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Psychology of Human and Criminal Behaviour

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1893 words Published: 2nd Aug 2018

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Sandy Hook Elementary School had 456 children enrolled into Kindergarten through to fourth grade. Newtown is located in Fairfield County, Connecticut, about 60 miles outside New York City. In the town crime was rare with just 28,000 residents. Just one homicide had happened in the town in the ten years prior to the school shootings. 20 year old Adam Lanza was carrying a stash of hundreds of rounds of ammo. When he heard police approaching the classroom where he gunned down helpless children he shot himself in the head. 20 children aged 6 or 7 and 6 adults were shot on the day with a high power rifle. The Gunman, Adam was said to be bright but awkward student with no close friends. In high school he was involved with a technology group, where the club leader said he had “some disabilities” and seemed not to feel pain like the other members. He required special supervision when using tools for things like soldering and occasionally had “episodes” in which he seemed to withdraw completely from his surroundings. Lanza had never been involved with or had a criminal history before.

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Psychological Theories focus on how characteristics of the individual lead to criminal behaviour. Sigmund Freud who fathered psychoanalytic theory is discussed in some detailed because many key concepts in this theory are utilized by current sociological and psychological theories of criminal offending. Freud believed that one can understand human behaviour best by examining early childhood experiences. These experiences, traumatic or not can intensely affect behaviour without the individual being consciously aware of their impact. Additionally, all humans have criminal trends. Theses tendencies are restrained, however, through the process of socialisation. A child that is unsuitably socialised could then develop a personality disturbance that causes him or her to direct antisocial desires either inwards or outward. Those who direct them inward become neurotic while those that direct them outwards become criminal. An application could be where is a mother is forced to work during her child’s younger years the emotional bond could be broken, leading to stunted social development, which could then lead to crime. It is the psychoanalytic belief that we are all narcissists at an early stage of our lives. As infants and toddlers we all feel that we are the centre of the universe, the most important, omnipotent and wise beings. At that phase of our development, our parents are perceived by us to be mythical figures, immortal and awesomely powerful, there solely to cater to our needs, to protect and nourish us.

A second major theory of criminal behaviour is Social Learning Theory is based on the principles of which hypothesizes that a person’s behaviour is learned and maintained by its concerns or rewards. Individuals then learn deviant and criminal behaviour but observing other people and witnessing the rewards or consequences that their behaviour receives. According to this theory, if this is how different behaviour is established, then taking away the reward value of the behaviour can eliminate deviant behaviour. Social learning theory stemmed out of work by N.E. Miller and J. Dollard in 1941. Their plan suggests that if humans were inspired to study a particular behaviour that particular behaviour would be learned through clear observations. By copying these observed actions the individual observer would set that learned action and would be rewarded with positive reinforcement. The plan of social learning was expanded upon and theorized by Albert Bandura from 1962 to the present. The advantages of this theory are it deals with the learning of complex forms of behaviour holistically rather than as a process of slow condition and furthermore stresses the processes in the acquisition of behaviour. On the other hand it has a weak ability to explain under circumstances criminal behaviour will or will not be learnt mean that it has limited explanatory power. For example, an individual who observes a friend shoplifting an item and not getting caught sees that the friend is not being punished for their actions and they are rewarded by getting to keep the item he or she stole. That individual might be more likely to shoplift, then, if they believe he or she will be rewarded with the same outcome. Although it may be suggested by some within the social order that social learning theory can be used as a tool to blame television, movies or video games on the violent acts that are committed by youth, those applying the theory fail to see the complete cycle of events that lead to school shootings. Furthermore, it must be understood that this cycle of events that are discussed in social learning theory occur over an extended period of time, building to the moment of action. Therefore, social learning theory has the ability of not only identifying children that have been negatively impacted by their environment, but also using the information known regarding what affects children negatively to change their lives before violence occurs.

