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The Social, Individual and Environmental Factors That Can Influence the Commission of Crime

1. Introduction

This essay will explore the various factors that can influence the commission of crime. It will firstly consider the social construct of crime, before going on to discuss the individual and how their personal characteristics can lead them to offend. Next, it will explore social and sub-cultural determinism, before discussing rational choice and environmental criminology. Finally, it will finish with a discussion of offender profiling, looking at both the psychological and sociological approaches.

2. Crime as a social construct

2.1. The structure of crime

In order to understand the commission of crime, it is important to first consider the social construct of crime itself.Crime is not an objective concept, but rather is socially constructed by those in power (such as the government or law enforcement) in order to justify their own interests (Siegel, 2015). This means that what is considered criminal can vary greatly from one society to another, and even within a single society over time. For example, homosexuality was only decriminalised in the UK in 1967, and is still illegal in many other countries around the world. This shows how attitudes towards what is considered criminal can change over time.

The structure of crime can also vary greatly from one society to another. In some societies, there may be a well-defined hierarchy of criminal activity, with certain crimes being considered more serious than others (such as murder being more serious than theft). In other societies, there may be no such hierarchy, and all crimes are considered equally serious. This can again be seen to vary over time, with certain crimes becoming more or less serious as attitudes change. For example, drug use was once considered a minor crime in many Western societies, but is now often seen as a serious offence.

2. 2 The individual and crime

It is also important to consider the individual when trying to understand the commission of crime. There are a number of different theories that try to explain why people may offend, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses.

One theory is biological determinism, which suggests that people are predetermined to commit crime by their genes or their physiology (Siegel, 2015). This theory has been largely discredited by scientific research, which has shown that there is no single ‘crime gene’ or physical characteristic that makes someone more likely to offend. However, some researchers have suggested that certain genetic or physiological factors may make someone more likely to engage in risky behaviour (such as taking drugs), which in turn could lead to them committing crime (Raine, 2013).

Another theory is psychological determinism, which suggests that people are predetermined to commit crime by their mental state or their personality (Siegel, 2015). This theory has some scientific evidence to support it, with studies showing that people with certain personality disorders (such as psychopathy) are more likely to commit crime than those without such disorders (Hare & Babiak, 2006). However, this theory does not explain why all people with these disorders go on to commit crime – it is possible that other factors (such as social environment) also play a role.

A third theory is social determinism, which suggests that people are predetermined to commit crime by their social environment or their upbringing (Siegel, 2015). This theory has some evidence to support it – for example, children who grow up in poverty or who witness violence are more likely to commit crime than those who do not (Zipursky, Cote & Prescott, 2002). However, this theory does not explain why all people who grow up in these environments go on to commit crime – it is possible that other factors (such as personality) also play a role.

2. 3. Social and sub-cultural determinism

Social and sub-cultural determinism is the theory that people are influenced to commit crime by the groups they belong to or the sub-cultures they identify with (Siegel, 2015). This theory has some evidence to support it – for example, studies have shown that people who identify with gangs are more likely to commit crime than those who do not (Worrall, 2006). This is because gang members often see crime as a way to earn respect or to gain status within the group.

2. 4. Rational choice and environmental criminology

Rational choice theory is the theory that people make a conscious decision to commit crime, based on a cost-benefit analysis of the risks and rewards involved (Siegel, 2015). This means that people will only commit crime if they believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, someone may decide to rob a bank if they believe that the rewards (such as money) are greater than the risks (such as being caught and sent to prison).

Environmental criminology is the theory that people are more likely to commit crime in certain types of environments (such as inner-city areas) due to the presence of ‘crime facilitators’ such as drug dealers or guns (Siegel, 2015). This theory has some evidence to support it – for example, studies have shown that people living in inner-city areas are more likely to be victims of crime than those living in rural areas (Kelling & Wilson, 1982).

3. Offender profiling

3.1. Introduction

Offender profiling is the process of using psychological and sociological techniques to try and identify the characteristics of offenders (Bunting & Cross, 2011). It is often used by law enforcement agencies in an attempt to solve crimes, or to prevent future crimes from occurring. There are two main approaches to offender profiling: the psychological approach and the sociological approach.
The psychological approach uses psychological principles (such as personality theory) to try and understand why offenders behave in the way they do (Bunting & Cross, 2011). This approach has its strengths, such as being able to provide insight into the inner workings of an offender’s mind. However, it also has its weaknesses, such as being limited by our current understanding of psychology.
The sociological approach uses sociological principles (such as social interaction theory) to try and understand why offenders behave in the way they do (Bunting & Cross, 2011). This approach has its strengths, such as being able to provide insight into the social factors that may influence an offender’s behaviour. However, it also has its weaknesses, such as being limited by our current understanding of sociology.

3. 2. The psychology of criminal behaviour

The psychological approach to offender profiling suggests that people commit crime because of their mental state or their personality (Bunting & Cross, 2011). This theory has some evidence to support it, with studies showing that people with certain personality disorders (such as psychopathy) are more likely to commit crime than those without such disorders (Hare & Babiak, 2006). However, this theory does not explain why all people with these disorders go on to commit crime – it is possible that other factors (such as social environment) also play a role.

3. 3. The sociological approach to offender profiling

The sociological approach to offender profiling suggests that people commit crime because of their social environment or their upbringing (Bunting & Cross, 2011). This theory has some evidence to support it – for example, children who grow up in poverty or who witness violence are more likely to commit crime than those who do not (Zipursky, Cote & Prescott, 2002). However, this theory does not explain why all people who grow up in these environments go on to commit crime – it is possible that other factors (such as personality) also play a role.

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, there are a number of different factors that can influence the commission of crime. These include the social construct of crime, the individual and their personal characteristics, social and sub-cultural determinism, rational choice and environmental criminology. Each of these theories has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it is likely that the truth lies somewhere in between them. Further research is needed in order to fully understand the complex issue of crime.

FAQ

Some of the main factors that influence why people commit crimes include things like personal gain, opportunity, mental illness, and social disadvantage.

Different types of crime can differ in terms of which factors influence their commission. For example, a crime like robbery is more likely to be motivated by personal gain than something like vandalism, which might be done more out of opportunity or boredom.

Opportunity definitely plays a role in criminal behaviour – if there’s no opportunity to commit a crime, then it’s much less likely to happen.

Poverty or social disadvantage can increase the likelihood of criminal activity, because people in these situations may feel like they have nothing to lose and turn to crime as a way to make money or get what they want.

Certain personality traits can make someone more likely to break the law – for example, impulsivity or recklessness might lead someone to take risks that result in criminal behaviour.

Psychological factors such as mental illness can sometimes lead to criminality – for example, if someone is experiencing delusions or hallucinations, they may act on these and commit crimes as a result.

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"The Social, Individual and Environmental Factors That Can Influence the Commission of Crime." Free Essay Samples - Accessed August 17, 2022. https://essayholic.com/the-social-individual-and-environmental-factors-that-can-influence-the-commission-of-crime/
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