, so that the law would not be discriminatory class legislation and so that the greatest eugenic good would result. In order to assure due process of law, the state eugenicist, whose duty it would be to study the heredity of the state's socially inadequate, would be required to secure a court order for sterilization. While administrative features of his model law were unexceptionable, the choice of candidates for sterilization went far beyond what anyone except the most extreme hereditarian (like Laughlin) would consider justified.

From Mark Haller’s Eugenics: Hereditarian Attitudes in American Thought

 

Of course, he was an extremist. However, a number of states did pass sterilization statutes [IN, CT, WA, CA, NJ, 10, NV, NY, ND, MI, KS, WI, NB, OR, SD, NH] in the 1910's. Most limited these statutes to sex offenders and habitual criminals within the prison population. Applying the statutes, to rapists was obviously partially punitive, as are recent calls to castrate rapists. Sterilization was also claimed to have a calming effect on violent criminal personalities.

One of the major factors leading to the popularity [and ultimately the demise] of eugenic sterilization was its racist tendencies. Not only were such ideas applied frequently to black Americans, but to the massive numbers of eastern and southern European and Asian immigrants who were considered to be of inferior genetic stock. Sociologist E.A. Ross argued that the original American settlers (Anglo-Saxons and later Nordics) had as a result of their struggles to survive in the wilderness formed a biologically unique "species" of American he referred to as the "pioneering breed". The massive influx of inferior immigrants if allowed to inbreed with Americans would only weaken our society's biological superiority. Franz Boas, the leading American anthropologist of the early 20th Century took the lead in opposing the racist thought that accompanied the eugenics movement. Eventually all states repealed their sterilization statutes as the eugenics movement lost interest in the 1930's. The Nazi slaughter of millions of European Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and mentally and physically defective hospital patients convinced the remaining advocates of eugenics of the possible horrific consequences of a state determined to carry out such a policy.

My own research on this topic has analyzed why late 19th- and early 20th-century American criminologists and sociologists so willingly accepted positivistic models such as Lombroso's. In The Religious Roots of American Sociology I argued that the particular religious beliefs espoused by men such as Charles Henderson (author of An Introduction to the Study of Dependent, Defective, and Delinquent Classes) and Albion Small (head of the world's first sociology department at the University of Chicago) were related to their beliefs concerning the future religious mission of the American nation. The Social Gospel had five major components:

bullet1) a strong allegiance to evolutionism, which the social gospelers explained theistically
bullet2) faith in inevitable progress,
bullet3) an optimistic view of human nature that replaced a more pessimistic Calvinist perspective,
bullet4) belief that the Kingdom of God was to be an earthly utopia rather than a realm existing only in the afterlife, thus necessitating a program of "social salvation" to either augment or in some cases entirely replace the evangelical concern for individual salvation, and
bullet5) the belief that America was to be the place where the earthly Kingdom would be first established, and then serve as a model to the rest of the world.

The role criminology played was to separate out the salvageable from the unsavable portions of the population as an earthly kingdom could not permit "sinners."

 

Other Italian Positivists

The two most famous of Lombroso's contemporaries were Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garafolo. Ferri was one of the first researchers interested in the study of crime statistics. While quite interested in Lombroso's biological determinism, Ferri consistently argued for a broader explanation of criminality. In particular, Ferri believed that social, economic, and political factors were important in attempting to develop a comprehensive theory of crime. Included among the factors were:

bulletphysical (race, climate, geographic location, seasonal effects, temperature)
bulletanthropological (age, sex, organic and psychological conditions)
bulletsocial (density of population, customs, religion, organization of government, economic and industrial conditions).

From these factors Ferri developed a fourfold typology of criminal types (insane, born, occasional, and criminal by passion) in his work, Criminal Sociology.

