Factors that influence crime – Social Psychology

There are those who think of criminals as sick and maladjusted people who deserve rejection, and the basis of this is marginalization. Crime has been understood as a social problem, so our ancestors understood that laws had to be created to discourage these behaviors.

There are multiple factors that promote delinquency in maladjusted individuals (for example, the economic factor). In this Psychology-Online article you will find listed the factors that influence crime according to social psychology.

Psychology of crime

The mandatory laws led to the creation of the judicial instance, although this has not been without problems, one of which is achieving proportionality between the crime committed and the punishment to be received, for which it is necessary to know with certainty the degree of rationality.

Here the debate about the criminal age begins. In Spain, people under 16 and over 70 are prevented from entering prison. The age of consensual sexual relations is above 13 years. It is also taken into account when rationality is altered, it must be taken into account whether the person when he committed the crime was in possession of all his mental faculties, this is where the psychologist’s work began.

What is crime?

Crime is not something universal (incest, abortion, drugs, euthanasia,…) but depends on times and cultures. Crime has a great social relativity. Universal crimes They are the ones who threaten people’s lives. A crime would be “any action or omission that is considered harmful to the public welfare or morals or to the interests of the state and that is legally prohibited.” Depending on the perspective we will focus on society or on the person.

Crime as deviance

One of the oldest perspectives has been to understand crime as deviance. Criminals violate norms accepted by the majority. The deviation seems to fulfill two functions:

  • Promotes social stability: If we did not fear a rejection of a prohibited act, we would not follow the norm (if we were not fined, we would not respect the safety limits). If there were no one who transgressed the norm, we could not consider ourselves positive.
  • Group cohesion: Promotes group integration. If we perceive that there are people who transgress norms, we unite to defend ourselves against them.

Perspectives in the study of crime

There are two perspectives to understand crime: placing responsibility on the individual or on society. In the latter case, the criminal is actually the victim, since society has created rules that the individual cannot follow (crime is understood as a social disease). From this perspective, attempts are made to change the social conditions that favor crime. The point is to try to integrate the two perspectives and distribute responsibility between the individual and society.

Individualistic perspective

The subject is studied as a criminal, criminal behavior. The cause that leads a person to commit a crime is sought; aggressiveness has been thought of as the main cause.

Lambroso’s theory of social pathology tried to explain crime based on physical characteristics, organic alterations, he tried to make a typology of criminals based on physical appearance. He understands society as a body and illness would be a dysfunction between its parts. For Eysenck, the offender would be one with a high score in neuroticism and high extraversion.

Sociological perspective

From here, crime is explained based on the social structure, the process of social interaction or the established social system. Durkheim’s Structural Functionalist Theory focuses on social structure. He introduces the concept of anomieAccording to him, crime is the result of the lack of norms. The causes of this are: excessive division of labor, little collective consciousness and great individualism. Merton also criticizes social structure as a cause of crime.

Authors who attribute the cause of crime to the established social system point to three factors: migration, industrialization and urbanization. What interests us above all are theories that focus on social interaction processes. Sutherland’s theory points out that criminals learn by interacting with other criminals. They highlight the importance of peer groups to promote criminal behavior.

There are groups that impose breaking the norm as rules. Establishes the importance of social ties, which prevent criminal contacts (family, friends, work,…) Tannenbaum’s theory of social labeling points out the interest of the social reaction to crime. The reaction of non-criminals when putting a label is important, because it has consequences (they behave as such).

Psychosocial perspective

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory points out the importance of social groups and the media as learning channels. Any aggressive behavior can become a model, there is persuasion from peers. Self-persuasion is used to adapt your attitudes to external behavior. They look for ideas to convince themselves that what they do is right (“although it is true that I stole from him, he has a lot of money”). From there reinforcement occurs.

Leyens and others (1985) did an experiment in a camp in which the children were divided into aggressive and non-aggressive children, and these in two, each group living in a cabin. They were shown an aggressive film and a neutral film, taking pre- and post-test measurements.