Some say a casual aspect of crime could be Genes, and genetic factor that can influence people to commit crime. In the case of murder if the existence of a ‘violent gene’ can be proved, and there are members of society who if provoked will be unable to control their successive actions, even if those actions amount to murder, then genetics absolutely must be considered in the law courts. The existence of such a gene appears to suggest that there exist people who inherently bad. However if we are allow people justifying circumstances due to their genetic makeup, then we are creating yet another excuse. There may be genes that make us more vulnerable to such traits, but we are ultimately responsible for our own actions. Also the association between unemployment and crime is still unsettled combined crime rates and collective unemployment rate seen weakly related. In other words, crime rates sometimes rise during periods of economic wealth and fall during periods of economic decline. Unemployment threatens households, and unstable families are the ones most likely to produce children who put a premium on violence and aggression as a means of dealing with limited opportunity. This lack of opportunity perpetuates higher crime rates, especially when large groups or partners of people of the same age compete for relatively limited resources. The shooter Adam even though unemployment didn’t have a major influence still had no independent job or schooling.

History has shown that there is a link between poverty and crime; however that nature of the relationship can be difficult to define. In addition to higher crime rates, higher unemployment and lower wages, higher poverty neighbourhoods have weaker access to health care and education, increased stress levels and rates of mental illness. Many of these factors also appear to contribute to a higher crime rate. One of the reasons people find themselves in poverty is how little education they have which then leads them to an inability to secure a decent paying job. It has also been said that people with higher incomes are less likely to commit a crime due to the economic cost of going to prison. For example someone earning £50,000 a year will suffer more loss by going to prison than an individual who has little to no income. The study done on ‘Inequality and Violent Crime’ published by journal of law and economics in 2002 found a great correlation between inequality and crime. This shows that to be especially strong at times of poor economic growth. If jobs are available and the economic situation of individual is improving, even if they are still poor, there does not appear to be as much crime as there would be in a situation where the economy is in decline, jobs are being lost and the economic situation of the poor worsening. Criminal behaviour in youths is often the result of on-going physical and emotional changes that occur in the course of gaining independence from parents and developing an identity within the peer group. People are just as likely to commit violent behaviour because of verbal coercion from friends as they are due to their own private desire to gain acceptance from within a peer group. In higher crime neighbourhoods the chances of a child escaping the peer pressure that leads to crime and violence is a rarity. The main reason people will commit crime despite knowing that it is wrong is due in part to distortions often overvalue the reward aspect of peer acceptance. Many people have long debates whether poverty itself is a cause of crime or whether poverty and crime are both caused by other factors such as low education, bad work habits, substance abuse, family breakdowns and fatherlessness and other social pathologies. Even though the struggle to answer why these things happen fairly. Early reports do indicate that Lanzas mental health deteriorated rapidly following the departure of his father which may have then put this mother into a hard position.

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In conclusion the impact of this crime had a major impact to the victims and to society. The major debate that has been set off because of the Newtown shootings is gun laws in America. The percentage of Americans favouring though gun regulations rose significantly. A poll found that 50% of those surveyed after the shootings agreed that gun ownership should have stronger regulation. The massacre has led to President Barack Obama and come congressional leaders to reconsider what has been a largely hands off approach to gun control in recent years and sometime much change to prevent such tragedies happening again. The victims and their families would want to enforce stricter rules and safety procedure; each classroom teachers should have emergency plans.


On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., about 65 miles northeast of New York City. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, killed himself inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The day after the shootings, officials said that Mr. Lanza forced his way into the school, apparently defeating an intercom system that was meant to keep people out. The killing spree had begun earlier at the house where Mr. Lanza had lived with his mother, Nancy Lanza, who was a gun enthusiast. There, he shot her in the face, making her his first victim. One of her guns was apparently used to take her life, authorities said. Then, leaving her dead after taking three guns that belonged to her, he climbed into her car for the short drive to the school. Two of the guns were semiautomatic pistols; the other was a semiautomatic rifle. Once Mr. Lanza had forced his way in, wearing combat gear, the massacre unfolded with chilling speed, as he opened fire in one classroom and then another. This Massacre is the second deadliest school shooting in US history and one of the deadliest mass shootings around the world. A gunman a Virginia Tech University killed 33, including himself in 2007. Only Virginia tech and the mass killings of 77 in Norway last year had greater death tolls across the world over the past 20 years.


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