The causes of crime seem to be indefinite and ever changing. In the 19th century; slum poverty was blamed, in the 20th century, a childhood without love was blamed (Adams 152). In the era going into the new millenium, most experts and theorists have given up all hope in trying to pinpoint one single aspect that causes crime. Many experts believe some people are natural born criminals who are born with criminal mindsets, and this is unchangeable. However, criminals are not a product of heredity. They are a product of their environment and how they react to it. This may seem like a bogus assumption, but is undoubtedly true.
There is a study devoted to finding the causes of crime and what makes people criminals. This study is appropriately called criminology. There are two main theories which criminologists categorize causes of crime, and sometimes an individual would be subject to both their influences. Theories in the first group locate the causes of crime inside the individual, which focus on stress and other psychological factors. Conversely, theories categorized in the second group focus the causes of crime on factors that are out of the control of the certain individual. These influences are sociological.
Some psychologists theorize that criminals are born with a predisposition towards mental illness. Even though this is a widely accepted idea, for a mental illness to come out, it has to be catalyzed by the person’s environment. In other words, even if a person were born with the biological makings of a criminal, depending on how he was raised and how he lived life would determine if this inherent attribute would manifest. There needs to be an external cause to trigger the characteristic. Many criminologists are stuck on developing biological explanations to the make-up of criminals. These theories are often called “bad seed” theories.
They hold that criminals are born and not developed. The most recently discovered “bad seed” theory is that some men are born with an extra Y chromesone that makes them more aggressive (Adams 157). The problem with this theory is if one of these men with the extra chromosome was raised in a way that would inhibit the individual’s trait, you would never see the characteristics of this extra chromosome and it would just devalue this theory. Another problem with this theory is that there are criminals who just happen to be women and there is no way that you could tie this theory in with the behavior of women criminals.
Women do not have Y-chromosomes. They simply have a pair of X’s. The second category of explanations for criminal behavior based solely on a human’s environment is the theory that receives the most credit, and obviously is backed by the most truth. Endless examples and mountains of proof back this environment theory. To further bash the first category, all of its components are only brought out by their environment. While the level of stress a person can handle is an inherent part of their make-up, how they react to that stress is a learned attribute.
Not only reactions to the stress are varied on different social structures, but the types and levels of stress vary as well. For example, a violent minded child who is not capable of dealing with stress well could be born into a rich family and experience no frustrations. On the other hand, if a calm child were born into an abusive environment, he would have a better tendency to snap because of the levels of stress he experiences in that environment. A quite popular idea is that a person’s childhood has the greatest influence on their personality and their moral standards.
As stated by Patrick Crispen in Criminal Minds, a child’s morals are learned and set by the age of ten years old (67). Also stated in Criminal Minds, is the assumption that a sixth-grade teacher could look at a class of students and determine who will be successful, who will be a “trouble-maker”, and so forth (70). This is a deeper example of how personality traits are developed at an early age. Parents play the most crucial role in the development of a child’s life. Children learn by example. Through the examples that the parents set, criminal behavior could be either encouraged or prevented.
This “learn by example” way of development by a child could easily be mistaken for the genetic make-up of the child’s mindset. How easy would it be to say that because the child acts in the same manner as the parents do, that this is simply a product of inheritance when, in fact, the manners of a child is learned through parent’s actions rather than being passed on through genetics. This explains why adopted children still have the same moral values and standards as their adoptive parents which could be as well be much different from their biological parents.
But stubborn geneticists would still insist on the inheritance factor by finding small, insignificant personality traits that both the biological parents and the child share. In many cases, a child will have a virtually parentless upbringing. In some of these cases, both of the parents still live with the child . not necessarily abandoning them . but certain responsibilities cause them to not see much of each other. Through the lack of interaction between parent and child, the child would have to base its moral standards on another figure, such as a television show or cartoon or a teacher.
This would decrease the connection between parent and child, and further decrease the parental influence. A child who has raised himself is much less likely to listen to an authority figure. Another main influence in how a child thinks is his peers . the moral structure that they have been raised with. In desperation of fitting in, people can do things that are uncharacteristic of themselves that may land them in “deep sneakers”, but the consequences are not as important as fitting in. Eventually, a habit gets formed of living up to dares and taking more risks.
Over a period of time, this type of behavior becomes the norm and a new way of living is developed. In absence of parental figures, children will find substitute figures to latch onto. These substitute figures will form their code of ethics and moral behavior. Depending on the substitute figure chosen, the code of ethics and moral behavior is reflected. Unfortunately, in the absence of parents, children are attracted to the more exciting and daring personalities such as people who get in trouble in class and seem exciting.
So, in other words, without the parents’ guidance, the child would naturally veer toward the more daring side of life. Even though they may look up to their friends more than their parents, kids still need someone to tell them what is wrong and what is right because no one is born with a sixth sense of this. It has to be learned (Kraeplin 3). What is morally right is usually accepted as what the majority of the population around you accepts. Consequently, what is morally accepted in one environment may not be morally accepted in another environment. City living is a breeding place for criminals.
There are so many people in big cities that no one focuses on grouping individuals. People simply do what they do and everyone leaves everyone alone. The entire city has too many people in it, to worry about everyone’s moral standards. So when you do something immoral, it goes practically unnoticed. Even if someone notices it, it’s very unlikely that they could pick you out of everyone in the city and point you out as the person who did the crime. Criminals are encouraged when they see crimes go unsolved. It gives them the confidence they need to continue their criminal behavior without fear of getting caught.
And there are enough people in a city that no matter how you act; you could find people just like you. If you have a tendency to get in trouble a lot, you could easily find someone to encourage your actions. A social status, whether you like it or not, can drag you into or out of a life of crime. A dead-broke bum with no house is forced to steal food in order to stay alive, and steal clothing in order to stay warm. Of course, you could suffer and not break any laws, but the immediate need would usually outweigh the consequences.
You may not be literally forced into a life of crime, but it just might be the best choice you have. Being in such need makes stealing seem much more attractive than it would if you had no need to steal. As stated in the preceding paragraphs, criminals are influenced and not born. You can easily infer this on your own, but with the help of this report it seems much more obvious. The most obvious and consistent influence in the development of a person seems to be the environment in which they live in and the influence, or lack thereof, of their parents.