Psychological Factors of Violent Behavior

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Violent crime is a notion of what constitutes violence can vary not only between different societies but also between groups with the same society at different times and in different contexts. Violent offending can have many factors explaining why a person would commit a crime that perplexed humankind; these include biological, psychological, social, and economical. Although, we will be mainly focusing on the psychological factors dictating how it can cause unusual behaviour; these include mental illness, depression (aggression), and personal traits. Offenders that suffer from these psychological factors can be apathetic towards crime, which could lead to more significant crimes as they will not fear punishment as much as others. Even though they get punished for the committed crime, they might find it difficult to reintegrate with society, which they might then re-offend.

Many people think that mental illness can lead to violent offending. Nevertheless, the Mental Health Act 1983 contains four different categories that must contemplate when looking at the development of the mind. Therefore, mental illness can observe psychopathic disorder, schizophrenia, progressive disorder (depression), and hysteria. These factors could have severe disruptions to a person’s mood and behaviour, as they will fail to function according to the standard attributes and traits. The statistics empathize, psychological problems are prevalent in the prison population. Birmingham 1996 reported that twenty-six percent of remand prisoners at Durham jail were suffering from one or more mental disorders. It is arguable; the mental illness could progress in the prison-terms, which then make it difficult to deter when the individual is released.

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Schizophrenia may be genetic in some situations, depending on what might have triggered them in the past. Many studies show us that there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains, which is why it might be known as a disorder. People experiencing this mental disorder tend to use drugs, and this increases the development of schizophrenia and lead to delinquency. Nevertheless, schizophrenia is mostly related to violent crime, as the perpetrators find it challenging to experience emotional thoughts. Taylor, 1986, found a high level of schizophrenia among life-sentence prisoners in London. The development of alcohol and drug use can lead to symbolising psychopathology - as psychiatric disorders characterized by unusual behaviour, such as anti-social personality disorder, attention disorder, and conduct disorder.

These disorders have a significant impact on the functioning of life. An environmental factor might have triggered an innate response in the individual’s personality and its development that allows the individual to engage in immoral behaviour. Police authorities have recognised that alcohol’s effects on the mind and body, and this makes it likely to induce antisocial behaviour, leading to violent behaviour.

Reportedly 592,000 violent incidents alcohol motivated most of the offenders, yet there were underreported crimes that go uncounted, which reduces the statistics but maybe a more significant problem. People who have schizophrenia or similar mental illness are likely to isolate themselves from society as they do not tailor themselves with other people. Unfortunately, this creates a higher possibility for delinquent behaviour as they have a feeling of loneliness, which then prompts the individual to utilize harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol. Consequently, this can result in jealousy, which other word is called delusional jealousy which has a connection to many mental conditions, schizophrenia being one of them. Delusional jealousy is highly destructive on its own; it can cause immense damage and can lead to obsessive or even violent behaviour. Therefore, using drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines, can exacerbate the symptoms and worsen the severity of the crime. The main problem with schizophrenia is that the person does not diminish any emotional expression or feelings, which can mean that the criminal act could be outrageous due to a lack of empathy and apathy. People with schizophrenia and AUD often report that they use alcohol and other drugs to alleviate the general dysphoria of mental illness, poverty, limited opportunities, and boredom; they also report that substance use facilitates the development of an identity and a social network.

For instance, poverty correlates with poor education, social isolation, and in adolescence, substance misuse. If an individual is bought up in poverty, it could harm their development, which can turn into the risk of self-harm and violence. As a child, they will feel ashamed from their parents as they cannot provide them anything useful, which will then cause aggression and depression. Their lives start to be disruptive and loss of hope as there is no peace in the house. Most of them start spending more time with their peers and witness violent behaviour more often, allowing them to normalise the situation as time passes. They might even influence the same thing at home, which can leave a distinct trauma, causing them to act in a way that is against the criminal justice system. The research indicates that many children were able to describe violent attacks they have witnessed in their early childhood. These attacks were generally horrendous and persistent. For example, Freud 1994 has stated that the arguments could occur by loss of income and status, relating to arguments concerning blame, which could then cause a high level of irritation between the two people. These children can suffer long-term severe emotional effects, such as depression and aggression, due to traumatizing experiences in the past. It could affect their self-confidence, which can result in different reactions. For example, boys will express their anxiety and anger by becoming aggressive. Due to what they have experienced in the past, they can conclude that violence can solve problems.

