Theoretical Dimensions Involving Criminal Behavior Research Paper

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Criminal Acts and Offender Behavior

Theoretical Dimensions of Criminal Behavior

Laws exist to maintain order and peace and provide for the safety and well-being of all members of society. Acts that disrupt and threaten this system of order are deemed criminal in nature and are therefore punishable by law. The psychology of criminal behavior addresses the thought processes that result in deviant acts and the motivations that drive them. It is believed that criminal types operate from a self-centered framework that shows little, if any regard, for the safety and well-being of others (Merton, 1968).

There are generally three broad theoretical models of criminal behavior: biological, psychological, and sociological. Most theoretical models overlap in their analysis and point to the genetic predisposition of some individuals toward criminal behavior, as well as environmental influences (Morley & Hall, 2003). Most commonly both play a part in developing a person's tendency to engage in criminal activity. Criminal psychology examines the motivations, thoughts and intentions of those who defy the law on a habitual basis. The need to continually deviate from societal norms plays a large role in the psychological make-up of a criminal.

Abnormal psychological processes may have a variety of causes -- a diseased mind, inappropriate learning or improper conditioning, the emulation of inappropriate role models, or a lack of adjustment to inner conflicts (Raine, 2002). Certain personality traits such as aggression and impulsiveness are also common among offenders. Some of these personality dispositions have hereditary causes and are linked to chemical imbalances within the brain brought about by gene mutations. These mutations target certain neurotransmitters, or chemicals, that regulate aggression and inhibitions (Morley & Hall, 2003). Dopamine, MAO, serotonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine are the most common neurotransmitters affected.

If a person possesses psychologically disturbing genetic coding, the likelihood that he or she will commit criminal acts within his or her lifetime increases. This genetic theory of criminal behavior became the basis for the past practice of sterilizing criminals, particularly those found guilty of sexual violence (Merton, 1968). Twins were often used to
...The tendency of monozygotic or identical twins (an egg fertilized by a single sperm cell that divides to produce two cells with like DNA) separated from birth to both participate in criminal activities were confirmed, implying a high correlation between criminality and genetics (Rhee, 2000). Similar studies support this theory. Criminal tendencies were also identified in children who were given up for adoption by their incarcerated mothers when they were born. It was shown that criminal mothers had a high tendency to give birth to criminal children, even if these mothers did not raise the children themselves (Raine, 2002). This implies a hereditary predisposition toward offender behaviors and crime.

Similarly, personality disorders can be essential in the diagnosis of individuals with antisocial or criminal behavior. These traits and disorders are often evident from childhood. Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Conduct Disorder (CD) are three of the more prominent disorders that have been shown to have a relationship with later adult behavior (Morley & Hall, 2003). ODD is characterized by argumentativeness, noncompliance, and irritability, which can be found in early childhood (Holmes et al., 2001). As a child with ODD grows older, the characteristics of their behavior tend to evolve into dishonesty, theft, vandalism, substance abuse and aggression towards peers. ADHD is associated with hyperactivity-impulsivity and the inability to keep attention focused on one thing (Morley & Hall, 2003). CD is characterized with an individual's persistent violation of societal rules and norms. This disorder can only be diagnosed when an individual is over the age of eighteen -- the point at which a trend can be identified. It is of great importance that these disorders are correctly diagnosed early in life and effectively treated to prevent future problems.

Hereditary and biological factors alone do not ensure a person will lean towards deviant behaviors. There has always been a debate among criminologists regarding nature vs. nurture (Rutter, 2006). Anti-social inclinations are often magnified when environmental factors such as an abusive and violent childhood or poverty are also present.…

Sources Used in Documents:


Holmes, S.E., Slaughter, J.R., & Kashani, J. (2001). Risk factors in childhood that lead to the development of conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 31, 183-193.

Merton, Robert K. (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

Morley, K., & Hall, W. (2003). Is there a genetic susceptibility to engage in criminal acts? Australian Institute of Criminology: Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, 263, 1-6.

Raine, A. (2002). The biological basis of crime. In J.Q Wilson & J. Petrsilia (Eds.) Crime: Public policies for crime control. Oakland: ICS Press.

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