Approaches To Understand Criminal Behavior Criminology Essay

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Imagine yourself having a walk in the premises of your house and a stone come flying through the boundary wall and hits you. As a layman, one might face difficulty in defining this incident. It can be termed as an assault, an act of violence or a criminal offence. This is a layman's term to define this act but in reality it has a way deeper meaning. Before going in the details of criminal behavior, few points must be pondered like why individuals offend, who are the ones who offend and who are the probable victims. Relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system is of great significance in developing an understanding about reasons that could lead to violence which is the consequence of criminal behavior. Many other facts are of importance while investigating the issue like police investigation, incorrect confessions, professional witnesses, jury behavior and treatment of difficult offenders. Considering the above mentioned scenario where a stone hits a person, before labeling it as a crime, examine and investigate the details about the rock flying. This is not the question that how painful injury it caused or was it intentionally aimed at the person. Background scenario is of great significance while determining criminal activities.

Approaches to Understand Criminal Behavior

There are three basic approaches to understand criminal behavior, which are as follows:

Psychological models

Sociological models

Biological models

It is a difficult task to completely differentiate the three behaviors while understanding criminal behavior because there is a link between all three. They are somehow interlinked and cannot be separated from each other. All three play a significant role in the expression of behavior. There are some basic rules and regulations which are strongly linked with these three behavior models that are related to exact crime control policies.

Psychological Approaches

The psychological models have a wide range and variety. It ranges from ancient Freudian philosophies to latest cognitive and social psychological models. The basic assumptions of this theory are as follows:

Human beings are the basic unit who are analyzed in this theory in order to discover facts about criminal behavior.

Personality traits are fundamental and essential elements that leads to criminal behavior in individuals.

Normalcy is mostly defined by social consensus.

A fundamental principal that forms the bases of this theory is that crimes are the outcomes of strange, dysfunctional, inapt or inappropriate mental developments inside the behavior of the individual

Criminal behavior can be thought of as a meaningful and intentional act of an individual as it may point out many needs of the person committing any act of violence.

Flawed, abnormal or atypical, mental procedures may have a range of reasons like unhealthy diseased minds, inapt learning, unsuitable or miserable life conditions, and role models of the individuals being a negative character and in some situations inner conflicts give rise to criminal behavior.

