The causes of crime are many and they range from genetic to environmental. This article is going to discuss the causes of crime in different studies, predisposition of deviant individuals to alcoholism, drug abuse and crime, parental and youth programs to curb drug and alcohol abuse, basis of the policy of deviance in crime and its meaning.
Causes of Crime
Research has been done on identical twins to search for the causes of asocial personality disorder and their relation to crime. Identical twins were used because their genetic make up is exact. The results showed that identical twins were twice as likely to be involved in criminal behavior as their counter parts than fraternal twins. The study also showed that adopted children (not brought up by their biological parents and so environment not the same) had similar rates of crime as their biological parents than the parents who adopted them. Understanding the psychological basis of crime is important when determining the severity of punishments of criminals.
Researches have also been done on brain activity and it indicated that there are neurochemicals, serotonin among them, which decrease aggression. Dopamine was found to increase aggression. This is a hormone produced in the brain and it increases activity in an individual, as well as aggression. Other hormones like testosterone have been studied in animals for their effects on aggressive behavior, and they were found to increase aggressive behavior. Increase in cortisol on the other hand increases attention and activity, and low levels decrease the attention span, decreases activity, and antisocial behaviors are common.
Environmental and Social Causes
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
The influence of social factors like alcoholism and drug abuse is very strong on predisposition to crime. Individuals commit crime in search for money to buy the drugs and the drugs in turn give them more courage since they impair judgment, reducing the inhibitions to socially unacceptable acts. "Stranger violence" is a crime commonly associated with alcohol use where the drug abuser attacks a stranger whenever they may be at the same time and it is usually without reason. Violent crimes like rapes, robbery and murder have been found by criminologists to be associated in this act in up to 30 - 50% of cases. The person being attacked may be also under the influence of the drugs making him an easy target since he may not aware to the surrounding or is in a secluded place where he abuses the drugs. Ramesh has supported the contribution of alcohol and drugs to crime in his article, indicating that drugs by far have a major role in causing crime as compared to mental illness. A study was carried out on 11700 patients with mental health problems showed that the crime that is done by mentally ill people was mainly due to drug use especially alcohol abuse, the contribution of the illness being minimal.
Other Social and Environmental Causes
A pattern has been found in violence and thus crime in family histories that are not associated with genetic factors. The pattern arises because parents who are antisocial mistreat their children as they grow up, resulting in poor upbringing of children and they end up being like their parents. Neglected children and those abused especially sexually have been found to be involved in criminal activities in their later years than those who are brought up well.
Lack of proper education has been studied in prisons and its association with crime. It has been shown that many criminals can not read or write and those who could read and write could only do it in not more than the levels of elementary schools. The criminal activity is due to lack of employment or insufficiency of their employments due to their low education levels, and so they resort to crime in search for money or because of idleness.
Peer influence also plays a big role as a cause of crime. This is especially so in those young children who do not meet their academic expectations and so resort to crime as they believe in so doing they will earn more respect and status of some kind. The respect, street credibility and status from antisocial behavior criminal acts may be earned only among the gang members, encouraging them do commit more crime.
Easy accessibility to tools of violence and crime like handguns and firearms has also being noted to be an independent cause of crime. The criminals use these tools to defend themselves from afar, enabling them to go about their businesses without fear and this attracts new members to the gangs.
Parental and Youth Programs to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Use
The primary goal of programs to prevent alcohol and drug use should be to educate their targets about the consequences and effects of alcohol and drug abuse. Many programs have being set-up for this purpose.
The U.S. departments of health and the Human Services Substance abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) have an initiative known as Too Smart to Start and they are aimed at reducing or eliminating alcohol abuse in young children and teenagers. SAMSA holds parents responsible for alcohol abuse in children as it has been noted that many parents introduce their own children to drinking. Annual National night-out meetings are organized by SAMHSA reminding the children of the effects of underage alcohol abuse. SAMHSA also uses other methods like the Too Smart to Start which depicts many features of the effects of alcohol abuse especially in children.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) has benefited the U.S. and many other countries around the world through its program where police officers educate children to avoid activities like alcohol use, joining gangs and engaging in violence. Skills in avoiding peer pressure and benefits of good behavior are also taught. D.A.R.E. also educated the police officers on a non-profit basis.
Bears Against Drugs (BAD) educates kindergarten to twelve grade students about discipline, benefits of graduation, dealing with strangers and respect for oneself and others. It is sponsored by schools, non-profit organizations and churches.
These programs and others have been proven useful in crime control and similar programs and projects should be encouraged.
Deviance and Crime
Deviance can be described as "nonconformity to social norms and expectations". The norms and expectations vary as they could be moral, political or religious. Moral norms are seen in those concerned about their sexual behavior for instance. It has been noted that deviation may occur from all social norms. Deviance in an individual can only be determined after considering the social and cultural background that he comes from since different cultures have different norms and expectations. The deviants may be sexual, political (those who have totally different political views and ideas), religious (joining a minority religion that is not recognized by normal people), or at the worst, behavior that is against the rules or the law of a particular region. Going counter to the law links criminality and deviance.
Deviance, Crime, Self-Control and Public Policy
Some authors have described lack of self control to be the root cause of deviance and crime. They claim that self-control can be enhanced in the first ten years of life as it is dynamic at this age. Early childhood programs should be developed to enhance socialization with the parents, so that their self-control is enhanced; and deviance and crime reduced. Some policies that have been set forth include the rehabilitation programs for the offenders, increasing incapacitation and increasing the number and training of the police. Some authors believe that these policies are not the best, and prefer public policies that lead to a long-term prevention of crime like the one of socialization of parents and children. Another policy supported by the authors is that of situational crime prevention, where an individual is held responsible for criminal activities around him, as this has been shown to instill self-control, and thus reduce deviance and crime.