Theories of Criminal Behavior
Theories of Criminal Behavior
The beginning of civilization dawned a new era in which man came together to live amongst one another in relative peace and prosperity. The advent of civilization however also brought about people who choose to live a life outside of societal norms and law, norms and thus was the creation of the criminal. All civilizations tried to suppress and discourage crime by using a multitude of tactics and punishments. Crime, however continued to grow despite these harsh tactics and strict laws. Scientists have tried to understand the fundamental drive of the criminal from early antiquity to the modern era.
Several theories have arisen from the study of the criminal mind. Theories have examined physical traits to upbringing to genetics, but the mind of a human being may be the most inexact science in existence. The study of the criminal and why they choose (or must) live outside societal norms is still an important study nonetheless.
This analysis will present the various theories concerning criminal behavior. It will also compare and contrast the theoretical idea of genetic predisposition to criminal behavior versus the theory that criminal behavior is a learned behavior. The discussion of this analysis will be to look at four theories of crime that attempt to discuss criminal behavior: Sociological, Biological, Psychological and Social-Psychological. As each theory is broken down, advantages and irregularities will emerge to understanding of the criminal mind.
The affluence of society instills aspirations in people and people not afforded the opportunities to live within the social mold of society may turn to alternative methods to attain those aspirations. This best describes what the sociological theory says. According to sociologist Emile Durkheim (1964): …the entire progressive force of the human species to this fundamental tendency [of reaching social norms] compels man constantly to ameliorate his condition, whatever it may be, under all circumstances….[and] relates this force to the need for greater happiness (p. 89). According to this theory, criminal behavior may be the result of not having the legal means or opportunities to obtain a socially acceptable status within their community. A person may be compelled to commit a crime if they cannot fit into the social mold. Individuals then may not have a choice other than to turn to crime and become victims of their environment. Durkheim says that the thinking of people is external to the individual, that the way that people act, think or feel is endowed with the power of coercion, by which it controls them (1964, p. 3). This reinforces the ideal that criminal behavior is factored with the social conditions in which a person is raised and have lived with during the course of their lives. An early Greek Philosopher, Plato, in his novel The Republic recognized this dilemma, and stated: There is a better and worse element in the personality of each individual, and that when the naturally better element controls the worse….But when…the smaller forces of one’s best element are overpowered by the numerical superiority of one’s worse, then one is adversely criticized and said not to be master of oneself and to be in a state of indiscipline (p. 142). Another author of modern times, Bell Hooks, reinforces the conception that people are the victim of their environment in her book Where We Stand, and stated that those who live in poor, underprivileged neighborhoods are “robbed of the capacity to function as citizens of any community, [and] they become the dehumanized victims [of criminal behavior]” (p. 67). Biological theory
It can be argued that not all people who are not afforded the opportunities to obtain societal norms turn to a life of crime, and that there must be other factors such as genetics and...