The last assumption of psychological model clearly explains the fact that a broad range of causes exist for criminal behavior and that general principles targeted at the individual would be effective for crime control. Another major reason that can be pointed out for this personality disorder that leads to criminal behavior is antisocial personality disorder in the DSM-IV and previously defined as the sociopath or psychopath. This kind of behavior is prominent due to unusual irregular behavior experienced by the offender in his previous life and is linked with self-centeredness, reduced compassion and responsiveness, and increased potential to look at others as a means to fulfill personal desires and to look forward to them as tools for personal ends. Controls for these individuals would be more risky and overall public policies may not be strict enough to control the behavior in this small subset of criminals. According to the above mentioned six points that forms the psychological explanation of criminal behavior, it can be suggested that outdated imprisonment, penalties, and other court agreements are founded on operant learning models of behavior for crime control. It is natural phenomenon that every individual, no matter what profession he is part of, or what are the circumstances of his life, he would intentionally as well as unintentionally wish to maximize the pleasure and comforts of his life and minimize and reduce as the stress, anxiety and pain of life. Skinnerian based social psychological theories of support and punishment are powerful in this model of criminal control despite of the fact that the notion of punishment and penalty for crime has a much longer and extensive history. It has always been believed that punishments are designed and implemented in order to reduce negativity of a certain unjust behavior and imprisonment, penalties; fines are all forms of punishment. It has been interpreted that implementing these punishments will definitely modify the behavior of the criminal in a positive way but according to Skinner's theory, harsh forms of punishments are of no use. They are in general ineffective and cannot modify the behavior in a positive manner. On the contrary, Skinner believed that reinforcement is a better option to deal with criminals. In fact a caution is applied here by Skinner. Punishment can only attain fruitful desired results if it's implemented in a proper manner but regrettably it rarely happens. Few important points need to be kept in mind while punishing an individual, for instance, it needs to be implemented immediately or in minimum possible time when any criminal activity happens. It must be inevitable, and adequately unpleasant. The purpose here is to create a fear of punishment in the minds of the criminal. A very suitable example can be quoted that in most of the countries of UAE; the punishment for theft is amputating of the right hand. There is no delay in punishment and as a result of which the entire nation is fearful of the crime and very few incidents can be quoted from the history of these countries where any individual committed this crime. On the contrary, most of the thirds world countries have a weak and corrupt judicial system as a result of which all the crimes are prevalent in these regions. Delayed justice in these countries gives rise to criminal activities. Considering the example of United States of America, the judicial system is considered ineffective and it's hard to apply severe and effective punishment, thus it is not an operative preventive as seen in the stable homicide rates of states that carry the death penalty. On the whole, punishments, penalties and sanctions for criminal behavior are based on behavioral psychological principles. Because severe practices of punishment do not seem to considerably lessen re-offense rates, other psychological principles have been made functional. In terms of cognitive behavioral psychological philosophies, reintegration and relearning, reskilling, or educational programs for criminals are systems of psychologically based approaches to regulate crime. The basis of all these methods is cognitive behavioral methods of instructing a substitute practical answer in place of a formally dysfunctional one as opposed to simple punishment. These procedures can be carried out not only in prison but outside as well and have successful in dealing with crime. Thus, education and reintegrating are counted as successful programs to deal with the situation of crime. Although it has been notices that very few jails are well equipped to implement a rehabilitation program. Many of these programs are extensively used in case of drug and alcohol offenders and have given desired results. Similarly, a very well-known practice of controlling and putting an end to bullying at school level is being done by using DARE program. In case of DARE program, the environment of the offender is changed intentionally by providing him opportunities would be a psychological behavioral principle planned to cut criminality. One of the most effective psychological methods meant at sustaining a noticeable existence of law implementation and approaches to uphold self-awareness of people in alluring circumstances. Such approaches are defensive. For example, it has been a renowned social psychological principle that circumstances that weaken self-consciousness and self-awareness lead persons to being fewer self-possessed and controlled, less self-regulated, and more probable to act without seeing the consequences of their actions. A very good example would be placing mirrors in shopping malls and stores. It can result in increased self-consciousness and self-awareness and less probable to act without seeing the consequences of their actions. In such circumstance, crimes like shop lifting are reduced as people are more conscious because of the circumstances. Similarly, the evidence presence of law-enforcement can greatly reduce crime. Numerous procedures of criminal sketching are created comprehensively on psychological principles and signify a struggle to either detain present criminals or to recognize persons at danger for definite behavior. Lately there have been exertions to improve approaches to classify persons at risk for definite procedures of divergent behavior comprising criminal activities founded on behavior and communal variables. These forms of disorders can be recognized from certain symptoms evident at early age and may include certain disorders like learning debilities, ADHD, anxiety, depression, stress and downheartedness. It has been observed that people facing these disorders from early years of life are more viable to commit crime in later stages of life. Many of these individuals are more probable to face legal problems in later stages of life. Thus, identifying these individuals and treating them in the best possible manner is form of psychological crime control policies. Therefore, procedures and techniques of crime control policies founded on psychological principles object the individual and try to reorganize or stop criminal behavior from that viewpoint. Some strategies need beneficial involvement, reskilling, or tutoring is psychological in nature. Any policy intended at inhibiting crime by directing persons such as giving rise to realization, encouraging self-awareness, or classifying persons at danger are also psychological. On the whole, this method have identified that the future behavior is somehow linked or associated with past behavior. Thus, policies that are precisely planned to deal with repeat offenders are also founded on psychological principles of criminality.

Sociological Approaches

Sociological principles and psychological principles of criminality are entangled and precisely not autonomous. They are deeply connected and interlinked. Along with psychological theories there are multiple sociological creations of the reason and regulator of criminality. Sociological philosophies of criminality are as follows:

Individual acts of crime are linked with many aspects like culture, social setup, family, per group and society. All these are likely to play a significant role in indulging people into crimes.

This philosophy deciphers that how the inconsistencies of all of these interrelating groups add to criminality.

The ways these structures cultures and inconsistencies have traditionally established.

The present procedures of modification that these groups are experiencing.

Criminality is observed from the point of view of the social construction of criminality and its social grounds.

Customary sociological theories are of the view that crimes was a consequence of anomie, a term meaning "normlessness" or a sensation of absence of communal norms, a deficiency of being linked to society. This term was introduced by Émile Durkheim. This term was introduced and used by him to explain suicide but later it was used by many sociologists to describe the detachment or separation of the individual from the shared integrity or the criminality ensuing from absence of break or prospect to attain ambitions and desires or by the learning of criminal morals and actions. So, criminality is the consequence of the failure to correctly mix individuals and by the occurrence of unfit occasions between groups. Durkheim was of the view that crime was an inevitable element of civilization and supported upholding crime within sensible limits. One of the basic and most eminent features of this theory is that society "constructs" criminality. It is also an evident fact that there are certain behaviors that are labeled as crime by a certain social set up but in actual they do not result in harm to anyone in the society are therefore labeled as a criminal activity without any ground. These are also known as victimless crimes as the offenders do not harm any individual by his act. These victimless crimes include drug abuse, prostitution, alcohol abuse, etc.

