5 Common Influences on Criminal Behavior

Criminal behavior has been the subject of numerous movies and documentaries lately. Netflix shows like The Confession Tape, Making a Murderer, and Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes are some of the most popular documentaries around the world today. Indeed, fascination with true crime has grown more and more profound, especially among people in the creative industry.

Because filmmakers and authors are becoming increasingly interested in the aspect of crime, there is a tendency for misrepresentation of criminal behavior in cinema and literature. For the purpose of clarification, criminal behavior is defined as the conduct of a person that leads to the commission of an illegal act. To put it simply, criminal behavior serves as the impetus that drives a person to commit crime.

In the United States, around 1.2 million violent crimes and over seven million property crimes were recorded in 2018 alone. These numbers make it clear that crimes remain rampant in the society. Surprisingly, these crimes are committed by only a small percentage of the population. With this, it is worth asking: What really drives a small number of people to commit criminal acts? To answer such question, below are five common influences on criminal behavior that can help people make sense of crime.

Terrible childhood experience

Childhood experiences play a crucial role in shaping criminal behavior. This is one of the main points of Wanda Draper’s interesting novel, The Witness: Unfolding the Anatomy of a Killer. According to research, criminals are likely to have experienced four times as many terrible childhood experiences compared to non-criminals. Children who are raised in dysfunctional families and who experienced certain forms of abuse are at an increased risk for criminal behavior in the later years of their lives. Generally, children need to be nurtured properly to help them to grow up into responsible and empathetic adults.

Adverse social environment

Social environment also helps shape criminal behavior. People with peers that are associated with criminal activities are more likely to engage in criminal behavior eventually compared to those with non-criminal peers. More often than not, peer influence persuades a person to commit crime. The lack of pro-social community involvement also makes it easier for a person to fall into the criminal trap. To avoid this, people should choose their peers carefully and be involved with the community as much as possible.

Low self-control

People with impulsive behavior are more prone to commit crime than those with controlled behavior. In general, self-control helps shape the thoughts and determine the actions of people. Self-control involves the ability of a person to control temperament and impulsivity. Thus, people with low self-control often do things on a whim and without planning at all. They do not think before acting because their minds are focused on present pleasure, and not on the consequences of their behavior. To prevent criminal behavior as much as possible, it is important for people to develop self-control and self-discipline.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse is often linked to criminal behavior. In general, substances such as alcohol and drugs cause changes to the brain and body that negatively impact people’s self-control and decision-making. Once a person becomes intoxicated by these substances, they enter into an altered state that can directly lead them to commit crime. According to research, around eighty-five percent of the prison population in the United States is found to have abused alcohol or drugs. This figure shows how much influence substance abuse has on criminal behavior. To avoid this, communities should implement stricter and more effective measures on preventing alcohol abuse and drug addiction.

Anti-social personality

Criminal behavior is frequently associated with anti-social personality disorder (ASPD), a mental illness characterized by long-term patterns of disregard for or violation of social norms and human rights. Commonly, people with anti-social personality have an impulsive behavior and a low tolerance for frustration. They are also unable to feel empathy and experience guilt. The common signs of anti-social personality include arrogance, impulsiveness, hostility, violence, disregard for right and wrong, and abusive relationships. To treat anti-social personality disorder, a person needs to undergo psychotherapy.

Overall, there are lots of factors and influences that can lead people toward crime. Criminal behavior is not so much of an enigma. People do not just simply participate in criminal activities gratuitously. There is always a reason or an explanation behind every criminal behavior. Nonetheless, this does not serve as a justification for the commission of any crime. As Narendra Modi once said, “A crime is a crime irrespective of the birth marks of the criminal.”

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