Ferri was also one of the first criminologists to emphasize "crime prevention." By this he meant more than making sure to install deadbolt locks, however, some of his suggestions were quite practical such as increased use of street lighting and state control of weapons manufacture (and distribution). Some of his preventive proposals have since been advocated by others but he was one of the first to advocate massive government involvement and government restructuring as ways to lower crime rates. The study of crime statistics would show which programs were effective and which were not. Among the major changes Ferri proposed were: free trade, abolishing monopolies, public savings banks, foundling homes, and public recreation. In the United States, Progressives such as Teddy Roosevelt and Jane Addams advocated many of these suggestions. Ferri also suggested public housing for the poor, a welfare state idea. He also felt that birth control, particularly for the most criminogenic classes, might help. Politically, Ferri was a socialist during the middle part of his career, but later became a Fascist. This demonstrates the plasticity of positivist models. Social control of deviant populations is a concern of all authoritarian regimes.

Garafolo started his career as a judge and later became a professor of criminal law. Like other positivists, he fundamentally rejected the idea that criminal behavior was the result of free will and sought to understand crime by adopting the scientific method.

One of Garafolo's goals was developing a universal definition of crime. He claimed to have accomplished this with his concept of "natural crime." By natural crime Garafolo included offenses violated the two basic altruistic sentiments common to all people in all ages: "probity" [morality, virtue] and "pity' [feeling for others, remorse]. If Garaflo had been a better anthropologist he might have recognized the problem inherent in this statement. Anthropologists have been hard pressed to find a universal content to morality although all cultures employ the concept. The American sociologist William Graham Sumner pointed this out in Folkways, much to the disdain of American positivists who were seeking universal values (in keeping with Christianity).

Garafolo rejected the physical type theories of Lombroso and Ferri. Instead he advocated a "psychological" approach. In fact, his favorable position toward punishment places Garafolo closer to the classical school than most other positivists. However, his theory of punishment is ultimately Darwinian. Based on the survival of the fittest tenet, Garafolo argued for the "elimination" of certain criminal types. He advocated death for those with permanent psychological abnormalities (i.e. psychopaths), "partial elimination" (permanent imprisonment) for those fit only for "the life of nomadic hordes or primitive tribes," and "enforced reparation" (restitution) for those lacking altruistic sentiments but unlikely to repeat their crimes. By these methods Garafolo believed we could gradually eliminate our criminal populations.

 

PHYSIQUE and CRIME: Body Type Theories

The two most famous body type theorists were Ernst Kretschmer and William Sheldon. They believed that there was a correlation between body type and overall behavioral patterns or temperament. Kretschmer analyzed over 4,000 criminal cases using his 3 body type model: (1) leptosome or asthenic [tall and thin], (2) athletic [well developed muscles], and (3) pyknic [short and fat]. His conclusion was that were is a greater number of violent criminals who correspond to the athletic type, while the asthenic are more likely to be involved in petty theft and fraud. Finally, Kretschmer found that the pyknic tended toward crimes involving deception and fraud but were also sometimes involved in violent crimes.

One of the frequently employed studies of physique was done by William Sheldon and referred to as somatotyping. He argued that there were 3 basic body builds: 1) endomorphic (fat & soft) 2) ectomorphic (thin & fragile) and 3) mesomorphic (muscular & hard). In order to rate a particular individual Sheldon used a 7-point scale for each body type, thus each individual had 3 ratings. [ Example: 1-7-1 = a pure mesomorph.] Sheldon linked certain personality traits to each of the body types.

bulletendomorphs love comfort, food, affection, and being around people; even tempered, easy to get along with [non-deviant]
bulletmesomorphs seek vigorous physical activity, risk-taking, adventure; more likely to be indifferent to pain and aggressive, callous, even ruthless in relationships with others
bulletectomorphs are usually inhibited, reserved, self-conscious and afraid of people.

Mesomorphs, therefore, pose the greatest threat of becoming delinquents and later criminals. However, he found some relationship between endomorphy and delinquency.

Sheldon did his study by comparing 400 boys in a residential rehabilitation home. He gathered extensive family backgrounds on each and also monitored their growth for 8 years. In criminology, the Gluecks used Sheldon's typology extensively [as did Hernnstein in his book with Wilson]. They found 60% of the delinquent population to be mesomorphs and 30% endomorphs.

