Different Theories Used To Understand The Causes Of Criminal Behavior

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Heartless monster(s), that is all anyone can think of when someone commits a crime against a loved one. A few moments after however, the thoughts shift from describing the criminal less than human out of anger and grief, to a moment of confusion, making one wonder, “Why would someone commit a crime like this.” The answer to that universal question of why someone commits a crime lies in criminology, the study of criminal behavior. According to criminology research experts from Kent State University “criminologists and experts across related fields such as healthcare, sociology and psychology work toward an understanding of the causes of criminal behavior, both by proposing new theories and testing existing ones”(from para. 2 of Source 1). The most popular theories they have come across include “Rational Choice Theory,” which is the belief that criminals weigh the consequences, and rewards of a crime, to eventually come to a conclusion that committing the crime is “worth it”, giving the criminal a form of choice to commit the crime, “Social Learning Theory,” “Labeling Theory,” and “Biological Theory.” Despite what these theories suggest, I believe that in almost all situations, no matter the background, or mental status, someone has a choice to commit a crime, and should still be held accountable for committing a crime. When it comes to the punishment though, the defendant should be judged depending and based on other factors in the situation.

Along with “Rational Choice Theory,” another popular criminal behavior theory is known as “Social Learning Theory,” which theorizes that criminals or both directly, and indirectly taught to be criminals. That being said, “Social Learning Theory” splits these criminals into those who are taught, directly and indirectly. This theory begs the question though, if the criminals are “taught” to commit the crime, who is liable? The teacher, or the student? To answer this question the entire circumstance must be investigated, such as whether it was the student was directly or indirectly taught. Studies from Saul McLeod from simplypsychology.org has shown that a form of directly teaching criminals to be criminals was through “reinforcement or punishment,”(para. 10, Source 2) which means someone is taught to do something by being given a reward when they do it, and being punished when not doing it. Although people, especially parents use this to teach right from wrong, the consequences of using this method is that the parents or in this case “criminals” might be teaching the underling that doing a crime is the “right” thing to do. Can this form of teaching be punishable? The quick and controversial answer is yes and no because although the adult figure is encouraging crime, the criminal who decides to do the crime is liable because in the end that individual chose to do it which is linked directly to “Rational Choice Theory.” Next a form of indirectly teaching someone to commit a crime is through observation. According to McLeod, “Children pay attention to some of these people (models) and encode their behavior. At a later time they may imitate (i.e., copy) the behavior they have observed”(para. 3, Source 2). This situation is much easier to examine because of the nature, that whomever the child is imitating, is unknowingly teaching the child. Therefore the “teacher” is not liable at all if the child does, or does not do the crime. This again goes back to the fact that whether the child does the crime or not falls on the child’s own judgment, and choice to commit the crime. Along with the effects that a mentor or adult figure might have on a child or adolescent, society as a whole might affect someone through the “Label Theory.”

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The third among the popular criminal behavior theories is “Label Theory.” This theory states that a child with a criminal record, who is designated as “a “whore,” or a “junkie,” or a “thief””(p.48-49, Source 3), will continue to commit crimes because of the horrible effect labeling puts on the child. These are just a few of the examples of such labeling, but the effect is the same, for it makes the individual more likely to commit the crime as “the individual internalizes and accepts this label.” In terms of “Label Theory,” the question can be asked, who is at fault, for if the community is in a way involved with the creation of a criminal by labeling the criminal, does that at all make the community liable? No, the community is not liable. This is because of the fact that although the community was a crucial part of the criminal doing the crime, the criminal chose to do the crime, and in the end that is all the courts need to know to prosecute someone. With “Label Theory,” and “Social Learning Theory” showing the psychological effects of how society and adult figures can shape an individual, “Biological Theory” talks about people who are born into criminals based on their genetics.

The last of the popular theories experts have come up with is the “Biological Theory,” which theorizes that some criminals do crimes because of genetic conditions, such as increase in hormones, or mental illnesses. Through a study on inmates “elevated levels of hormones- specifically, testosterone, which controls secondary sex characteristiccs and has been associated with aggression”(p. 46, Source 3), experts have been able to conclude that because these hormones are linked to voilent crimes. Although these hormones were not the sole cause of the crime, does it instill that because the individual was born with these hormones that they can be exempt from the crimes they have committed? Theses hormones do not exempt the criminals from their crimes because although the hormones have seemed linked to violent crimes, there has been no evidence of these hormones actually causing the crime. The second part of the “Biological Theory” involves mental illnesses. Throughout the last century as light has been shined on the importance of mental illnesses and how they affect an individual, especially in cases of crime. Unlike the situation with hormones, society has accepted that in the case of mental illnesses an individual is capable of unknowingly committing a crime. The government uses the “M.Naghten rule”(p. 81, Source 3) which is a way for the government to measure how insane someone was when committing a crime. If the individual could not control themselves when they committed the crime is he/she liable? The quick answer is no they are not liable, but they are however still acknowledged to have committed the crime. This means that no punishment would be given, which has made mental illnesses into an excuse in court after committing a crime. This being said unless the mental illnesses completely barred the individual from not committing the crime, they should still be punished.

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Different Theories Used To Understand The Causes Of Criminal Behavior. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/different-theories-used-to-understand-the-causes-of-criminal-behavior/
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Different Theories Used To Understand The Causes Of Criminal Behavior [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 May 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/different-theories-used-to-understand-the-causes-of-criminal-behavior/
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