Why do individuals commit crimes? Society today is very well concerned with this matter. In todays time, there are psychologists, criminologists, biologists, and sociologists searching for an answer. In reality, the answer to this question is very hard to find out. However, for centuries, researchers of all kinds have been persistent in analyzing criminals for an answer. The scholarly attention to crime from various perspectives has allowed for an extensive range of theories which are based on three broad theoretical approaches of explaining criminal behaviour. These theoretical approaches, which focus on the causes of crime and deviance in modern society, are the biological approach, psychological approach and the sociological approach.
First, the Biological Theory believes that an individuals biology determines if a person becomes a criminal or not. It specifically implies that people are born criminals because of a specific heredity factor different from non-criminals. The central idea of the Biological Theory states that criminals have a mental and/or physical inferiority which causes them to commit criminal acts. In specific, Lombroso’s Theory of Criminal Type categorizes people as potential criminals by the physical characteristics they possess. Lombroso’s Theory specifically believes that criminals can be identified through skeletal characteristics such as wide shoulders, crispy hair, flattened nose and so on (Bura, n.d.). Despite the criticism of Lombroso’s theory, the majority of biological criminologists agree that the underlying cause of criminal behaviour is believed to be caused by a biological factor.
Evidence for supporting this position can be found in the study of twins. Research has found that identical twin pairs tend to share more criminal tendencies than non identical twins suggesting a link between a genetic factor in criminal tendencies. Furthermore, research also found the same evidence between identical twins who were separated at birth and did not share anything but genes. This shows that there is a correlation between genetic predisposition and criminal tendencies.
Research also found that when a child was adopted from a biological parent who had committed a crime, the child was more likely to have been convicted of a crime than an individual whose adoptive parents had been convicted (Stander, n.d.). Given, the proof gathered by researching twins, I do believe there is a biological factor present in our nature which leading us to criminal tendencies; however, I do not believe that it has to do with the physical characteristics of an individual such as Lombroso’s Theory suggests.
Furthermore, another significant factor in the explanation of crime exists in the psychology of an individual. A psychological approach to why criminals commit crimes focuses on individual mental abnormalities (Miller, 2009). The Psychological Theory of Crime specifically states that criminal behaviour is a consequence that has resulted from individual factors. These factors, which can range from an individuals childhood to mental illnesses, cause criminal thinking patterns and/or incomplete cognitive development (Bryne, 2010). Ultimately, criminal psychologists have come up with a substantial amount of psychological factors which have been proven through research to influence a criminals actions. These theories particularly explore childhood experiences, personality, intelligence, and mental disorders. For example: The Psychodynamic Theory revolves around the idea that an individuals early life experiences impact his or her likelihood for committing future crimes.
In particular, this theory focuses on an individuals personality. It states that a persons personality is made up by unconscious mental processes that are created early on in life. Freud, the founder of the psychoanalysis and a well known psychologist, believes that an individuals personality is broken down into three parts: the id(the innermost part of the personality. It is a part of the unconscious mind, which means that we are not aware of it. The id wants whatever it can get, which relates to the pleasure principle. This means that it wants immediate release or satisfaction, and will do what it has to do to get it, regardless of rational considerations), the ego (part of the conscious mind, and works as part of the reality principle. The ego decides when it is appropriate for the id get what it wants. If it is not an appropriate time, the ego will suppress the id’s urges until there is a more appropriate time) and the superego(the ‘moral arm’ of the personality.
It consists of the ideas and values of society. The superego will suppress the id’s urges, blocking the id from getting any satisfaction). When an individual experiences a bad childhood, one which lacked love, guidance and/or nurturing, they are unable to properly develop their personality. Psychodynamic theorists say that criminal actions are caused by an underdeveloped superego. This underdeveloped superego sways the individual away from doing what’s right but instead doing what’s satisfactory (Miller, 2009). Undoubtedly, I agree with the Psychological Theory. An individuals overall psychological state is an important factor to their personality, temperament and intelligence. Specifically, I do find the Psychodynamic Theory a major element that drives criminals. Most importantly, research suggests that individuals with weak egos are more likely to engage in drug abuse which can lead to criminal behavior and offenses (Miller, 2009).
Finally, the Sociological Theory of criminal behaviour is a product of external influences. These external influences include gender, race, socioeconomic status, values, peers, living conditions and opportunities. This theory ultimately looks at the environment in which a criminal experiences and its effects. One of the main theories of the Sociological Theory is the Strain Theory. This theory states that individuals participate in illegal activity as a means to escape from a struggle they are experiencing in their life. For example, an individual may become violent in order to stop harassment, they may engage in stealing to reduce financial problems, and they may turn to illegal substances as an escape from the daily stresses in life. The Strain Theory explains that criminal behavior particularly occurs when an individual fails to accomplish certain goals.
When a person is in a situation that sources strain on to their life, they will begin to experience negative emotions which will generate for corrective action which leads to criminal behavior (Beck, 2009). This theory in my eyes is highly reasonable and can be applied to many criminals as well as citizens. Although the average joe may not turn to criminal actions when overloaded with stress, they may however cheat on their diet with a tub of ice cream. If people do not know how to deal with tough situation, they will inevitably resort to harmful solutions to their problems because of the unchallenging nature of the solution and may end up committing a crime. More specifically, if people are conditioned to turn to these harmful solutions through their peers and/or family, this may also account for a sociological factor in which influences a criminal to commit crime.
Through my individual understanding of criminal behaviour, I have concluded that criminal deviance is not determined by one specific factor. In fact, I believe, people become criminals because of many different biological, sociological, and psychological factors. These factors are as interconnected as a puzzle; without all the other pieces in the puzzle, you cannot form the big picture. For this reason, people who naturally have a personality drive that directs them toward criminal activity can control themselves if the environment they live in is fitting, positively influential and meets all individual needs.
An individual with psychological issues, or more specifically personality issues, can be helped by surrounding themselves in an environment that enables them to grow, and heal. A stable individual with no biological attraction towards crime can be surrounded and surpass the negative sociological environment around him or her. In conclusion, an individuals makeup is made of their biological, psychological and sociological components. When looking at an individual, we need to include each and every factor in that persons life because each and every factor affects and defines the person as well as the choices they make.
Bura, R. (2012). What are the biological theories of crime? Perserve Articles. Retrieved from www.perservearticles.com
Standler, J. (n.d.). Explanations of criminal behaviour. Jeffstanlder.net. Retrieved from www.jeffstanden.net
Miller, M. (2009, January 9). Psychological Theories of Crime [HTML version]. Retrieved from www.library.uvic.ca
Byrne, J. (2010, November 9). An overview of psychological theories of crime
causation. Retrieved from http://faculty.uml.edu
Beck, L. (2009). Three main sociological theories of crime. Retried from www.voices.yahoo.com
CAN I HAVE SOME THEORY WITH THAT CRIME?
Westminster Secondary school
April 11, 2013