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Psychological Explanation of Criminal behaviour



Crime is the violation of law for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction. While crime is an expression of social maladjustment defined by the law differently under different circumstances; it nevertheless has psychological and biological roots which will be discussed below.

  1. Biological Risk factor for involvement in Crime:

  2. Genetics:-

There is ongoing debate about the role of genetics in human behavior, although research does suggest that some inherited characteristics may contribute to anti-social or criminal behavior. In particular, there is some evidence that suggests a genetic connection with chronic offending and, in particular, property crime. In contrast, there is relatively little evidence about a genetic connection with violent crime.

There is also a relatively limited but growing body of evidence about the risk factors associated with particular genes. For example a genotype that confers a low level of the enzyme monoamine oxidase may predispose an individual to violent or anti-social behavior. The correlation, however, only exists where an individual with that gene has been exposed to abuse as child.

  1. Neuro-transmitters:

Hormones are chemicals used by the body to communicate between cells. Serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are three hormones that have been the focus of research about the links between hormones and criminal behavior.


Low levelsRelation with criminal behavior


Numerous studies have found link between low serotonin activity and childhood conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder and criminal behavior, particularly crimes involving impulsivity.


Neuro-biology focuses on the structure and function of the brain.

There is a strong evidence that links neurological damage to offending. Damage to prefrontal cortex is linked to antisocial behavior. Pre-frontal damage is thought to limit the ability to control impulsive, aggressive feelings, encouraging risk-taking, rule-breaking, emotional and aggressive outbursts as well as resulting in poor reasoning ability, loss of intellectual flexibility and problem solving skills leading to failure in school.

Risk to the developing brain arises even from birth, in the form of agents which may damage the foetus, in particular, cigarettes alcohol and other drugs. The early years of child’s life are also crucial for brain development and negative experiences during this period such as prolonged maltreatment, physical abuse or neglect, can over activate the stress response system causing neurological deficits that predispose an individual to criminality.

Mental Health:

Mental health sits at the intersection of biological (such as genetics and neurology) and social factors (such as post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from trauma or abuse). A research has concluded that, in the age group committing most violent incidents, individuals with mental disorder account for considerable amount of violence in the community.

Other socio-biological factors:

Factor such as low intelligence, poor diet, impulsivity and hyperactivity, hormones such as testosterone and cortisol and environmental pollutants may all affects a person’s biological propensity for criminal behavior.

Social Risk factors for involvement in crime:

  1. Family:

Parental behavior plays a strong role in shaping a child’s risk of later involvement in criminality.

Parental criminality appears to be strongly correlate with an increased risk of a child developing criminal behavior. The influence of parental criminality is complex because of the multiple mechanisms (shared environmental factors, genetic and other biological risk factors, negative modeling by parents) involved that potentially pass on a parent’s risk of criminal involvement to their child.

Poor parental practices such as poor parental supervision and parent’s rejection of a child are modest predictors of subsequent delinquency by the child. Children who experiences severe or harsh parental practices have increased rates of conduct problems and violent crime in early adulthood.

The effect of family influences appear to be greatest during the early years of a child’s life and reduces and they get order although poor parental supervision and low levels of warmth between parents and their teenage children have also been identified as a contributing rich factors for future offending.


Success in education reduces the attractiveness of crime for economic gains. Non-participation in school level education is a risk factor for later delinquency and criminal activity. Greater levels of education ensure greater returns from employment, machining it more attractive than crime.

A low level of parental education (neither parent having school qualification) have also been identified as a risk factor for future offending for children aged under 13 years.


Economic factors such as disparity, deprivation and unemployment put individuals at risk of criminal offending. The balance of evidence suggests a link between disparity and violet crime. The strength off this link is debated but international analysis suggests that a relationship exist after controlling for other factors.

Evidence suggests that deprivation is associated with criminal offending across the spectrum. Socio-economic deprivation is associated with self-report crime and officially recorded convictions, even after controlling for parental, individual, school and peer factors. Unemployment is a predictor of involvement related to crime, but in particular property crimes and not violent crime.

Alcohol and drugs:

The exact relation between alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and crime is complex. Not all consumption of AOD directly leads to criminal offending but sustained abuse of either drugs or alcohol increase an individual chance of becoming involved in crime. Criminal behaviour under the influence of AOD is often affected by other factors, such as mental health, temperament, geographic location and peer influences.

Community & Peers:

Community and per primarily appear to affect antisocial behavior. Neighbourhood effects become more prominent as a child gets older.

Many studies have shown that antisocial peer groups play an important part in the development of deviancy and violence.

Remedies for cure:

  1. Every individual must have a good birth; that is, heredity must be controlled so that only those who are physically and mentally sound are allowed to marry and reproduce.
  2. Every individual must have a good training, both at home and at school, so as to adjust him properly to the social life. His education must fit him to take his place among other men, make him able to take care of himself and to help other; and make him, in every possible way, acquainted with the social inheritance of the race.
  3. He must be provided with just social conditions. Everything in the social environment must be carefully looked after to insure the best development of the individual and to prevent his environment from being in any way a drawback for him.

Prevention Program:

Most prevention programs are based, sometimes implicitly, on one or more of the theoretical understanding of crime. Preventive measures offered by different perspectives are discussed below.


  1. Maternal health initiatives to reduce the incidence of smoking and drinking amongst pregnant women, thereby reducing neurological damage to the developing fetuses.
  2. Public health initiative and policy responses to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption as heavy alcohol use in adolescence are associated with serious neurological damage and long-term cognitive deficits.

Development Life Course:

  1. A focus on pre-and post-natal care to ensure that babies are well-cared for during this important developmental period. Analyzing data about the change in offending over offenders lives to plan government responses.


  1. Early intervention programs in health and education that support the healthy development of child.
  2. Supporting positive parenting practices, which research shows, have a correlation with reductions in risk-taking, anti-social behavior, and alcohol and other drug abuse by adolescent.


  1. Programmes to address multi-generational unemployment for a particular group or in a particular area.
  2. Programmes that build cultural identity and positive community values to list self-esteem and strengthen social connectedness.
  3. Anti-family violence programs that try to change norms and behaviours in relation to family violence.


  1. Using information about the distribution of crime in a neighbourhood to develop an area-specific crime prevention plan with the local community.
  2. Using lighting and better design of pedestrian flow to minimize crime in an area at night.


  1. Improving engagement in education or employment so that the relative benefits of crime are reduced vis-à-vis legitimate economic activities.
  2. Increasing or decreasing criminal sanctions to change the relative disincentive associated with particular criminal activities.

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