In a similar vein others have studied physical attractiveness and crime (a la Corsini) and found a correlation. However, they could not detect whether physical unattractiveness played a part in the initial choice to become deviant or whether the juvenile court system singled out unattractive children from others by adjudicating them delinquent more frequently.

In the 1970's several experimental programs were started that offered facial reconstruction surgery to unattractive inmates at some prisons, the thinking being that a new face might be a good rehabilitative tool. A study was done of over 400 that compared men who received the surgery, counseling, both, or neither. Some positive results were found with certain kinds of offenders who received the surgeries.

Wilson, James Q. and Richard Herrnstein's Crime and Human Nature

While supposedly more skeptical concerning hereditary influences on criminal behavior, Wilson and Herrnstein argue that "constitutional" factors may help account for the fact that criminal behavior is primarily committed by young sales. Constitutional factors are not necessarily genetic but they may be, i.e. intelligence and temperament. These factors affect to some extent the likelihood that individuals will engage in criminal activities. An example on a nongenetic constitutional factor would be Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; it is caused by excessive drinking by the pregnant mother.

Wilson and Herrnstein believed that anatomical configurations are correlated with crime. These do not cause crime. But, the fact of their correlation indicates that there is some psychological trait, having a biological origin, that predisposes an individual to criminality--intelligence, personality, and psychopathology are discussed as possible examples. While disposing of physiognomy and phrenology as prescientific, the authors nevertheless assert that modern evidence argues strongly for physical and genetic correlates of crime. The authors reject Goring's outright dismissal of Lombroso and praise Hooton for studying 12% of the male prison population of his time. Hooton's conclusions came close to confirming Lombroso's. However, Wilson and Herrnstein do not agree with Hooton's claim that such criminals are "inferiors." For this fact Hooton has no proof, except for the fact that they were criminals. Wilson and Herrnstein see the outright rejection of Hooton's findings by sociologically oriented criminologists as turf protection and as a response Fascism and its reliance on race-oriented theories, and the takeover of criminology by sociology-backed theories from physical anthropology as well as psychology and biology.

Wilson and Herrnstein believe Hooton was on the right track but should have concentrated on general physique. The theorist who did this was Sheldon. They argue that while Sheldon's original sample of 200 was small, his findings have been confirmed wherever they have been tested. The author's use twin studies to back up their suggestion that crime has a constitutional component.

 

Theories of Mental Deficiency and Feeblemindedness

Next to physical inferiority, mental deficiency is one of the most frequently cited biological explanations of constitutional criminality. Even after phrenology and Lombrosian criminology were largely disproved the theory that criminals could be characterized as low intelligence human beings persisted.

Historically, those of low intelligence were frequently lumped together with the insane. The insane included the feebleminded, morons, idiots, imbeciles, simpletons, and fools.

It was not until the early 1800s that doctors such as Esquirol and Ray made a clear distinction between those who were functioning normally and then suddenly started acting crazy [mania and dementia] and those who had never developed properly in the first place or were born defective [idiocy and imbecility]. Today the distinction is made between mental retardation and mental illness.

While there are a number of explanations for both mental retardation and various forms of mental illness today, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the principle explanation was heredity. Among the most famous researchers of that era were Dugdale (the Jukes) and Goddard.

 

Bad Seed or Bad Science: The Story of the Notorious Jukes Family

By SCOTT CHRISTIANSON  (NY TIMES 2/8/2003)
 

BINNEWATER, N.Y. For more than a century, the Jukes clan has been presented as America's most despised family. Social science researchers long believed they were a case study of dysfunction, a bunch of genetically linked paupers, criminals, harlots, epileptics and mental defectives, whose care had placed a huge financial burden on taxpayers. The family's pedigree was used for decades as a textbook example of how heredity shaped human behavior and helped lead to calls for compulsory sterilization, segregation, lobotomies and even euthanasia against the "unfit."