A significant sociological regulator would be to raise authentic chances for progression and obtainment of goods and wealth in areas where these do not exist. It has been noticed that people deprived of basic necessities of life are more viable to indulge in the criminal acts. Sociological controls directed at this objective could initiate in higher State and Federal levels of government as well as local levels of government and would comprise programs intended to warranty the same chances and breaks to all individuals of the society. This can greatly reduce the occurrence of victimless crime. The sense of deprivation will be reduced greatly this way which in turn would positively affect the measures taken to reduce this evil.

Another important aspect of sociological policies to control crime is to monitor job training programs, urban regeneration programs, educational funding and backing. Further associated sociological controls for crime would comprise of establishing and authorizing area inhabitants with schemes and plan like neighborhood crime watches, providing law-abiding heroes for students in schools, giving parental upkeep for employed parents, and founding community centers in oppressed regions to permit people to acquire and involve in optimistic deeds. All these social programs are designed in order to target and monitor children and provide special support and backing for deprived and oppressed families. These are effective methods to control crime which is the consequence of exploited and oppressed people. The programs that are designed to up heal the morale of these people in order to eradicate the evil from their minds include career academies (small learning communities in low-income high schools, offering academic and career/technical courses as well as workplace opportunities). Such programs aim to provide opportunities to the deprived class in order to reduce the sense of deprivation from the minds of these individuals.

Another significant aspect of sociological policies to control crime is to promote sturdier and stricter punishments for severe crimes such as murder, rape, are more operational law enforcement. This philosophy admits the fact that crime cannot vanish or completely disappear from the social setup no matter how much effort is being made to monitor and control it. Sociologists note that of every 100 felonies committed within the United States, only one is sent to prison. A huge number of criminal easily escape from being subjected to trials by the court of law and few of those who are actually reported, only a small portion of them has to go through trials.

If a justice system is to work correctly it must be competent to trust on its law enforcement system and judicial system to transport to righteousness and impeach severe criminals. The drives of imprisonment comprise punishment, reintegration, discouragement, and discriminating imprisonment.

Biological Approaches

According to this approach of criminal behavior, criminal behavior is the consequence of some fault in the biological character of the person. This bodily fault could be due to the following reasons:


Neurotransmitter dysfunction

Brain defects that were produced by any of the above, inappropriate growth, or shock.

On the whole, Biological theorists are of the view that strict punishments should be given to individuals who commit any crime but there are certain forms of punishments that are strictly specific to biological theories. Few of them are briefly discussed below.


Brain surgery is a measure that has been used rarely to control criminals who have any kind of biological disorder. Lobotomies are one of the most famous treatments used to deal in such situations. It was used to treat an extensive range of difficulties from despair, depression to schizophrenia.

Chemical Methods of Control

The use of pharmacological treatments to try to control crime has been ongoing in two major areas: chemical castration for sex offenders and pharmacological interventions for drug or alcohol addicts. These are very common vices these days and careful handling of such situation is necessary in order to put an end to the criminal activities that rise due to these vices. It has been observed that addicts can stop the medication and return to use. It is quite a tough task to uproot this evil but on the contrary, sex offenders are closely monitored and there is some evidence that this policy has been effective. Only solution to implement these methods of control effectively is to carefully monitor the offenders. Even sometimes mentally ill people in the criminal justice system been ordered to take medications to treat their mental illness.


On the whole, criminal behavior is a global issue. It has been cause harm and unrest at a great scale across the globe. The entire universe is making an effort to find solutions to this problem in order to eradicate this evil from the society and to promote peace. This unrest has been exploited to the extent that life is no more safe from the harms that are caused by these evils. For instance, terrorism is prevalent. War against terrorism has been going on from the past few decades but no fruitful results have been obtained. Many reasons can be listed for this failure and one of the major reasons is that nations have failed to figure out the culprit and punish him according to the category he belongs to. Leaders need to implement policies and invest budget in setting up foundations to categorize the criminal according to Psychological models, Sociological models and Biological models. After classifying the criminals, punishment should be given according to the rules and tactics mentioned above. This is the only and the best possible solution to judge the root cause of crime. Although studies show that any nation or social set up can never ever get freedom from this vice of the society but measures can be taken to reduce the negative impact of this evil.