WHY ARE CRIMES COMMITTED?
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Criminology can be defined in many different ways. It is the scientific study of crime, of criminals and of penal institutions. It is a branch of Sociology and it deals with the causes of crime and the ways in which crime could be prevented. Just like any other social science, Criminology also has different approaches and perspectives. Following are few approaches and views in which we can understand and deal with the different types of crimes.
1.) Biological Approaches
Biological theories of criminality claim that criminal behavior is caused because of some problem or change in the biological makeup of a person. This change may be inherited with heredity, or it could be the result of any abnormality in the brain or it could also be because of a blow/hit/trauma to the brain. There are several biological theories out of which the following are essential and well known.
Genetics and Criminality (Caesar Lombroso)
Lombroso was an Italian psychiatrist who was a physician in the army. He was considered to be the “father of Modern Criminology”. Based on his observations, he published a book titled “The Criminal Man” in which he claimed that criminals were physically inferior in growth and that they were less sensitive to pain due to which they have little regard for the sufferings of others. He believed that criminals could be distinguished from innocent people on the basis of anatomical oddities such as small diameter of the skull, big ears and abnormal secondary sex characters. Lombroso also had the belief that women were less inclined towards crimes as it deviated from their basic nature. Although these studies gained a lot of popularity, Lombroso later realized that these theories were pointless. Another study of genetics claimed that the prisoners and criminals had an extra Y chromosome. A Y chromosome contributes to maleness so an extra Y chromosome constituted super-male which meant more aggressive and hence potentially criminal. However these findings were also proved to be wrong in a later study.
Constitutional (Body Type) Determinants
William H. Sheldon, a professor in the University of Colombia tried to establish a relationship between body structure and behavior. The structure and built of a person can be divided into three groups; endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph.
The person high in endomorph is soft, fat and bulky. He has short limbs and small bones, soft skin and usually a mild temperature and is a comfortable person.
Mesomorphs have a hard and muscular physique. Thus they have a hairy appearance and large wrists and hands. These people have a serious temperament and can behave aggressively.
Ectomorphs have a flat chest, a long thin body and a little in the way of muscular development. These people are constitutionally lean and fragile with delicate body, small face, sharp nose and fine hair. They are sensitive by temperament and avoid crowds.
Sheldon claimed that these physical structures were directly related to the temperament of the person who committed crime. Thus, according to him, endomorphs are moody and accommodative by nature while mesomorphs had a rigid and somewhat serious temperament. The ectomorphs are often indecisive and are short tempered. Experimentally Sheldon concluded that the mesomorph physique was more likely to manifest criminal behavior.
Constitutional Interactionist View
The two Harvard social scientists, Wilson and Herrnstein, believed that gender, intelligence and body type did play a role in determining criminals. It is well known that more men are repeated law offenders than women. If we look at intelligence, extreme research leads to the conclusion that criminals have an average IQ of 92 i.e. 8 points below the mean IQ of a common man. Low IQ means the criminals cannot understand society’s rules or the consequences of their actions. Most criminals are also impulsive. Their criminal act show little planning and they are less able to delay pleasure than most people. Body type also is responsible to criminal behavior just like the study of Sheldon tells.
2.) Psychological Approaches
According to Nietzel (1979), these theories all share the same beliefs that crime is the result of some personality attribute uniquely possessed by the potential criminal. From the psychological perspective, the cause of criminal behavior could be a result of the failure of psychological development, learned behaviors of aggression and violence, mental illness or a personality disorder, or by heredity.
Yochelson and Samenow, psychiatrists at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC propose that criminals possess a different way of thinking. These psychiatrists claim that criminals are criminals. People become criminals as a series of choices they start making at an early age. It is the patterns that result in criminality. Crime is like alcoholism. Once a criminal, always a criminal.
Personality disorder, also known as Psychopathy, generally refers to persons who have frequently and repetitive criminal activity. Such criminals have an unsocial character. They are unable to learn from experiences or feel guilt. They lack loyalty to family, friends, groups and society’s values. As Nietzel observes, they are grossly selfish, callous and irresponsible and tend to blame others for their behavior. According to a research, about 80% of psychopaths are men. Such people are easy to identify but difficult to rehabilitate. Fortunately, psychopaths are accountable for a very small number of law offences. However, they commit a large number of violent crimes. They seem to have an unusual characteristic pattern of brain organization.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the founder of psychoanalysis suggested that criminality may result to either an over active conscience or too weak conscience. He noticed that those who were suffering from unbearable guilt committed crimes in order to be apprehended and punished. Once they had been punished, their feelings of guilt were relieved. Freud proposed a new conception, in 1920. It contained three systems; id, ego and superego. These systems are concepts or ways of looking at the personality of an individual. ‘Id’ is the personality that is present from birth. It is inherited and is unconscious. It is the life instinct, which is sexual and biological urges like hunger and thirst, and the death instinct, which accounts for our aggression and destructive impulses. The ‘Id’ operates according to the pleasure principle i.e. to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. The ‘id’ cannot act on its own. It can wish, imagine, fantasize and demand. The ‘ego’ is the logical and rational and part of the personality which makes the mind consider about the real world. The ego draws energy from ‘id’. One of the functions of ego is to satisfy the id’s urges. It is mostly conscious and acts according to the ‘reality principle’. It must consider the limitations and restrictions of the real world in determining the appropriate times, places and objects of gratification of the id’s wishes and because of that sometimes compromises must be made e.g. a chicken sandwich instead of a fish curry. When the child is 5 or 6 years of age, the super ego — the moral component of the personality — is formed. It has two parts; the ‘conscience’, which consists of all behaviors for which we have been punished and about which we feel guilty, and the ‘ego ideal’, which contains the behavior for which we have been rewarded and about which we feel pride and satisfaction. At first, the superego reflects only the parent’s expectations of what is good and bad, but it expands over time to incorporate teaching from the broader social world. The psychoanalytic theory of criminality attributes delinquent and criminal behavior to be a conscience so overbearing that it arouses feelings of guilt or so weak that it cannot control the individual’s impulses of immediate gratification. The principles appear to the psychologists who study criminality are:
1.) The actions and behaviors of an adult are understood in terms of childhood development
2.) Behavior and unconscious motives are connected and their interaction must be untangled if we are to understand criminality.
