Psychological Factors Underlying Criminal Behavior

Topics: Criminology, Crime, Criminal justice Pages: 5 (1887 words) Published: June 22, 2013
Core Assessment Paper

Criminology (CJ200)
February 21, 2013

Core Assessment Paper
Throughout the course of history individuals have always been known to commit crimes. Of those crimes committed, some serve as a purpose for survival while others where done as senseless acts of hate or with malicious intentions. Criminal behavior is something that can be further understood through the discipline or course study of criminology. Criminology as defined by the text is, “The scientific study of the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal behavior” (Siegel, 2011, p. 7). There are some things involved in criminology that even notable criminologist can’t explain. While this statement is true in some instances, there are several notable facts that have been discovered that help to shape the field of criminology and aid individuals in gaining clarity as to why individuals do the things they do. There are also available opportunities afforded them to develop methodological ways to help prevent some of their actions. History is filled with acts of murder, rape, burglary, etc. dating back to biblical history. The first known act of murder is found in the story of Cain and Abel. Since those days, people have been interested in knowing what drives a person to commit a crime. Classical criminology theory implicates the belief that crimes occur when there is more benefit to commit a crime over the response not to commit a crime (University of Wisconsin Eau Claire [UWEC], 2002). In other words, when the benefit of the crime outweighs the cost of punishment (UWEC, 2002). This theory of crime is tied in with deterrence and rational choice theory. In the rational choice/deterrence theory, it is believed that crime is a choice and that individuals commit crime based on the amount of benefit they will receive (UWEC, 2002). This is especially true if the cost of punishment is low or non-existent. These two theories are similar in that they both refer to the likelihood of a person to commit crime based on their gain from the criminal behavior. If a person, for example, is homeless and they go into a store and steal some food and aren’t caught they are performing the crime based on need or the benefit they are receiving from the crime, which in this instance is food. If the person commits the crime on a daily basis and is not caught they are not concerned with the cost of punishment, because the means to survive and have a meal outweighs the consequence of being caught and facing jail time or even worse means of punishment. The offender see their crime as a means of survival not a random criminal act that may be deemed punishable. If the crime is done in consistency and never punished the offender may never understand the relativity of deterrence and will most likely continue to carry out the behavior. Deterrence is needed because it helps a person to learn the rational of punishment and develops the cause and effect mentality that we as individuals must develop even at an early age. If this cause and effect relationship is never nurtured and individual will only be familiar with doing what they are enabled with no fear of punishment or correction. It’s the same concept as with a child who is allowed to behave in a nonrestrained manner. If the parents allow the child to do what feels pleasing to them the child will be hard to control. This is due to the lack of deterrence and too much allowance of rational choice. The classical theory emerged in the 18th century and was first noted by an Italian liberal thinker, Cesare Beccaria and Englishman Jeremy Bentham (Brown, 2004). This movement of thinking took place in the period of time known as the Enlightenment that began in France (Brown, 2004). Cesare Beccaria is known for being the most instrumental in the classical theory of criminology (Brown, 2004). It is from his work that we gain the information needed to understand the reasoning behind this theory. Beccaria wrote a...

References: Brown, W. B. (2004). Contrasting Schools of Thought in Criminology. Retrieved from
McKean, L., & Ransford, C. (2004). CURRENT STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING RECIDIVISM. Retrieved from
Siegel, L. J. (2011). Criminology: The Core (4th ed.). University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. (2002). Criminological Theory Summaries. Retrieved February 22, 2013, from
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