Application of theoretical perspectives in criminal behaviors


Case 1: Hot Burglary

This case study applies the theory of psychodynamic approach. This approach assumes that the behaviors, as well as the feelings of adults, are highly influenced by their childhood experiences. Moreover, human behavior and mental issues can be traced beyond human conscious self-control. This case study describes the criminal offender to have had a good life at age 16. However, his behavior changed at age 17 because of what he had experienced earlier in life. Therefore, inner mental forces can influence the behavior as well the state of mind of an individual. Psychodynamic approach tries to analyze and individual mental dynamics to make sense of their experiences and how they view the world. According to the theory, all behaviors have preconditioned determinant. Psychodynamic researchers have identified a strong link between childhood experiences as well as the parent-child relationship and criminal behavior later in life.

Hot burglary is an instrumental crime. This is because the offender commits burglary in order to enrich themselves without their own effort or hard work. Burglary involves unlawful entry into someone’s house with the intention of committing an offense for material gain. Instrumental crimes are committed with the motive of improving the social position of the offender. Therefore, those who commit burglary plan well prior to committing the offense. Acts committed by a large number of burglary criminals are driven by instrumental reasons, for instance getting money to satisfy a particular lifestyle. Hot burglary is an instrumental property crime, which is committed by offenders who make rationale choices to gain wealth. This form of crime is non-emotional.

The developmental pathway involves certain risk factors, which may determine one’s potential behavior later in life. According to Daigle (2012), exposure to certain risk factors throughout the developmental years can influence one’s behavior. For instance, children who experience either physical or verbal abuse from parents throughout their developmental life have increased chances of participating in antisocial or criminal behavior in their lifetime. In addition, belittling children is the most challenging form of child abuse and makes children feel unloved and unwanted. Moreover, psychological maltreatment encourages children to engage in criminal activities in their adulthood (Miller, 2012).

Childhood victimization continues to confront the society as a serious social issue. Any form of child maltreatment results in long-term consequences, such as delinquency and adult criminality. Daigle (2012) connotes that there is a very strong connection between child abuse and criminal behavior later in life. Children who are victims of either abuse or neglect face later negative consequences, which are manifested through criminal activities. Moreover, emotional abuse of children affects their mental health and result in serious consequences in their adulthood. Nonetheless, there exists a connection between parenting and delinquency in young children. According to Miller (2012), other aspects, such as hostility and rejection may also influence the behavior of children and lead them to criminal activities in their adulthood. Markedly, some parenting behaviors make children feel unwanted and unloved.  For instance, some children get low support and control from their parents and hence feel neglected. Therefore, the parenting and upbringing of children factors highly determine their outcomes in adulthood.

Children who face rejection and grow up in homes with frequent conflicts are at the greatest risk of becoming criminals. Markedly, negative parental influences encourage children to have delinquency behaviors. On the other hand, sound family life prevents criminal behaviors; children who bond with their parents adopt the moral principles that are likely to shape their behavior later in life. Therefore, family life can directly contribute to the development of felonious behaviors. Daigle (2012) argues that the presence of negative family attributes increases the likelihood of children engaging in criminal behaviors later in life. The events children witness in their early stages such as domestic violence has a strong correlation with their subsequent behaviors. Children whose parents had history of engaging in conflicts are at a higher risk of becoming criminals as compared to children brought up in peaceful homes (Miller, 2012).

The offender in this case scenario is a criminal. Hot burglary is classified as a criminal offense since it involves illegal breaking and entering into someone’s house with the aim of committing a crime, for instance, theft. Breaking and entering into someone’s premises at night and committing any form of crime is a criminal offense. A person who enters in someone else’s premises without permission with intention of stealing and later changes his mind is still a criminal and faces prosecution. Therefore, burglary criminals are charged with felony offenses; however, the possible sentences vary greatly among states. In many states, the burglary committed during daytime is described as the housebreaking.  In the United States, many jurisdictions punish burglary more severely than housebreaking. Burglary is governed by the State laws, which indicate the degree of burglary as well as the proceeding sentence. However, Federal laws apply in some instances of burglaries, for instance, bank burglaries.