All those who watched aggressive films accentuated aggressive behaviors, but the non-aggressive ones only did so in the presence of observers (they did so in search of a reward or reinforcement) but returned to their baseline shortly after. However, in the aggressive ones, the aggressiveness did not return to its baseline.

Factors that influence crime

There is some correlation, but we cannot say that it is the cause. The economy is related to another series of factors that in turn influence crime:

  • Family system: large families, family disintegration, domestic violence, family abandonment,…
  • Truancy: If they don’t go to school they don’t learn and they won’t be able to do jobs in the future. Furthermore, during the hours when they are not at school they are not with children their age, but rather with older children from whom they learn model behaviors. School failure is related to learning criminal behavior. They end up abandoning the educational process and begin to frequent other gang environments of boys like them.
  • Relational environment: The child begins to have a very restricted environment, with non-positive characteristics, which teaches him a language code. The leader is usually someone with contact with the world of crime (e.g. has a family member in prison).
  • Poor housing conditions, health,…

All of this contributes to marginalization, a situation that in itself maintains the process, becoming a chronic situation.

Psychosocial characteristics of risk subjects and criminals. The subjective components of the process of consolidating marginalization: For the subject at risk, thinking about any form of approach to non-marginal people or groups means:

  • Before the non-marginal group: expectations of not being accepted, avoiding contact.
  • Before the marginal group: expectations of being rejected, avoiding distancing.

We must prepare the teachers of those children who come from marginalized families. There are two personality characteristics that are the result of this situation of marginalization:

  • Rational insecurity
  • Situational insecurity:

It is characterized by the way in which that person explains the context that surrounds them. It speaks of external attributions, which influence a decrease in motivation, generating a situation of helplessness. The most important thing for this person is what represents immediate reinforcement, which he achieves through illegal acts. This is creating a chronic situation, marginalization. The attributions external They are related to a lack of empathy and moral responsibility (they do not care what happens to others).

Juvenile and female delinquency

When we think about crime we think about violent crimes, and it is increasingly common for them to be committed by young people. In 1952 Burt studied youth violence, which has been a fundamental topic in Social Psychology. The reasons for its importance are:

  1. The people involved in the judicial process (prisons were designed for adults, and the fact that there are more and more young people is a problem)
  2. Juvenile delinquency not only affects the person who commits the crime, but also the family in which he or she is immersed (when it is an adult who commits the crime, this is not important). It generates feelings of guilt, social rejection,…
  3. Juvenile delinquency represents a development process that has been truncated.

To understand the delinquency The concept of criminal involvement (the reasons that lead a young person to commit a crime) is important. Knowledge of the rules is important (not only for serious crimes, but also for petty theft). When a crime is committed, there is self-persuasion, it is downplayed or justified.

According to the Theory of Management Euler’s reputationFor most young people, breaking the rules is a desire to achieve a reputation that cannot be achieved at school, it is a way of maintaining status. More crimes are committed at an early age due to the importance of the opinions of others. The majority are children, because more is demanded of them since they will be parents and should not fail in school.

Female Crime

Female delinquency has been studied recently. Until recently this topic was not talked about, because women were not incorporated into the social sphere. At first it was not understood why it was so rare and why it has always been related to the role of victim. As she has been incorporated into the social sphere she has also begun to commit crimes, the delinquency feminine has gone from the private to the public. The most frequent crimes referred to the roles they had (child abuse, theft of property,…). Today they are related to drugs, crimes against property and against people.

There is a study carried out in Spanish prisons that highlights the characteristics of female prisoners. The average age is 25 years, we hardly find older women in prison. Most are separated or divorced. The family is usually large, with a high illiteracy rate, broken family, deficient population, the majority have not finished school and are usually people who are on the margins of society, with a history of drug use. They have a criminal record but in the company of gangs, parents, husband or brothers. Approximately 15% have gone through…

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