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The Psychology of Crime

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					The Psychology of Crime
On the different dimensions of criminal behavior and understanding the
mind of the criminal
Criminals have distinct psychological features and are either
exceptionally calm and composed or overtly aggressive and temperamental.
Some criminals are extraordinarily intelligent whereas many criminals are
of average and low intelligence. However criminal behavior is not caused
by aggression alone as there are several other factors that add to
criminal behavior. Biologists have tried to provide a genetic explanation
of criminal tendencies suggesting that crime may run in the family or
hardcore criminals have chromosomal/genetic aberrations. The change in
the levels of neuro-chemicals in the body can lead to criminal behavior
as some neuro-chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are directly
associated with aggression and psychopathic behavior.
However the main and direct cause of criminal behavior in individuals
would be family/ immediate environment and schools / social groups,
personality, and moral development.
This is explained with the help of social-personal-moral dimensions of
criminal behavior.
Social (Family/Environment) - Aggressive and criminal behavior is largely
shaped by society and social groups, by friends, family and other people.
Children who are encouraged to behave aggressively towards other people
and also towards their parents can grow up to become criminals in later
life. If parents and friends encourage aggressive behaviour or if a child
always gets his way by shouting and crying, he will in most cases grow up
to become a criminal. Extreme control or too much freedom given to a
child can cause severe harm to the proper social and moral development of
the child. The immediate social environment and the culture in which
children are brought up are responsible for the development of criminal
behavior so if a child associates with other people who engage in
criminal offenses or if he has a violent and aggressive family
environment, criminal behavior is again likely. Sometimes children learn
to take drugs or alcohol or carry weapons as they try to follow certain
group behaviors and this is the foundation of crimes. Disorganized
societies and environment as in case of broken homes, disruptive family
environment, war zones, conflict torn areas are highly susceptible to
crime and criminal activities. The social group or friends introduce the
children to either the good things of life such as arts, knowledge and
culture or to the negative side of life such as drugs, crime and alcohol
and this is the process of social learning. Finally it is the individual
who chooses which direction of life s/he will take and this decision
largely depends on individual personality.
Personal (Personality/ Dispositions) - Personality disorders have been
found to be closely associated with criminal behavior and the criminal is
often a psychopath or an antisocial given to mental instability,
irritability or extreme aggression and argumentativeness. Some
psychopaths are soft spoken and apparently charming and non-aggressive
yet are capable of performing the most heinous crimes. Some personality
patterns are more vulnerable to criminal behavior than some others. All
these people have one thing in common, through their criminal behavior
they try to escape reality and vent their frustrations by performing
antisocial acts. The escape route is through the crimes and all criminals
suffer from an avoidant/escapist personality pattern as they kill or
steal because for a few moments they escape reality and its consequences
and live in a hazy unreal world comprising only of their unconscious
desires and thoughts. Performing a criminal act is like performing a play
on a stage and when engaging in a crime, criminals are in a different
mental state altogether, which is not exactly normal. As excessive
alcohol also induces this mental 'haze', crime rates are often high in
alcoholic conditions. Suicide is also a sort of crime although suicide
happens when this mental confusion in one's life is prolonged and is
often associated with mental illnesses and depression. Manic hyper
aroused conditions lead to crimes towards others and depression often
leads to crime towards self.
Moral (Conformity/ Rationality) - Moral development of individuals is
closely related to conforming to certain norms and standards of society,
and control of antisocial or negative behavior is absolutely necessary in
preventing delinquent behavior. However the stages of moral development
should be understood to delineate the positive or negative impact of non
conformity. After compete moral development, individuals may choose to
not conform to social standards and try to move beyond norms. This is not
always negative and would be associated with novelty and creativity.
However when moral development is hindered at an early stage of life when
children ignore moral values and ethics of society for their own selfish
pursuits and there is a complete lack of external control, the moral
development is truncated and lead to criminal behavior in later life. A
restraining factor in crime is rational thinking and if individuals can
rationalize, reflect and understand the seriousness of crimes, they would
be deterred from engaging in crimes and would thus in turn aid their own
moral and personal development. According to psychoanalysis we all have
criminal/aggressive tendencies but a criminal is the one who directs the
basic urges of aggression towards other people and the external world.
Moral development of children would be dependent on several factors and
according to psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg the first stage of moral
reasoning is of obedience and avoiding punishment, the second stage is
keeping up to expectations of family members and the final stage is
moving beyond social conventions. Criminals are people who have
incomplete moral development as their behavior may by motivated by a
desire to break the law and challenge obedience and punishment, and this
is largely different from mature nonconformity that is at times
constructive. A criminal is thus recognized by his destructive and
negative personality.
From this we move to the discussion on what exactly goes on in the mind
of a criminal and what are the motivations that drive people to criminal
activity. Some of the reasons for which people engage in crime would be
jealousy/envy, frustration, necessity (for example: extreme poverty),
mental disorder (delusion), social disorganization, personal failures,
social groups, family environment, influence of drugs/alcohol or
neurochemical imbalance. Individual circumstances are as important as the
other general factors along social, personal and moral dimensions and
criminal behavior could be more impulse / act oriented or planning /mind
oriented. The 'impulse oriented' crime acts are impulsive and happen
spontaneously when for example, a man kills another in a fit of rage. The
'planning oriented' criminal could be a psychopath or a normal person
although the common aspect would be their ability to plan the criminal
act as a venture.
Unbelievable that it may sound, a moment of crime is a moment of
indifference as the criminal does not concentrate on his own feelings but
on the act itself. Thus a criminal can become detached in the moment of
crime. In fact this is the strength and the weakness of the criminal, as
detachment makes crime easy as the criminal divorces himself from the
crime to prevent feelings of guilt and this same ability to get detached
could be utilized positively, to develop detachment from the material
aspects of life. Criminals if rehabilitated and properly trained can be
great sources of strength for the society as all criminals are also
capable of devotion, determination and detachment and could be successful
religious leaders, social / humanitarian workers and counselors.