Ordinary and law-abiding citizens can find it hard to believe that they are also capable of being criminals. Criminals, as enhanced by the gory images painted by the media, are often related to actions that are utterly immoral and illegal that finding any connection with them will be truly unsettling. Nonetheless, it is theoretically possible that inside humanity, there are genetic markers of crime waiting to happen, or that their environments are filled with risks and triggers that can push them to edge of criminality (Duggan, 2001; Haney, 2006; Pratt & Cullen, 2005).
Criminology, sociology, psychiatry, psychology, and economics are only some of the social sciences and medical fields that seek to understand the complex causation of crime (Duggan, 2001; Haney, 2006; Pratt & Cullen, 2005; Mednick & Volavka, 1980). This paper used these different perspectives to attempt in answering these chilling questions: Theoretically, can anyone become a criminal? Are people also the proverbial “Mr. Hyde” inside all along?
Hypothetically, anyone can become a criminal, because crime is a product of biological, psychological, and social forces that cannot be always controlled by individual will alone, although self-determining decisions can prevent a life of crime (Duggan, 2001; Haney, 2006; Howitt, 2009; Maxim, Whitehead, & Nettler, 1999; Mednick & Volavka, 1980; Pratt & Cullen, 2005; Robinson, 2004). Theoretical Possibilities This section discusses the theoretical possibilities of crime.
There is no singular theory that explains crime and its causes, because social scientists and scholars could not agree on what constitutes the roots of criminal behavior, especially when individual, biological, and social factors are considered (Howitt, 2009; Robinson, 2004). Several studies, however, noted the importance of removing factions among different fields and combining concepts and processes that can help fully understand crime causation (Brennan & Raine, p. 590; Howitt, 2009, p. 62; Robinson, 2004; Maxim et al. , 1998, p. 195).
These scholars also agree that there is a truism in criminology that crime is caused by social, biological, and psychological factors on varying individual, group, organizational, and cultural levels (Howitt, 2009; Robinson, 2004). Biological and Psychological Theories Biological and psychological theories are combined in this paper, because there is literature that shows their connections, wherein psychological theories are also based on biological studies and concepts (Anckarsater, Radovic, Svennerlind, Hoglund, & Radovic, 2009; Brennan & Raine, 1997).
Psychological theories also use biological concepts to understand the neurological level of human behavior (Maxim et al. , 1998, p. 196). Brennan and Raine (1997) used biosocial factors to explore antisocial behavior. Biosocial theories are broadly concentrated on “long-term or chronic antisocial behavior,” which hypothetically represents individual psychopathology (Brennan & Raine, 1997, p. 590). These theories assert that biological and social forces interact to shape antisocial conduct, which is common for criminals (Brennan & Raine, 1997, p.
590). Eysenck’s Biosocial Theory argued that there are biological-based personality features that can increase tendencies for criminality (Brennan & Raine, 1997, p. 590). Mednick’s Biosocial Theory provided proof that crime is partially genetically caused (Brennan & Raine, 1997, p. 591). Mednick posited that antisocial behavior can be inherited through acquiring a shortage in autonomic nervous system functions (Mednick, Pollock, Volavka, & Gabrielli, 1982 as cited in Brennan & Raine, 1997, p. 591).
These studies proved that genetics make a person, and that people can have difficulty in escaping their genetic criminal imprints. Neurological studies are also used, when adopting a biological approach to criminology (Anckarsater et al. , 2009). Anckarsater et al. (2009) studied the assumption that mental orders cause crime. The “mental” aspect pertains to multidimensional aspects of thinking, including inner experiences, cognitive skills, and behavior; although psychology and psychiatry define the term more along predictable and generalizable human functioning (Anckarsater et al.
, 2009, p. 343). The range of definitions alone can greatly expand the confusion on what aspect of and how mental disorder impact crime behavior. Anckarsater et al. (2009) reviewed numerous articles that stress various concepts in the correlation between mental order and crime. Findings showed that mental problems can lead to criminal behavior, although other risk factors are involved, such as genes, neurobiological deviations, or social, cultural, and economic situations (Anckarsater et al. , 2009, p. 346).
Another review by Mednick and Volavka (1980) supported the biological theories of crime. They noted studies, wherein social factors could not fully explain the existence of criminal behavior, such as identical twins having almost similar crime records and dispositions, even when they have been raised apart, and adopted children who had acted criminally like their biological parents. Mednick and Volavka (1980) also mentioned studies on autonomic nervous system and neurophysiological factors that stress the biological differences between criminals and non-criminals.