Case 2: Family Homicide

This case study applies the concept of biological approach. In this theory, bio-psychologists try to explain how the genetic makeup, nervous system, and the hormones can influence human behavior. There exists a strong connection between an individual’s state of mind and some criminal behaviors, for instance family homicide. Nonetheless, some forms of mental disorders such as psychotic disorders are highly associated with criminal behaviors. Violence caused by people with mental disorders has caught the attention of the public as well as the law enforcement officials. Bio-psychologists use the major mental disorders, for instance, psychotic disorders, major depression, and schizophrenia in explaining the relationship between mental disorders and homicide (Helfgott, 2008). Individuals suffering from mental disorders are convicted of homicide crimes more frequently than normal individuals are. Moreover, individuals suffering from psychotic disorders are more likely to kill family members and close relatives than strangers.

Family homicide is an expressive crime since it involves lack of control, strong feelings, and irrationality. The expressive crime is facilitated by the fact the offender and the victim are close to each other. Both the direct contacts as well as the physical contacts are key elements of the expressive crime. Expressive crimes are prompted by emotional reactions, which do not match the situational factors that cause them. These emotional reactions generate bad feelings, which are transformed into anger, and hence crime is committed. However, expressive crime can be either self-directed or expressed directly or indirectly to a close family member. Expressive crimes are not goal-oriented; they are only committed to satisfy the desires of the perpetrators, for instance, to have someone dead.

Helfgott (2008) connotes that the genes throughout the development process influence the human behavior. The difference in personal characteristics observed between individuals is because of genetic differences. The genes influence the development of the human brain. Psychotic disorders are known to run in families. This is associated with several genes that are involved in the development of mental disorders. The genetic make-up of an individual is responsible for their criminal behavior.   According to Miller (2012), Patients with psychotic thoughts are more likely to commit homicidal crime than the other mentally ill patients. Either developmental risk factors, which can be prenatal or perinatal, contribute to the development of mental disorders that result in criminal behavior such as family homicide. Nonetheless, there is no enough evidence in the literature on how genes play role in determining one’s behavior. Criminal behavior can be because of genetic make-up or the environment in which an individual was raised.

Most individuals suffering from mental disorders are strongly associated with homicidal behavior. According to Helfgott (2008), some mentally ill patients develop violent behaviors in their infancy and adolescent stages while others exhibit such behaviors in their adulthood and hence commit the highest number of homicidal crimes. Personality disorders, which are evident in childhood, can contribute to criminal behavior in adulthood. However, not all patients with mental disorders present homicidal behavior.  A previous history of violence during a certain stage of development can be used to judge someone’s potential of committing a crime. Patients who were exposed to aggressive violence in their childhood are more likely to engage in crime than those who had no earlier exposure to violence.  Miller (2012) argues that individuals with personality disorders account for a greater portion of patients with mental disorders who commit criminal offenses. Moreover, non-compliance with treatment has been found to be the major cause of criminal behavior in patients with the severe mental illness. Notably, people with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have trouble controlling their emotions; this can result in criminal behaviors such as mass homicide (Helfgott, 2008).

The offender in this case scenario is a criminal. Notably, a higher number of people in contact with the Criminal Justice System have mental disorders. The number of prisoners with mental disorders is higher than that of the normal prisoners. Each nation has provisions in their criminal laws to prosecute persons with mental illness who commit a crime. Mass murder is a criminal offense since it involves the unlawful killing of humans; this type of criminal offense attracts either a life sentence or death penalty. However, insane inmates cannot understand the purpose of punishment imposed on them since they are out of touch with the reality. Markedly, killing innocent children is wrong. Offenders who present serious mental disorders can be found not guilty by the reason of insanity. On the other hand, a mentally ill individual, who commits a crime with a clear understanding that the behavior is wrong, is considered a criminal.

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Case 3: A Ponzi scheme

This case study applies the concept of behavioral approach in which environmental stimuli influences one’s behavior. Nonetheless, this approach allows the cognitive processes as well as the feelings to be included in its concepts.  In this scenario, the offender acts in violent way and does not care what others will think of him when his acts are exposed. The behavioral approach focuses on the observable behavior of human beings. Behavioral psychology involves the study of personality through behaviorism (Morizot & Kazemian, 2015). Notably, reinforced habits that are often repeated eventually often become part of personality.  Individuals who engage in Ponzi schemes have a common desire of making easy money.

Felony fraud is an instrumental crime since it involves acts, which are designed to improve the financial position of the perpetrator. Individuals who start Ponzi schemes generate huge sums of money. Moreover, scammers of Ponzi schemes con other individuals out of their life savings; this crime applies classic methods in deceiving unsuspecting victims for instrumental gain. Many people are attracted to this kind of fraud with the promises of getting rich quickly within a short period. Ponzi scheme scammers usually have a large customer base in order to ensure the continuity of the business; early investors are paid with money from new investors. However, the fraud is exposed when the cash outflow exceeds the cash inflow. This type of fraud involves making money with minimum effort from a non-existent business idea. The collapse of the Ponzi schemes leaves investors with huge losses.