Over the years, several historians and biologists have criticized the methodology of two Jukes studies as flawed and have said that many of their conclusions were fabricated. But the true identity of the family who were dubbed the "Jukeses" by researchers has remained a mystery, their names hidden by a code devised by the original investigators.

But now new information about the Jukeses has been found in archives at the State University of New York at Albany and in records of a forgotten Ulster County poorhouse. It turns out that many family members were neither criminals nor misfits, and that quite a few were even prominent members of Ulster County society.

This is a "major discovery because it provides closure to a badly flawed error in the interpretation of human behavior," said Elof Axel Carlson, professor of biochemistry and cell biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who is an expert on the Jukes case. "In fact, they were not biologically flawed and doomed they were simply poor scapegoats."

Investigations into the records began after a poorhouse graveyard the size of a football field was discovered in 2001 beneath a new fairground and swimming pool in New Paltz, which is in Ulster County. Some of the 2,300 unmarked graves from the poorhouse turned out to belong to members of the so-called Jukes family.

Garland E. Allen III, a professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the Jukes episode was an example of how scientists have distorted research results for ideological and political reasons. "The whole study was done to bolster the eugenicists' preconceived notions," he said.

The Jukes story started in July 1874, when Richard L. Dugdale, a gentleman-sociologist, visited the Ulster County jail as a volunteer inspector for the New York Prison Association. He learned that six people being held there under four family names were blood relatives. Digging further, he found that of 29 males who were their "immediate blood relations," 17 had been arrested and 15 convicted of crimes.

After culling data from the records of local poorhouses, courts and jails, Dugdale produced a book, "The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity," in 1877.

In it he claimed to have traced the family's Hudson Valley roots back seven generations to a colonial frontiersman named Max, whom he described as having been born between 1720 and 1740, a descendant of early Dutch settlers, who lived in the backwoods as a "hunter and fisher, a hard drinker, jolly and companionable, averse to steady toil." He traced the branch that had produced so many criminals back to a woman he called "Margaret, the Mother of Criminals," who had married one of Max's sons.

Presenting detailed genealogical charts with capsule descriptions of each member, whom he identified only by first name or code, Dugdale concluded that the family was chronically beset with all kinds of social ills. He estimated that their care had cost the taxpayers, through relief, medical care, police arrests and imprisonment, a total of $1.3 million (about $20.9 million in today's dollars).

In his analysis, he pondered whether heredity or environment was responsible for the family's habitually degraded state.

His study was hailed as a landmark work in social science, in part because it employed extensive field research to try to address the question of whether hereditary or environmental factors were more responsible for crime, poverty and other social ills.

For decades, many scholars overlooked the study's faults, for example, the fact that Dugdale didn't adequately specify his sources or explain his methodology.

Nicole Hahn Rafter, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University and an expert on the eugenics movement, pointed out in an interview that, to be fair, Dugdale himself had acknowledged in his book that the Jukeses were not a single clan, but rather a composite of 42 families. He had also noted that only 540 of his 709 subjects were apparently related by blood.

Professor Carlson contended in his book "The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea" (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2001), that Dugdale had "really claimed that what was inherited was a bad environment rather than a bad physiology."

Nevertheless, Dugdale's work was often misrepresented as being solidly hereditary. Eventually, it helped furnish some of the basis for the new scientific and social movement of eugenics that started in 1880's and achieved the status of a craze in the early 20th century.

In 1911, some eugenicists discovered Dugdale's original charts and notes, including the actual names of the Jukeses. They rushed the records to the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Spring Harbor, the leading eugenics research facility operated by the Carnegie Institution, where a field worker, Arthur H. Estabrook, was assigned the task of reviewing the records and updating the study.

The family's real names were kept hidden, but Estabrook said he had confirmed Dugdale's study and used the records to trace 2,111 Jukeses in addition to the 709 that Dugdale had described, bringing the total number of people studied to 2,820. His book, "The Jukes in 1915," reported that 1,258 Jukeses were still alive and reproducing at a cost to the public of at least $2 million (about $35.2 million today).

