What Drives People to a Life of Crime?
Criminals and their behaviors have been studied for centuries with regard to one simple question without a simple answer: Why?
There can be a great many causes for a person to turn to a life of crime, and the are more versatile than one might expect. Some will argue that the concept of “nature vs. nurture” is important to consider, while others believe that a person’s decisions direct them. Many criminals obtain such a label through desperation or despair, while others are driven by adrenaline and the rush of doing something bad in nature. Biological factors, such as age and gender, have been blamed for creating criminals. The truth is, there is no single cause that correlates to a life of crime; there are many reasons a person may follow that path in life.
The Great Debate: Nature vs. Nurture?
Once there was a great argument over to be, or not to be, and now the argument our society is continuously wrapped up in is the argument of whether crime is fostered in individuals by the way they were nurtured, or whether such actions are ingrained in that person by nature with no outside influence. There are many arguments for both sides, but perhaps both sides would do better to realize that they are two sides of the same coin.
A perfectly stable individual can be brainwashed and might then commit crimes, just as perfectly healthy and normal children can be raised in a toxic environment that feeds the growth of a criminal. Equally, a person with a personality disorder that may be commonly known for supposedly birthing criminals can grow to be a healthy and well-rounded individual when in a stable and comfortable environment. Nature and nurture are not separate from one another, but rather act in tandem. It is not so simple as saying someone is a good person and therefore would have been a good person regardless of how they were raised.
Cultivating Crime in Culture and Society
There is nothing more thrilling in a movie as a brilliant crime, and there is little more in video games than constant reminders of the crime and violence in society. The television, movie and video game characters are all role models for children and young adults in society, whether they are realistic or completely absurd. Despite the constant assurances of parents that they would never allow media to influence their children towards a life of crime, this is not supported by the facts presented.
Those who play violent or crime-filled video games are three times as likely to commit a crime than those individuals who do not play video games or only play calm puzzle games. Viewers of crime television are twice as likely to commit crimes, as well as they tend to feel as if they are capable of not running into the ramifications of their actions.
Crime-filled media is not the only societal influence on criminal activity. Bullying is a common occurrence in many schools today, and unfortunately it is also very common in many homes and families. Bullies and abusers are very often criminals in other ways, as well, perhaps related to theft or harassment. The victims of these crimes can often feel heavily affected by what has happened to them and they, too, might find themselves attracted to a life of crime deriving from this.
Genetic Factors: You May Not be Far from the Tree
Some professionals argue that a propensity for crime can be bone-deep, in that there are genetic factors that can make a person more likely to commit crimes. Some hormonal disorders, such as an excessive production of testosterone in both men and women, can lead to higher rates of aggression and more crimes committed. Many mental or physical illnesses also are passed genetically and these may cause a person to commit crimes for a variety of reasons, including the very common reasoning that the world is unfair. If a person has a family history of violence or many criminals in their direct heritage, they have a much greater chance of also committing crimes, whether they are similar or vastly different in nature.
Phenotyping Crime with Biological Factors
Age, sex and race are all factors that could potentially influence a person and direct them towards a life of crime. The reasons that these factors influence people are influenced themselves by biases, and because of this, many statistics regarding race and gender are often skewed. This can be due to victims and witnesses more often reporting crimes committed by people of African American or Indian descent, as opposed to crimes committed by people of white European descent. Crimes committed by non-white individuals are nearly 10 percent more likely to be reported; while crimes committed by Caucasian individuals are reported an estimated 40 percent of times, crimes that are committed by African Americans or American Indians are reported at a higher rate of 51 percent of the time.
Statistics show that men are more likely to commit a crime than women are. Nearly 90 percent of violent crimes resulting in death are committed by men. The method of violent crime varies with gender, as well, with 90 percent of murders committed by men occurring with the use of a gun and 40 percent of murders committed by women being performed with poison. This heightened level of violent crime in men can be explained with consideration towards testosterone and the natural male tendency towards aggression that is not as commonly seen in women.
Criminals that are attributed with the heavier crimes are often young males. People are most likely to commit crimes during their teen years and their twenties. Age is a major factor in relation to crime due to the influence of peers at young ages (14 – 29) in the workplace or in schools.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
Many of the people who turn to a life of crime do not do it because they are bad or unstable people; quite a few of them feel that a life of crime is the only way that they can make end’s meet for themselves and their family. People resort to a variety of crimes, from petty theft of a loaf of bread to something as drastic as disability fraud, in order to care for their family. Many times, these people can be helped and steered away from the life that they have begun to live with proper intervention and guidance.
Where can it all End?
A life of crime may be glamorous to some, but the reality is that such a lifestyle is dangerous both to the criminal and those around them. Searching for the causes of criminal behavior is only the beginning to determining how to lower crime rates in society, and it must be followed by behavior adaptation and therapy to fix the root issues.