Psychology Of Crime

Several psychological factors that figure into why people commit crimes.

1. General: The Spiritual Equipment of Man

As in the case of good health, normal spiritual equipment is also a blessing. When defects occur, a crime may be committed. The spiritual equipment of man consists of:

a) The natural urges or instincts

Man is born with a variety of urges, and they exist to ensure the preservation and survival of himself, and of his species.

These urges occur in different strength or intensity in respect of different people. Even in one person, some urge may be more acute than another, or certain combinations of strong and weak urges may be present in a person.

With most people these urges are satisfied in a natural way; e.g. when a person is hungry, he eats, and when he is thirsty, he drinks. Sometimes an urge may be extraordinarily strong, or a person may be unable to satisfy the urge. This may give rise to crime.

The most important urges which are found in all people are the following:

- The nutritive urge (hunger):

This urge determines whether you are hungry or thirsty. If it is over-developed or not satisfied, it may lead to theft.

- The sexual urge:

That is the urge to procreate, and have a family. Deviations may lead to rape, prostitution, homosexuality, etc.

- The herd instinct (gregarious):

That is the urge to be together in groups, to be a part of a family or a nation. If a child is rejected in a family, he may become a member of a gang or a "hippy" colony, in order to satisfy this urge.

- The activity urge

The human being must always be busy. This finds expression in labour and active leisure. When he is inactive, he becomes bored and may think about something to do, which may eventually be to his detriment.

- The self-assertion urge

Everyone cherishes a feeling of appreciation for one's self and keenly wants to attain success and fame. When no one takes notice, he will try to attract attention, e.g. by playing truant, running away from home, stealing a car, etc.

Although we can distinguish among these basic urges they can never be separated. There is a powerful mutual interaction and that determines an individual's personality and affects his behavior to a considerable degree.

b) Temperament

Temperament concerns the manner in which an individual's spiritual energy takes its course, and is noticeable in his conduct. It can also be called an individual's personality. Thus we find that some people are surly, while others are friendly; some welcome conversation and easily make friends, while others are reserved; some are impulsive, while others are calm. One's way of conducting oneself reveals one's temperament. Temperamental instability is often found among delinquents. Temperament is closely aligned to attitude.

c) Feeling or emotion

An emotion usually originates as a result of something you see, hear or think about. This feeling amy be pleasant (e.g. love, gladness) or unpleasant (hate, jealousy, rage). The result of this feeling is a certain action, like assault or murder. Man's life is thus affected to a large extent by his feelings or emotions, and therefore it is accorded a distinct place in the causation of anti-social behavior.

d) The will

Throughout one's life, one is faced with choices. One must decide, e.g. on a study course, a job, a life companion, etc. often one must choose between two conflicting aims, e.g. a student has to write a test. He has to choose between staying at home and studying or going to the theatre or swimming pool. The choice he makes will reveal what he considers the most important. If he chooses to study, and abides by his decision, he has a strong will.

Delinquents often have weak will-power. They are easily led astray by friends who persuade them to do something wrong. They protest, but cannot stick to a choice. One can, of course, also choose to do the wrong and the bad.

e) The mind or intellect

Mani is distinguished from the animal by his mental faculties, or the talents of thinking, reasoning, observation, considering, meditation and planning. He is able to do this only because he has a superior mind, or intellect, which controls his acts or omissions.

People who are intellectually super-normal are sometimes apt to become bored and frustrated on the level of the common normal life, and then they sometimes apply their superior mental power to criminality. In these cases, the crime generally is well planned and the crime techniques so refined and perfected, that many are never discovered or brought to account.

However, investigation has proved that about 60% of persons who commit crimes have a reasonably low intelligence, and have failed a year of school once or more.

This type of person has difficulty in obtaining work, and to stay employed. This results in unemployment, and in order to obtain money, he commits a crime. The crime pattern is usually characterized by clumsiness without refined planning. This type of criminal is caught more easily than the more intelligent criminal.

Some people suffer from other mental abnormalities such as psychoneurosis and psychosis. Their behavior, as well as that of the psychopath, generally is characteristic of their psychic aberrations and their crimes are typical of their mental ailment.

f) Character

Character is the moral part of the personality that regulates daily behavior. If a person has defects in their character such as aggressiveness, cunning, intolerance or brutality, he will find it difficult to rationalize between right and wrong in moments of emotional upset and will not be able to exercise self-control.

2. Self Concept

The self-concept has been identified as a very important aspect in human life: a person must be able to have respect for himself; to be "his own best friend". This is how a person sees himself. If a person believes that he is worthless, and that society does not care what happens to him, this attitude (self-perception) may well lead to crime.

3. Stress

Stress can lead to irrational conduct, even to crime. If a person labors under severe emotional distress, that person may feel compelled to act in socially unacceptable manners. Stress has become a major problem in modern life, leading to broken families and deviant behavior.

4. Aggression

Aggression and violence often go together. Aggression can be defined as any form of behavior aimed at the partial or total, literal or figurative, destruction of an object or person. The word "violence" is used to describe acts of aggression.

5. Depression

Depression can be a psychosis and also a neurosis. A psychosis is a severe mental illness in which insight was lost. Persons with psychotic depression might believe that the sins of the world are upon them, and that they are a burden to society.

In the case of a neurotic depression, insight will be retained.

A person suffering from depression may believe that life is pointless, so that he might as well "escape" to criminality.

6. Mental Aberrations

The most important mental aberrations are the psychoses, which are severe mental illnesses; notably paranoia and schizophrenia. There are also the neuroses; anxiety states, obsessional compulsive states, hysterical neuroses, dissociative states and neurotic depressions.

There are also organic psychoses; where the mental illness flows from an organic defect in the body of the patient.

It is not difficult to see that any of these conditions could lead to deviant behavior.

7. Personality disorders

Psychopathy, addictions and deviances can be listed under personality disorders.

Once there is a disintegration of personality, deviant behavior can be expected.

Many serious crimes are committed by persons whose personalities do not conform with the norms accepted by society.

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