There are many theories which have been developed in an attempt to explain and understand why individuals turn into criminal behavior. The theories have been many and varied. There are biological theories, socio-biological theories and psychological theories.
Biological theories have based their theory on the belief that there is a connection between criminal behavior and ones biological factors as well as on the environmental factors. The biological factors will include gender, hormones, age, and chemical imbalance. They believe that an individual will engage in criminal behavior as a result of a defect or abnormality which one is born with. One of these theorists was Lombroso who believed that criminals are born and not made. The theorists based their theory on the fact that the chemical or hormonal imbalances in the brain, genetics and the environmental factors may have a role to play in an individual developing criminal behavior.
The sociobiology theory explains criminal behavior by combining social behavior and biological factors. The personality develops from an interaction of biological inclinations and social interactions. The sociobiology theorists believe that some human characteristics can be explained biologically but the social factors play an important role in developing the characteristic. This theory is based on the fact that social environment factors will determine the development of the individual trait (Siegel, 2008). These social factors include poverty, racism, and the neighborhood. However the rate of the development of the biological trait will be determined by the social and environmental factors.
There are several psychological theories which have been developed and will be analyzed in this essay. The essay will give a brief comparison of the three theories in analyzing criminal behavior. There are several psychological theories that have been applied to explain criminal behavior. The psychological theory applies where criminal behavior is explained based on one’s personality which is based on the individual’s way of thinking and a mental analysis on the individual. There are three sub-theories in psychological criminal theories, the psychodynamic theory as supported by Freud, behavioral theory based on learning from experiences and cognitive theory, which emphasizes on mental development.
The psychodynamic theory sub-theory was introduced by Simon Freud who believed that an individual’s personality is divided into id (instinctual drives), ego and superego. Freud psychoanalytic theory believed that a conflict between the three personality growths leads to the breakdown of the function of the superego which is what leads individuals to turn into criminals later in life (Akers & Seller, 2004). Ones conscience is in the superego as it is that part that helps one to restrain from doing what is not right according to one’s conscience. He also believed that the human mind performs either consciously, unconsciously or preconsciously. It is the unconscious mind which is normally controls ones desires which an individual may repress until sometimes in the future. These desires maybe of the criminal mind explaining that children may have suppressed criminal thought until later in life. This theory is supported by theorists who belief that an individual turns into a criminal as a result of a problem that originated from ones childhood and was not dealt with on time.
Another psychological theory was developed by B.F. Skimmer who explained that those who engage in crime do it because they get a reward from the act. Skimmer’s theory is based on the belief that individuals behave in a particular way because there is something to gain or punishment from behaving in a certain way. The gains or rewards can be in form of material gains, admiration by peers, emotional pressure as compared to the punishments which can be imprisonment loss of trust by others, or feelings of shame. This theory was recently supported by criminologist James Q. Wilson and a psychology professor Richard Herrnstein (Treadwell, 2006). The two also argued that crime is an act by an individual with a defective personality where the individual carefully thinks about rationally before engaging in it. They believed that crime is as a result of the social rewards exceeding the punishment.
Winston and Herrnstein disagreed with the biological theory arguing that criminal behavior is not genetically related but instead believed that criminal behavior is more as a result of an individual’s personality. They however believe that there are some unique behaviors an individual is born with and which develops from early childhood which make this particular individual more inclined to be attracted to criminal activities.
The three theories mostly differ in how they differ in the basis of their theories. However biological and psychological theories share the common factor in explaining criminal behavior in that they both focus on the individual and not on the individual social or economic influences. According to biological theorists, it is not possible to deter criminal activities. These theorists recommend that criminals should be removed and kept away from the society if they do not respond to medical treatment. The psychologist theorists believe that the individuals can change their behavior and will normally offer therapy sessions to the individuals.
Understanding criminal behavior is important as it will help in making decisions and in putting effective policies on criminal issues. In understanding why an individual behaves in a certain way, it will be easy to detect the characteristic and possibly prevent an individual from turning into crime. It is also important as by understanding the causes will lead to understanding if the individual can reform.