Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The “traits” approach to crime attempts to explain crime by dividing people into typologies, or groups. The earliest typologies were based on physical characteristics thought to distinguish criminals from law-abiding citizens. Typologies based on psychological, behavioral, and experiential factors have also been developed. However, there have been serious problems in attempting to use the traits approaches to predict and explain crime. Even before Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species , Caucasian scientists worked to prove the inferiority of races with darker skins, arguing that they were closer to apes than were peoples of European ancestry. This bias colors the work of those who looked for physical traits that would indicate criminal tendencies. The first attempts to study crime scientifically were spurred on by Darwin's theory, which held that species evolved through a process of natural selection in which organisms that developed stronger and superior traits survived, while organisms with ...