These scholarly reviews maintain that there are social triggers for crime, as well as genetic disposition to conduct criminal activity (Anckarsater et al. , 2009; Brennan & Raine, 1997). They suggest the alarming supposition that anyone can be a criminal, because of their genetic and psychological profiles. Sociological Theories Sociological theories have waned in influence on crime control and prison theories and policies, because of the emerging focus in the individual nature of crime and its proper punishments (Haney, 2006, p. 128).
When the individual criminal is blamed for what he/she has done, stronger and harsher punishments can be justified, than when crime is attributed to social factors (Haney, 2006, p. 128). In the social perspective, a criminal from a poor family or who has been victimized as a child becomes less responsible for his/her criminal actions. Not all people, nonetheless, are willing to accept the idea of lack of accountability for criminals, because of their social conditions. A bulk of research that studied the sociological factor of crime showed findings that crime is a product of social circumstances (Duggan, 2001; Haney, 2006, p.
128). Milgram’s experiment proved that even ordinary people, who do not posses anti-social and aggressive tendencies could be forced to do something violent to others, in order to obey authority (Haney, 2006, p. 130). Milgram concluded: “Under certain circumstances, it is not so much the kind of person a man is as it is the kind of situation in which he is placed that determines his actions” (Haney, 2006, p. 130). Another study by Zimbardo, Banks, and Haney demonstrated that changing social conditions can also alter human behavior and make them more aggressive and violent (Haney, 2006, p.
130). They simulated a prison environment, wherein normally non-violent students internalized their prison guard roles and acted violently against their prisoners (Haney, 2006, p. 130). Wright, Caspi, Moffitt, and Silva (1999) examined the relationship between social bonds and crime, and how lack of self control in childhood also impact later delinquency. Findings showed that social bond and delinquency in the past predicted future criminal behavior. Having low social control as a child directly impacts later delinquent actions as an adolescent and adult.
Duggan (2001) examined the relationship between owning guns and crime. He used estimates of yearly rates of gun ownership at both the state and the county levels for the past twenty years. Findings showed that high rates of gun ownership also increased homicide rates. This study indicated the possibility that owning tools of violence stimulates violent tendencies. Pratt and Cullen (2005), on the other hand, focused on the “ecological” or macro-level analysis of crime causation. Through a meta-analysis approach, they organized criminological theories according to causes of crimes.
Findings showed that that there are five ecological predictors of crime, based on their relative strength, and these are two indicators of racial features, family problems, economic issues, and incarceration. They also showed that areas of economic disadvantage are often breeding areas of crime (Pratt & Cullen, 2005, p. 424). These studies demonstrated that people can also lose their valuable sense of autonomy, when there are social factors that compel them to do something against the law. The Matter of Free Will
Studies on criminology do not directly challenge the power of free will (Anckarsater et al. , 2009; Brennan & Raine, 1997). Harsher penal policies and practices are based on the idea that if people are responsible for their actions, they should also be accountable for their criminal conduct. People may theoretically become criminals, but they can also choose to consider other factors before engaging in illegal behavior (Haney, 2006; Pratt & Cullen, 2005). When they reflect on the consequences of their actions, they can choose to veer away from criminal behavior (Haney, 2006; Pratt & Cullen, 2005).
Haney (2006) argued for criminologists to consider the context of the situation to understand criminal activities. Other articles mentioned that sociological factors can also be beneficial in helping people mold self-control and extroversion, as well as other traits and features, which can help people in exercising autonomy in managing their behavior (Wright et al. , 1999; Brennan & Raine, 1997). Hence, free will can also protect people from becoming criminals. Conclusion The review of literature on human behavior and crime hypothetically maintain that anybody can be a criminal.
Social, biological, and psychological factors can influence people to conduct criminal activities. Nonetheless, this paper also maintains that people do and can exert their free will. Studies do not conclusively show that having genes and social factors that make other people become criminals can be universally applied to the same cohorts (Wright et al. , 1999; Brennan & Raine, 1997). At this juncture, people must also be held responsible for the consequences of their actions.
In many situations, it is believed that people can still choose to empower themselves by using their free will to liberate themselves from the social and psychological risks and biological triggers that can turn them from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. References Anckarsater, H. , Radovic, S. , Svennerlind, C. , Hoglund, P. , & Radovic, F. (2009). Mental disorder is a cause of crime: The cornerstone of forensic psychiatry. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 3 (6), 342-347. Brennan, P. A. & Raine, A. (1997). Biosocial bases of antisocial behavior: Psychophysiological, neurological, and cognitive factors.
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