Throughout history theorist and people have tried to find a reason to why criminal behavior occurs. Going back to ancient Babylons Code of Hammurabi, some 3,700 years ago, was the time where the fist efforts to control “bad” behavior took place. In the seventeenth century, in America, European colonists believed that sin and crime we the same thing. For example, they believed that evils spirits possessed the people who did not form to social norms and follows the laws, or rules. To sustain control of the colonies the people who display antisocial behavior would be dealt with promptly and most of the time severely. By the twenty-first century criminologists looked to a wide range of factors to explain why a person would commit crimes. These included biological, psychological, social, and economic factors. Some would argue that a combination of these as well would be the cause.
A Depicted Theory on Why Criminal Behavior Occurs
A controversial question is “Are criminals born, or made?” That is an argument that has been continuing for many years and has been the subject of numerous passionate debates.
Early theorists during earlier time had thought that it had something to do with an inherent inclination, or even something as severe as a genetic defect or some form of mental retardation. Over the years, many sociologists and psychologists have tried to make sense of this complicated question. Several suggesting that with today’s magnitude of chemical substances, enhancers, and habit forming hobbies, combined with poor living conditions, learned morals, lifestyles, lack of income and education, that criminality is certainly not an innate tendency, but a lifestyle forced upon certain individuals in response to their environment, social class, and social relations.
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To completely understand the nature of genes and the environmental influences criminal behavior, you must first know how to define criminal behavior. Law in our society is defined by social and legal institutions. Therefore, determining what constitutes criminal behavior can cover a wide variety of activities so researchers tend to focus on the wider context of antisocial behavior (Causes of Crime, 2010).
Personality and disorder traits have become necessary in the analysis of those with criminal or antisocial behavior. Generally these disorders or traits are seen in early childhood rather than as an adult. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder (CD), and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) are three of the well-known disorders that have shown to have a relationship with adult behavior later on. ODD is characterized by confrontations, rebellion, and a bad temper. As a child with ODD grows older their behavior grows more unpleasant. ADHD is associated with hyperactivity-impulsivity and the inability to keep attention focused on one thing. When an individual violates the social norms and rules that is a CD (Taylor, 1985).
A large amount of proof has shown that there is a considerable amount of people with psychological problems are in our criminal justice system. Although some would like to believe this is some kind of solution, it is problematic for our society. When those individuals who suffer from psychological issues are accused to be criminals there is a sense of stigma that is brought on to them because of their “disorder”. Certain psychological problems have been shown to be heritable and if given the right circumstances, individuals with those genes could find themselves engaging in criminal activity (Jones, 2005).
Environmental concerns in criminal behavior occurrence include employment being at minimum wage or below not helping deter criminal activity. Even with government social services, such as public housing, food stamps, and medical care, the income of a minimum wage household still falls short of providing basic needs. People must make a choice between continued long-term low income and the prospect of profitable crime. Gaining further education, of course, is another option, but classes can be expensive and time consuming. While education can provide the chance to get a better job, it does not always overcome the effects of abuse, poverty, or other limiting factors. Thus far it has been established through research and various studies that genetics do influence criminal or antisocial behavior. Researchers agree on the point that genes influence personality traits and disorders (Blumstien, 1987). The family environment is critical to the upbringing of a child and if problems exist then the child is most likely to suffer the consequences. Children who are neglected or abused are more likely to commit crimes later in life than others. Similarly, sexual abuse in childhood often leads these victims to become sexual predators as adults. Many inmates on death row have histories of some kind of severe abuse. The neglect and abuse of children often progresses through several generations. So the cycle of abuse and crime keeps repeating itself. The cycle of violence concept, based on the quality of early life relationships, has its positive counterpart. Supportive and loving parents who respond to the basic needs of their child instill self-confidence and an interest in social environments. These children are generally well-adjusted in relating to others and are far less likely to commit crimes (Causes of Crime, 2010).
