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Trait Theory


According to the case, one night Chris and Daphne met with a 44 year old man by the name Michael M. who had a long history of alcohol problems. A fight started and consequently Michael was stabbed and his throat was cut and his body was found dumped in a pond. Daphne placed a 911 call to the police saying that a friend had jumped into the lake and didn’t come out; he police came and arrested her soon after the attack. The police rummaged around the area and pulled Michael’s stabbed and slashed body out of the water, Daphne and Chris had attempted to sink the body by disemboweling the body.

 From the waiver hearing, Daphne admitted in participating in the murder but she could not point out what caused her to participate. She said that she had been drinking and recalls little of what happened. According to her side of the story she was flirting with Michael, when Chris stabbed Michael out of a jealous rage. Daphne does not show any remorse of her actions. She claims that it was just out of a spur of moment thing and that it was Chris who had the knife. When Chris testified, he claimed that Daphne had initiated the fight and egged him on; she teased him that he was too afraid of killing a person.  Chris also said that Daphne frequently talked of killing an adult as she hated older people, specifically her parents.

 Trait theory

Traditional theories


According to the trait theory criminality results from abnormal psychological and biological traits. This view was proposed by Cesare Lombroso, he proposed that people manifested primitive traits which make an individual a born criminal.


This branch of the trait theory emerged due to the dismissal of the biological factors as the sole causes of criminality. According to this view learning, environment and biology are seen as mutually interdependent aspects. This view proposes that genetic and biological conditions influence the learning of social behaviors and is eventually the cause for a person to choose conventional and criminal behavior. Therefore this view proposes that people have an inborn need to dominate others and ensure that their genetic material survives. (Anthony, 2008)

 Modern theories

Trait theories mainly focus on human behavior and its connection to antisocial behavior such as criminality, violence and aggression. They consist of psychological and biological theories, psychological and biological traits are connected to criminal behavior but they are not the cause of such behavior but it is the interaction of physical and mental traits with social factors and environment that either trigger or suppress criminal behavior.

 Biological theories

According to the biological theories, not all human beings are born with similar potential to achieve and learn. A combination of the ability to achieve and learn is what leads to the behavior patterns of each individual. These theories have a number of perspectives;Biochemical perspective; it suggests that the violence is a function of hormonal imbalance, vitamin intake, food allergies, environmental contaminants and diet. The strength of this view is that it gives an explanation of irrational violence and illustrates how a given environment can intermingle with the traits of a person.

 Neurological perspective; this perspective suggests that delinquents and criminals usually suffer from brain disorders; EEG abnormalities head injuries, tumors, and ADHD. The perspective also proposes that minimum brain dysfunction and attention deficit disorders also lead to antisocial behavior.

 Genetics perspective; this view proposes that criminal pre-dispositions and traits are usually inherited. This perspective suggests that that the parents’ criminality will forecast the delinquency of their children because children inherit genetic make up, genetic abnormality and anti social behavior. The strength of this view is that it elucidates why only a small proportion of youth become chronic offenders in high crime areas.

 Evolutionary perspective; this view suggest that as human beings evolved, characteristics and traits became embedded. It suggests that theses evolved characteristics predispose people to commit offenses and makes other people aggressive. The individuals who support their well being ensure reproduction and survival of their genes. The perspective also proposes why in the history of humankind there has been a lot of aggression, violence and war. The strength of this perspective is that it illustrates why there are high rates of violence and gender differences in the rates of crime. (John, 1996)

 Psychological theories

The other branch of trait theories focuses on the psychological factors of crime that includes the relations among criminal behavior, personality and learning. These theories Have a number of sub areas they include;

Psychodynamic perspective; according to this perspective, an individual’s early childhood development of the unconscious personality impacts a person’s behavior for the better part of his life. Criminals usually have damaged personalities and weak egos, the perspective also explains the commencement of crime and why drug abuse and crime are independent of class. (Siegel, 2003)

 Behavioral perspective; this perspective suggests that people commit crime because the model their behavior and take after other people who commit crime and get rewarded for it. The assumption is that a given behavior is proliferated by rewards and put out by punishment. This perspective elucidates on the role of other people in the process of crime and how media can impact violence and crime.

 Cognitive perspective; this perspective suggests that a person’s process of reasoning affect his behavior and that the reasoning by an individual is affected by the way people look at their environment. This perspective explains why the patterns of behavior pattern differ as people develop and mature their power to reason. It mainly focuses on cognition and perception and sub disciplines like; shaping perceptions, information processing, humanistic psychology and moral development. (Siegel, 2003)


From the case it is clear that Daphne suffers from an abnormal condition. Daphne is a product of Boston’s best private schools and her father is an executive at a local financial services conglomerate. However she has a hidden, darker side, she has poor self control and is impulsive and she is always in trouble at school. At times she can be warm and kind; on other occasions she is insecure, unpredictable, and obnoxious and craves attention. Daphne has a drinking problem too and overly self conscious about her body. Her parents are also confused by her complexities and are intimidated by her. It is said that her father has even filed a harassment complaint against her once after she slapped him.

 From the psychodynamic trait theory, the case against Daphne can be explained. According to the theory, an individual’s early childhood development of the unconscious personality impacts a person’s behavior for the better part of his life and that criminals usually have damaged personalities and weak egos. The behavioral problems are usually developed in the early in the individual’s life. The theory argues that the personality of human beings is made up of three components and from the interaction of the three components some criminal emerge; the components are;

 -identity which is a primitive part that exist at birth and which needs immediate gratification and operates in accordance with the pleasure principle.

-Ego; which is developed in the early years of an individual and which help to compensate for the requirements of identity and operate on the reality principle.

- Super ego; this develops much later and is viewed as the moral aspects an individual’s personality, the super ego perform as the conscience and it enables the ego to control the identity.

According to the psychodynamic view, a criminal is portrayed as a frustrated and aggressive individual who can suffer from a number of disorders such as; mood disorders. Schizophrenia. Bipolar disorders and psychosis. This is similar to the behavior of Daphne. Most of these disorders can be treated through medication or counseling.

 However, Daphne is also a calculating criminal. From her evidence she says that she participated in the murder but could not point out what caused her to get involved. Said that she was drunk and could not remember anything and that Chris stabbed Michael out of jealousy. She says that it is Chris who had the knife and blames him for the murder and she is not remorseful for her action.  Chris says that it was Daphne who initiated the fight and that she encouraged him to fight and stab Michael, she was daring him to kill Michael. Daphne is claimed to have had the desire to kill an adult as she hated older people and specifically her parents, she might have manipulated Chris to satisfy this desire. For her role Daphne should be charged with second degree murder of Michael. (Martin, 2005).


Anthony, W., Hemmens & Craig (2008): Introduction to criminology; a text reader. Pg. 254-261. Sage publications, New York.

John, E. C. (1996): New perspective in criminology. Pg 26-28. Allyn & Bacon, Boston

Martin, G. (2005): Juvenile Justice; process and systems. Pg. 159-176. Sage publications Inc.

Siegel, Larry J. (2003): Criminology Pg. 7, 8th Ed. Thomson-Wadsworth.


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