3.) Criminality is essentially a representation of psychological conflict.
3.) Sociological Approaches
Social approaches towards criminal behavior can be summed up into three theories; structural explanations, sub-cultural explanations and the multiple factor approach.
Structural Explanations maintain that criminality is the result of structural defects in the society or family i.e. the inequality in the structure of the society. There are different types of people in a society. Some realize that the means to achieve their goals are restricted and act according to it and work for their goals. Some people just fix their goal but reject the accepted and legitimate means to achieve them. Some follow the institutionalized means such as hard work and thrift but lose sight of their goal or reject them. Some reject both the means and their goals which drops them out from the society and such people tend towards behaviors such as alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness. The others become rebels and view accepted goals as unattainable or undesirable and socially approved means of reaching them as demanding or unworkable. So when success is blocked by unavailability of means, individuals experience strain and either adjust their aspirations downwards or devise alternative routes to achieve their goals.
Subcultures are the cultures within a culture. Examples of which may be emos, hippies, LGBT etc. Subcultures exist within a society, not apart from it. Deviant behavior is supported by subcultures. A subculture of criminals has its own norms which stand over against the norms of the larger group. The deviance doesn’t seem unusual or abnormal from their point of view.
Despite multiple efforts of criminologists to compile a singular theoretical explanation of criminal behavior, no hypothesis could answer the issue satisfactorily. Eventually, the sociologists made use of the ‘multiple factor approach’ to explain the causation of crime. The supporters of this view believe that crime is a product of combination of a variety of factors which cannot be narrated in terms of general prepositions.
The rapid gain of industrialization has led to the easy means of communication and travel. Hence it has become easy to commit crime as the criminal can commit the crime in a place where he cannot be recognized and can run away and hide. The criminal can also commit cybercrimes by the comfort of his home by using different methods on the internet.
2) Cultural Conflicts
As our society is changing rapidly, social change is caused. This may sometimes lead to cultural conflicts between different sections of the society. The differences may be between old and new values, local and imported values, and the traditional and government imposed values. An example of this may be the tribal areas of Pakistan who have a completely different culture from the dominant society. The transfer of population due to migration or immigration quite often affects the crime rate of a given place. The culture conflicts between inhabitants and immigrants results in deviant behavior.
3) Family background
As children spend most of their time with their parents and relatives, family background plays a vital role in criminality. Children adapt criminal tendencies if they find their parents or members of their family behaving in a similar manner. Some parents embrace criminality such as burglary, pickpocketing and prostitution as a way of life and teach their children the same. Some parents may not be themselves associated with the crime but may not prevent their children from doing so. But children can turn out to be criminal even if this isn’t the case. Poverty, quarrels between the parents, frequent births, step motherly treatment may lead to the neglect of the child and can cause him to turn towards criminality
4) Political Ideologies
With the changing ideologies and laws, the concept of criminality changes. What was unlawful and illegal yesterday may become lawful and legal today and vice versa. The liberation of abortion laws, homosexuality, and protection of women against violence including harmful traditional practices like ‘suti’ are some examples. Political offences like the excessive interference of politicians in executive functions of the government weaken the morale of the administrators as well as the police due to which there is a spontaneous growth in crime.
5) Religion and Crime
The bond of religion keeps people within their limits and helps them to keep away from sinful and criminal acts. The growth of liberalization in modern times has tended to leave people free to do as they like without any restrictions or fear. On the other hand, although all religions speak of peace and harmony, most wars on Earth are fought in the name of religion like that between Iran and Iraq, Catholics and Protestants, and the terrorist activities in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.
6) Economic Conditions
Nowadays money is a paramount consideration to assess the social status of a person in society. Economic Growth and Urbanization are major factors behind it. Everyone can not catch up with urbanization due to which social disorganization is caused. Some people become poor while the others get richer. Everyone runs after money and do go to different extents to gain a high social status. This leads to employment of women and their outdoor activities which also enhances the opportunities for sex crimes.
7) Ecology of Crime
The region, weather and climate of a place also affect the crime rate. It Is well known that violation of customs, excise and drug laws is more common in border areas and coastal regions than in plains. Illegal felling of trees is an everyday activity in forest regions. In pilgrim places, cheating, stealing and exploiting are common activities. Also, in cold areas, the people have low temperament and are less attracted to crimes whereas in warmer areas, the temperament of people is comparatively higher and hence they tend more towards crime.
8) Influence of Media
Experience has showed that television and films have the maximum impact on the viewer’s due to combined audio-visual impact. Most of the serials and films shown on television or cinema halls depict scenes of violence which adversely affects the viewers, particularly young boys and girls who often tend to imitate the same in their real life situations. The rising incidence of juvenile delinquency is essentially the result of the evil effect of violence and vulgarism and undesirable sex exposures depicted in movies on television. Likewise pornography has an unwholesome influence on the impressionable minds of the young which generates criminality amongst them. Nevertheless, it is seen that the media has the powerful effect on public perceptions of the dangers posed by particular events, actions or behaviors. At times, crime may also be distortedly reported to suppress reality and sometimes it may be hidden.
CONTENT WRITER on FREELANCER and FIVERR