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In addition to environmental concerns the Twin and Adoption Statists from the studies that have been done. Some believe that studies support the genetic foundation of criminal behavior. Twin studies are done by the way of comparing monozygotic (MZ), or identical, twins and the percent of criminal behavior with the percent of criminal behavior of dizygotic (DZ), or fraternal, twins. Ordinarily these studies are used to assess the roles of genetic and environmental influences. The outcome of the twin studies show that there is a higher similarity percentage for MZ twins than for DZ twins in criminal behavior. Adoption studies are serious in observing the relationship that exists between adopted children and both their biological and adoptive parents, thus because they are believed to separate nature and nurture. Some studies have been performed that test for criminal behavior of the adopted children and if their biological parents had also been involved with criminal activity. Family studies are the third type of instrument used to assess the relationship between genetics and environmental influences on criminal or antisocial behavior (Himebauch, 2000).
Another significant factor in the development of antisocial or delinquent behavior in adolescence is peer groups. A person’s peer group strongly influences a decision to commit crime. For example, young boys and girls who do not fit into expected standards of academic achievement or participate in sports or social programs can sometimes become lost in the competition (Fadaie-Teharani, 2002). Children of families who cannot afford adequate clothing or school supplies can also fall into the same trap. Researchers believe these youth may abandon schoolmates in favor of criminal gangs, since membership in a gang earns respect and status in a different manner. In gangs, antisocial behavior and criminal activity earns respect and street credibility.
An important point to make is that levels of education have been determined to be significant in the manifestation of criminal behavior. Individuals with learning disabilities have been shown to be more prone to violent behavior. The major reason for this is given in an interrelated causal pattern of events with education at the center. School achievement is predictive of pro-social behavior or behaviors designated as upholding the moral values of a society. This is because academic achievement is interrelated in our society with several other variables such as financial success, high self-esteem and an internal locus of control. This particular model may account for reasoning behind the general idea that individuals with a high IQ generally have fewer tendencies for criminal behavior than individuals with a low IQ. The hypothesis is that having a higher IQ results in easier achievement in school. As stated above, doing well academically is associated with several societal factors as well. Individuals with a lower IQ may not succeed as much academically which would result in lower self-esteem and not as much financial success, resulting in an increased disposition for criminal behavior. It is important then to stress education and to address issues with learning disabilities at an early age to disallow the appearance of these negative attributes (Himebauch, 2000).
Yet another factor many criminologists consider key to making a life of crime easier is the availability of handguns in U.S. society. Many firearms used in crimes are stolen or purchased illegally which means it was bought on what is called the “black market”. Firearms provide a simple means of committing a crime while allowing offenders some distance or detachment from their victims. By the beginning of the twenty-first century firearm use was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, firearm use was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States (Causes of Crime, 2010). Similarly, the increased availability of free information on the Internet also makes it easy to commit certain kinds of. Web sites provide instructions on how to make bombs and buy poisons. Easy access, however, will not be the primary factor in a person’s decision to commit a crime.
Social learning theory has been cited as way to explain how the environment can influence a child’s behavior. Using this theory to explain the aggressive or antisocial behavior of a child means that a child observes aggressive behavior between parents, siblings, or both. As a result, the children believes that this aggressive behavior is normal and can therefore use it themselves because they do not see the harm in acting similar to their parents. Interaction between family members and disciplinary techniques are influential in creating antisocial behavior. Using the social learning theory these two factors are also critical in the development of aggression (Taylor, 1985). Children who are raised in an aggressive family environment would most likely be susceptible to experiencing a lack of parental monitoring, permissiveness or inconsistency in punishment, parental rejection and aggression. The exposure to such high levels of aggression and other environmental factors greatly influences and reinforces a child’s behavior. A significant point that should be known however is the fact that other research has supported the notion that genetics do influence levels of aggression, which stands in opposition to the social learning theory (Shepard, 1995).
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