Although Estabrook's own data indicated that the family had actually shown fewer problems over time, the Eugenics Record Office pronounced the latter-day Jukeses to be as "unredeemed" and as plagued by "feeblemindedness, indolence, licentiousness and dishonesty" as they had ever been.

Pedigrees of some branches of the Jukes family and anonymous photographs of them and their homes were displayed at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1921. "The Jukes" and "The Jukes in 1915" joined a growing list of sociological studies claiming to investigate other defective American families.

Jan Witkowski, director of the Bamburg Center of Cold Spring Laboratory, said the Jukes studies assumed an iconic status in eugenics before World War II.

But the published studies could not be verified or challenged because the subjects were not identified by surname or location.

Today, however, some of Estabrook's papers are available to researchers at the M. E. Grenander department of special collections and archives at SUNY Albany. One of the documents included is an 88-page typewritten code book titled "Jukes Data" and labeled "Classified" that lists the surnames used in Dugdale's and Estabrook's studies.

Some of those listed, which number in the hundreds, include Sloughter, Plough, Miller, DuBois, Clearwater, Bank and Bush.

On the basis of Estabrook's code book, Max, the "founder," was identified as Max Keyser.

Neither study identified any of Max's antecedents, but local records show that Dirck Corneliesen Keyser, one of the area's earliest Dutch settlers, had built the first house in Rosendale, in 1680. Also (unnoted by Dugdale and Estabrook), some later Keysers became lawyers, real estate brokers and other respected Ulster County citizens.

Estabrook's code book also identified Max's daughter Ada, or "Margaret, the Mother of Criminals," as Margaret Robinson Sloughter, born about 1755. Estabrook said Ada's husband, Lem, "is commonly reputed to be a lineal, although illegitimate descendant of a colonial governor of New York," but he didn't identify the governor, citing a need for confidentiality.

Nowadays, many biologists and historians are more critical of Estabrook's work than they are of Dugdale's.

"It's not that we're looking back and judging people according to criteria of today that didn't apply earlier," Professor Allen said in an interview. "Estabrook and others like him knew at the time that they were doing wrong, but they did it anyway, because they were caught up in the movement of their day."

Scientists since Dugdale and Estabrook have learned more about genetic familial disorders and the molecular biology of physical birth defects, but debates still rage about the dominance of environmental or hereditary factors in shaping human behavioral traits.

Despite their limitations, the Jukes studies and some of their implications live on. "The mythology of so-called `genetically problematic families' is still with us," said Paul A. Lombardo of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia. "Even today, the Jukeses seem to be getting a third life on the Internet as we see some religious and political groups invoking them as examples of inherited immorality."


 
Arthur Estabrook Papers, SUNY

For several decades, beginning in 1874, a family dubbed the Jukeses with more than its fair share of paupers, criminals and assorted rascals was extensively studied and photographed in an attempt to show that antisocial traits were genetic.
 

 

 

H. H. Goddard was a New Jersey psychologist who firmly believed that lack of intelligence was related to criminality. Such individuals Goddard did not believe were responsible for their actions. Like Dugdale, Goddard traced the family tree of a particularly notorious clan known as the Kallikaks.

The family of Deborah Kallikak, a little moron girl brought to Goddard’s Vineland facility in 1897 at the age of eight, became important to both the eugenics movement and intelligence testing.