A person who commits felony fraud such as Ponzi scheme has low self-control since they do not think of the consequences of their behaviors. He or she does not think of the consequences of committing a crime. According to Dion, Weisstub & Richet (2016), lack of self-control is the major factor behind felony fraud. Felony fraudsters do not weigh the risks and rewards associated with their crime; the risks always outweigh the rewards.  Individuals whose parenting in childhood was good often have self-control as compared to their counterparts who were ineffectively parented. Ineffective parenting results in less self-control in adulthood; low levels of self-control have a strong correlation with criminal behaviors such as felony fraud (Miller, 2012). However, self-control improves with age due to the increase in opportunistic costs of losing control. In psychology, the principles of self-control tend to drive an individual to look for pleasures without thinking of the pain caused by the consequences. Nevertheless, the use of drugs can cause cognitive-perceptual distortions and lead an individual to a crime. Therefore, the link between substance use and crime is not directly related but is a result of behavioral alterations caused by the drug’s use. The use of drugs has been associated with poor parenting, genetic traits, as well as antisocial personality disorders.

Certain behavioral characteristics, for instance, anti-social values can lead an individual to criminal behavior. Antisocial behaviors are characterized by intentional aggression and deceitfulness towards others. Morizot and Kazemian (2015) argue that anti-social behaviors are identified in childhood but their severity intensifies overtime, become chronic, and hence influences one’s behavior. Lack of good parenting skills as well conflicts in homes can contribute to the development of anti-social behaviors. Nonetheless, individuals who suffer from anti-social personality disorder are more likely to commit felony fraud than the general population.  The offender in such a case violates the rights of others without regret about their distress. Such people often have a history of behavioral disorder during childhood, for instance, delinquency. However, most people who present with antisocial personality disorder often have traumatic childhood experiences, which result in criminal behaviors in adulthood (Miller, 2012).

Individuals brought up in dysfunctional families have higher chances of committing felony fraud as compared to those nurtured in functional families. Moreover, a person can choose to commit felony fraud because of peer influence, which often persuades people to engage in criminal activities. The major reason, which may force prominent people such as business leaders into the white-collar crime, is the personal attributes like cunning, prone to take risks, greedy, arrogance, charismatic, and aggressiveness (Dion, Weisstub & Richet, 2016). However, these offenders tend to be highly intelligent and of the upper-middle class. Therefore, personality plays a crucial role in criminality particularly in the felony fraud. Lack of integrity fuels criminality; a white-collar criminal may not worry about the punishment, which comes his way when he is exposed. Low self-esteem has also been found to influence criminal behavior.

The offender in this case scenario is a criminal. Felony fraud is a criminal offense since it involves the use of deceptive methods to harm another party with the aim of getting personal benefits. The white-collar crime is a form of crime, which is nonviolent and is motivated by financial gain. This is a serious form of criminal offense since it involves huge sums of money and hence attracts higher penalties than any other types of fraud. However, these penalties differ depending on the laws that are applicable in the offender’s jurisdiction. Penalties for felony fraud include hefty fines and long prison sentences. The offenders of felony fraud have a clear knowledge that what they are doing is false. Therefore, they use deceptive tactics to trick victims out of money.  Ponzi schemes frauds are the most common form of white-collar crimes; huge sums of money are taken from the investors fraudulently.

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  1. Daigle, L. E. (2012). Victimology: A text/reader. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.
  2. Dion, M., Weisstub, D. N., & Richet, J, L. (2016). Financial crimes: Psychological, technological, and ethical Issues. Switzerland: Springer
  3. Helfgott, J. B. (2008). Criminal behavior: Theories, typologies, and criminal justice. Los Angeles: SAGE.
  4. Miller, L. (2012). Criminal psychology: Nature, nurture, and culture: a textbook and practical reference guide for students and working professionals in the fields of law enforcement, criminal justice, mental health, and forensic psychology. Springfield, Ill: Charles C. Thomas.
  5. Morizot, J., & Kazemian, L. (2015). The development of criminal and antisocial behavior: Theory, research, and practical applications. Cham (Switzerland): Springer
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