The Second Distal Factor

The proximate factors that lead Shakur to join a gang and commit crimes includes his association with a delinquent peer at the age of fifteen and being influenced by his older peers that were involved in more violent crimes. A distal factor that lead to his participate in gang membership and crime would be the vicious attack by the three gang members. The second distal factor that impacted him was his resentment towards authority due to the ‘harsh whippings’ he received from his father. A third distal factor would be his disengagement in school at a young age. The most significant distal factor that would have impacted him would be the vicious attack that he was victim too. The attack by the older gang members resulted in him expressing a great sense of humiliation and distress. He was overwhelmed by the strong gang bond that he saw and therefore wanted to be part of the same bond and decided to join a gang. The distal factors that led Shakur to desist from gang crime would include the lack of support and visitation that he received while imprisoned. A proximate factor that would have played a significant role in his disengagement in gang crime would be the death of his younger brother and mother. Shakur felt responsible for the death of these innocent souls as it was retaliation for the murder he committed. Another proximate factor that would have played a role is imprisonment. Imprisonment prevented him from seeking retaliation for his family members.

Classical theory is based upon the idea of individuals rights, the human capacity to reason and the rule of law. The two leading figures in the development of classical criminology were Cesare and Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham (Beirne 1993; Taylor et al. 1973, as cited in White, Haines & Asquith, 2017, p28) . According to Beccaria, (2009 [1767]) individuals possess free will and will rationally evaluate courses of action and will act in a way they believe will strengthen the satisfaction of their wants and desires.

This suggestion would explain that Shakur participated in delinquent activities as he assumed it would maximise his satisfaction of wanting to be a ‘ghetto star’ and being more violent than his older peers. Bentham developed the concept of the pleasure/pain principle based on the notion of rational choice and efficacy. He argued that if the expected pleasure outweights the expected pain, a rational person will engage in the act. This concept would explain that Shakur committed crimes as he believed the expected pleasure was greater than the expected pain. Instead of contemplating about the consequences that he would have been subjected to for murder, he concentrated on the validation and acceptance that he would receive from his fellow gang members.

One limitation of classical theory is concerned with the idea of rationality (Corish and Clarke 1986, as cited in White, Haines & Asquith, 2017, p 34) . Questions could be raised about the aggravating and mitigating factors which led to a person’s offence. This could be an underlying factor to why they committed a crime. In relation to Shakur’s criminality, it could be argued that he participated in crime due to his association to a gang. the gang connection encouraged his criminality behaviour. His mentality was influenced by the pop culture that others around him accepted. He was also young and naïve and unable to make accurate decisions. Furthermore, one could argue that he was thinking irrationally when he committed crime.

In criminology, Differential association theory suggests that through interactions with others, individuals assimilate the attitudes, values, motives and techniques for criminal behaviour. The most significant interaction happens within intimate personal groups, with includes peer groups. This theory could be emphasised on to support the judgement that ‘nurture’ was responsible for Shakur’s involvement in crime. Shakur idolized the older peers that were involved in delinquent activities at a young age and wanted to be like them. He observed their behaviours and attitudes which motivated him to want to behave in a more violent manner than them.

His involved in a gang also strengthened his criminality as he was exposed to people that obtained similar attitudes to crime and offended regularly which encouraged him to participate in crime. Another theory that could be raised to support that ‘nurture’ was responsible could be the area of social ecology. Particular kinds of neighbourhoods areas, such as inner city ghettos, enhance criminality. Shakur was raised in South Central Los Angeles. This area demonstrated high levels of crime rate among African American youth due to structural and cultural factors. When Shakur was randomly attacked by the three gang members while at the restaurant, the feeling of humiliation evoked him to join a gang. Gang violence was a “neighbourhood effect’ in his area when it came to crime. Thus, increasing his chances of becoming involved in criminal behaviour.

The Differential Association Theory would best apply to Shakur’s involvement in a gang. The theory highlights that crime was cultural in nature, in sense that it is learned behaviour. (Sutherland & Cressy, [1974], as cited in White, Haines & Asquith, 2017, p.83) During his early years, Shakur was exposed to gang violence and thus observed the acts of the gang members until he learned it. He also experienced violence through his father’s aggression towards hm. These external factors would have caused him to imitate the acts of violence. Once he was old enough to join a gang, he was able to understand the attitudes about the activities being learnt.

He learned that he had to adapt to an image and change his attitudes to be accepted in the gang. He states that you had to “represent” your gang, meaning that everything you did had to be a representation of the values of your gang. In order to obtain validation and acceptance from the gang you had to fulfil your duty. This gave criminal behaviour a meaning from their perspective, gang mentality meant that you were obligated to respond to violence with violence and couldn’t tolerate disrespect. Shakur couldn’t neglect his personal pride when the deceased approached him with disrespect. Therefore, he retaliated by murdering him to uphold his pride.

He was exposed to a pop culture that idolized gangsters and became caught up in an image. He wanted to live up to his ego of ‘Joker’ that’s why he participated in violent crimes. The theory suggests that individuals with greater proportion of their peers who participate in crime will be vulnerable to more delinquent models and will be subjected to a greater number of definitions positive to delinquency, and will recognize more rewards and benefits associated with criminal conduct (Sutherland & Cressy [1974], as cited in White, Haines & Asquith, 2017, p84). As a result, these individuals will be more likely to participate in criminal behaviour.

Reference List:

  1. White, R., Haines, F., & Asquith, N. L. (2017). Crime and Criminology (6th ed). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
  2. Poor, N. (Co-producer, Co-host), & Woods, E. (Co-producer, Co-host). (2017, June 28). The Hustle Episode 2: Misguided Loyalty [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from:
  3. The Classical School of Criminological. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Aug. 2019].
  4. Weatherburn, D. (2001) What Causes Crime? Crime & Justice Bulletin: Contemporary Issues in Crime & Justice No. 54, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research