Psychologists name this type of behaviour as ‘post-traumatic’ disorder, and this can also lead to misuse of drugs and alcohol for older children as they see it as a stress relief. People suffering from ‘post-traumatic’ disorder can experience a lot of symptoms, such as concentration and memory. Chronic and prolonged exposure to violence may evolve into a dysfunctional routine perpetrated in both family and community context creating “a link between experiences of violence as victims and later experiences of violence as a perpetrator”. Meaning that violence can grow with a lifetime, an individual is whom experience violence can offend. These people tend to find alcohol and drugs as a solution to feel eased after being overwhelmed with horrible reminiscence.

Research shows that drinking loosens moral restraints and that people who drink lose personal control are consequently liable to behave in an anti-social way, including acting violently. Alcohol has an intended effect as they find it difficult to concentrate at school. It is found that anger and irritability, both measurables states, have been identified as empirically related among veterans to be associated with increased violence and aggression. Missing out from education can result in a long-term issue, as the individual will be unemployed in the future. Lack of education can then result in violent crime, in a review of 63 studies of unemployment and crime, Chiricos 1987 found a positive relationship, especially for property offense. People tend to prefer the quickest way for short-term gratification; they want to get entitled to something so they can fit in with the crowd.

Freud believed that events in our childhood have a significant influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality. According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of the psyche, there are three entities: Id, Ego, and Superego. Id is the personality component which aims to satisfy needs and desire; for example, if an individual is feeling angry or depressed, they will do anything to feel better. Unfortunately, it is inevitable to fulfil the needs and desires they feel entitled to as it will not be realistic and possible. The second component is the Ego, which is responsible for dealing with reality; in other words, balancing the Id and makes sure that the impulses of the Id are expressed appropriately to society. Finally, there’s the Superego, which brings together all of our internalized moral standards and ideals what we learn from our parents and the society (right or wrong). It civilizes our behaviour and suppresses all unacceptable actions of the Id Freud appears to differentiate between aggression, in the sense of the desire to subjugate or master, and sadism, though both are considered to be libidinal impulses. They are both categorised to be libidinal impulses, which links to the Id, and if the Ego fails to imbalance these elements, it can lead to unstable personality. The Id being dominant can result in the individual being uncontrollable, or even criminal.

Psychoanalysts now look at the negative trauma, which is not as incest, as the birth of a sibling, or an aggressive attack, but rather is a lack of psychological connection. This focus emerges from the many studies of the narcissistic personality disorder over the past decade. In this case, people that suffer from traumatic individuals might develop a narcissistic personality that could inhibit the individual from feeling empathy with someone else. Therefore, when a person feels no sympathy or empathy towards someone, they are more than likely to be violent when feeling aggressive and irritated. In other words, it might even generate a huge destructive crime scene as they will not feel any sorrow. Ego aiming to satisfy the demand of the Id should be unconscious at this point as it cannot be responsible for repression while also being the seat of consciousness. Freud’s hypothesis indicates that Ego development entails the renunciation of narcissistic self-love in favour of the aggrandizement of cultural and ethical ideals, which is given to the child by the influence of parents. Consequently, the development of the narcissistic self-love can mean that the individual can become egotistic towards others, and this will reduce the remorse and make them even more violent. They might want to express their indignation and passion in their adolescence, as they were not able to in their childhood.


Violence can be divined; it is possible to assign different probabilities of violence to population members based on the personalities and characteristics of people. Even though there are concerns with the reliability of prediction violence, psychologists can always deter future crimes as they deal with many of them and know how criminal behaviour and why they chose to behave in this way. As discussed previously, the family background appears to one of the psychological factors that can inherit violence in an individual from their childhood experiences. As well as drugs being involved and having power in criminal activities, it can provoke a person to behaviour abnormal and unusual. Most importantly, violence and mental illness have appeared to be that it could have a significant impact as some psychological scales indicate a propensity towards violence. Consequently, if they do commit a crime and get punished, they might find it difficult to reintegrate with society as they will find it challenging to adapt to society.

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Psychological Factors of Violent Behavior. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Psychological Factors of Violent Behavior.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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