The story, as finally pieced it together, was as follows. Deborah's great-great-great grandfather had been one Martin Kallikak, a young man of good family, who at the outbreak of the American Revolution, sprang to his country's defense by joining the local militia. At one of the taverns frequented by the militia he met a feebleminded girl (name unknown), by whom he had an illegitimate son. The son, who bore his father's name, though in later years known more commonly as Old Horror, spawned a family as degenerate as the Jukes. No matter where Goddard traced the descendants Old Horror, whether in the city tenements or rural hovels, the story was always the same: feeblemindedness, poverty and immorality. Old Horror had 480 descendants, of whom 143 were feebleminded, forty-six normal, and the rest of doubtful or unknown mentality. The descendants included twenty-six illegitimate children, thirty-three sexually immoral persons (chiefly prostitutes), twenty-four alcoholics, three epileptics, three criminals, and eighty-two who died in infancy. What made the Kallikak family still more interesting was that Martin Kallikak, upon leaving the Revolutionary army, married a Quaker girl of good family, and from this marriage came a line of doctors, lawyers, judges, educators-in short, respectable and honorable citizens all. Both families lived in New Jersey, sharing the same surname but unaware that they were related.

In 1912 Goddard published The Kallikak Family, written in a popular vein, with many lurid details concerning the degraded poverty and immorality of the degenerate branch of the family. He considered the family a perfect demonstration of the working of the laws of heredity; for "the biologist could hardly plan and carry out a more rigid experiment and one from which the conclusions would follow more inevitably."

From: Mark Haller’s Eugenics: Hereditarian Attitudes in American Thought

Goddard defined the mentally incompetent as those born w/o, sufficient intelligence either to know right from wrong, or if they know have not sufficient willpower and judgement to make themselves do what is right. Goddard believed that anywhere from 25 to 50% of those in our prisons were there as a result of feeble-mindedness. "It is hereditary feeble-mindedness and not hereditary criminality that accounts for" our prison populations. Goddard claimed he had uncovered defective rates within individual prisons ranging from 28 to 89% with most over 50%.

Although the idea that the levels of intelligence varied greatly among the human population has long been recognized, it was not until the late 19th century that attempts were made to quantify "Intelligence." Of course, the first question that had to answered was, "What exactly are we measuring?" ( For example, although I was a straight "A" student in elementary school, etc., my father always said I had no common sense. When I got to college I found a major that claimed to be studying "common sense"--that discipline was sociology.) Scientists finally came to the conclusion that "intelligence" could be measured by creating mathematical rankings for a variety of "mental operations" [logic, reasoning, creative thought, etc.] and the combined score quantified. Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon developed IQ testing. Binet hoped to measure "native intelligence" rather than learned or acquired knowledge. In 1908 Binet-Simon added the concept of mental age to their testing by comparing individuals to average intelligence test scores for their age group. With 100 being normal, those above were above average while those who scored less than 100 were below average. Today's Stanford-Binet test has 90 test modules, arranged in order of difficulty from the 3-year-old level to that of the superior adult.

Once a standardized intelligence test was accepted the problem remained of determining what constituted feeble-mindedness. Goddard, who worked at the New Jersey Training School for the Feeble-minded in Vineland, NJ found that none of his clients had a mental age higher than that of a 13-year-old. Therefore, he set 12 or an IQ of 75 as the upper limit of retardation.

Studies done of the W.W.I draft army found that upwards of 1/3 of the soldiers were feeble-minded according to such criteria. Some studies actually found the mental age of inmates slightly higher than the draft army. Such findings ultimately convinced criminologists that the notion that most criminals were feeble-minded was mistaken. This did not dissuade Goddard.

Contemporary Intelligence Testing

Travis Hirschi switched the direction of contemporary research on this question by focusing on the relationship between academic competence, school performance, and delinquency rather than IQ scores. He examined the police records of over 3600 boys in CA. Hirschi used DAT scores (Verbal Achievement Scores on the Differential Aptitude Test) rather than IQ. Hirschi believed that the difference in school performance rates might explain why there were differing delinquency rates for white and black youths. Hirschi and others have concluded that delinquents tend to have lower DAT scores than their non-delinquent counterparts. This is true even when variables such as race and class are accounted for. i.e., white middle-class delinquents have lower DAT score averages than their non-delinquent peers.

Hirschi's research has not spelled the end for IQ-delinquency studies. In 1976, Robert Gordon published a major study concluding that IQ was definitely related to delinquency. His conclusions about race, IQ, and delinquency were quite similar to Arthur Jensen's. Jensen found the average difference in IQ scores between whites and Blacks to be 15 points. Jensen attempted to explain these differences by genetics rather than environment. The IQ debate continues on.

From: Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve 1994

Among the most firmly established facts about criminal offenders is that their distribution of IQ scores differs from that of the population at large. Taking the scientific literature as a whole, criminal offenders have average IQs of about 92, eight points below the mean. More serious or chronic offenders generally have lower scores than more casual offenders. The relationship of IQ to criminality is especially pronounced in the small fraction of the population, primarily young men, who constitute the chronic criminals that account for a disproportionate amount of crime. Offenders who have been caught do not score much lower, if at all, than those who are getting away with their crimes. Holding socioeconomic status constant does little to explain away the relationship between crime and cognitive ability.

High intelligence also provides some protection against lapsing into criminality for people who otherwise are at risk. Those who have grown up in turbulent homes, have parents who were themselves criminal, or who have exhibited the childhood traits that presage crime are less likely to become criminals as adults if they have high IQ.

These findings from an extensive research literature are supported by the evidence from white males in the NLSY. Low IQ was a risk factor for criminal behavior, whether criminality was measured by incarceration or by self-acknowledged crimes. The socioeconomic background of the NLSY's white males was a negligible risk factor once their cognitive ability was taken into account.

 

The XYY Chromosome and Criminal Behavior

Once the idea was accepted that inherited genetic traits might be related to criminality, researchers hoped to isolate the specific genes involved. The chemical packages that comprise genes are known as chromosomes. Every human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes that contain DNA. Each person has two sex chromosomes, males XY and females XX.

The first finding made by scientists of an abnormal chromosome pattern that was believed might be related to crime was the XYY chromosome, characterized by the extra male Y chromosome. A significantly greater prevalence of institutionalized men with the XYY pattern than in the general population convinced researchers the phenomenon might be related to criminal behavior, particularly violent behavior. It was hypothesized that the extra Y chromosome resulted in a "supermale," one who was therefore more predisposed to aggressive and violent behavior. No researcher suggested that all XYY boys would become delinquent. Other purported consequences of the XYY trait were degeneration of the testes, breast enlargement, partial mental retardation, alcoholism, and homosexuality. Physically, XYY males tended to be quite tall.

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However, contrary to expectation, studies of XYY populations within prisons found them considerably less violent than their non-XYY counterparts. Studies were done comparing the overall offense histories of the two groups, as well as their violent criminal histories.

Explanations for the relatively high institutionalization rates for XYY males include: fear of their physical height, and the possibility that lower-class families are producing chromosomal abnormalities because of the difficult living conditions they are exposed to.

Psychological Models

Authors such as Pfohl tend to lump together biological and psychological models under pathological perspectives. Included in our on-line papers are essays on Freud and Jung, focusing on their views of the dark side of human nature and the damage to personality development that inadequate nurturing can produce.

Images by Susan Gilbert

Links

bulletBiological Bases of Social Behavior
bulletCesare Lombroso Links
bulletModern Physiognomy and the New Psychology (in German)
bulletPhrenology, Messmerism, and Spiritualism
bulletResources in the History of Idiocy
bulletBiology, Behavior, and the Criminal Law
http://www.gruterinstitute.org/news/vls.html
bulletCrime and Genetics
http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~zac/chapt15.htm
bulletHuman Genome Project
http://www.ornl.gov/TechResources/Human_Genome
bulletThe Mankind Quarterly
http://www.mankind.org
bulletNeuropsychological Evidence
http://dpa.state.ky.us:80/~rwheeler/wagner/wagner.htm
bulletCrime Theory.Com
http://www.crimetheory.com
bulletThe Crime Times
http://www.crime-times.org
bulletPsychological and Psychiatric Foundations of Criminal Behavior
bulletJung Index
bulletPersonality
bulletThe Institute for Psychohistory

 

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This page was last modified November 22, 2005
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