Theories of crime differ not only by the approach but the discipline they are trying to explain the main motivations, triggers and behavior or criminals. Anthropology is looking at human and cultural aspects, while psychology is examining the thoughts and mental patterns leading to committing crime. Still, sociology is one of the most complex approaches that looks at the society’s role on human behavior and mental state. The below paper is designed to compare different crime evaluation methods from all three disciplines in order to compare their effectiveness and theories.
Crime Comparison: US vs. Foreign Cultures
According to a recent report on international crime, (OECD, 2012) levels of reported crime differ between developed and developing countries. However, it is important to note that the number of reported crimes might not necessarily be equal to the number of total incidents. Culture determines whether the person is willing to report the crime, not to mention that even in the Western cultures there are many domestic violence cases going unreported. According to Marsh (2006, p. 10.), the underestimation of criminal activity can have different reasons: embarrassment, fear, not being aware of their rights or not trusting the police system. That said, there is indeed a need to examine foreign and US crime using three different disciplines’ approach, as victims’ and criminals’ behavior does depend on sociological, psychological and anthropological dimensions. As the legal system in different countries provides various tools and methods for reporting, investigating and prosecuting crime, any comparison based on reported incidents, convictions would need to be adjusted based on country-specific variables. This is why there is a need for socio-economic, anthropological and psychological approach as well to assess crime levels, determine what the patterns show and how they can be reduced based on the given country’s characteristics.
According to a study published by the Congress, (Finklea, 2009), in the United States, organized crime is one of the major issues. Organized crime gangs usually consist of international networks, and often involve minority groups. Therefore, the psychological, anthropological and social studies of criminals involved in organized crime can be useful to determine the patterns and create a prevention framework that is able to identify the main activities, the risk factors for individuals who are likely to be “drawn in” to organized gangs and later on into international organizations. Prevention should be the main aim of all research and all three disciplines are able to provide research and information to developing a country-wide policy for crime reduction.
Anthropology approaches regarding crime have long been debated, as Marsh mentions. There have been different brain surgeries, examinations and George Bush’s Federal Violence Initiative (p. 17.) trying to determine biological factors for criminal behavior. However, this approach does provide many opportunities for opposition to claim that diversifying criminals’ profiles based on anthropology is a source of discrimination.
Petrus (2012) studied the South African strikes and protests from the anthropological point of view. The author found that strike and protest was present in the culture and traditions of the country, and this way, the crime associated with these activities was regarded less serious than it would have been in America, for example. Even though violence was involved, it was a part of the nation’s accepted behavior to express dissatisfaction. Petrus (p. 142.) states that “protesters may share a common perception that violence is justifiable is reflected in the
second characteristic of culture”. He calls South Africa a “struggle culture”, which means that violence is often associated with strike and protest. Indeed, violence has different meanings: reflects people’s values, acts as a way of communication and expressing one’s opinion. The way South Africans express their opinion, however, might not be acceptable in the Western world. Therefore, while the West looks at these acts as serious crimes and chaotic conditions in the country, the general rule for the police is to only intervene when other members of the society are in danger by the demonstration. The role of violence is completely different in a resistance culture than a democratic system.
Petrus’ (2012) review of the anthropological explanation of criminal activities and violence in South Africa has revealed the differences in cultures based on the level of violence and crime they are able to tolerate, as well as the different meanings of violence in each culture. Indeed, when judging crime levels and criminal activity problems in different countries, an anthropological approach is useful to fully understand the patterns and effects of the acts.
Psychology of Crime
Criminal psychology has evolved in the past few decades significantly, with several theories of crime evolving every year. The psychological approach, too, has been attacked by several researchers, stating that the use of this discipline during trials and the psychological assessment provides criminals an excuse for committing crimes instead of judging them independent of their crimes. Many state that not all kids from disadvantaged background would go around selling drugs, however, studying the patterns of human development and behavior is indeed a useful discipline when understanding different trends in criminology and developing frameworks for reducing crime
Gross (2012, p. 189.) talks about the objectivity of criminal investigation based on psychology and this is a very important issue. While examining the psychological motivations of criminals, investigators and researchers also have to measure the reactions and impacts on the victim’s life caused by the offender. Decisions need to be made based on considering both sides. While a criminal activity might be motivated by distress (p. 149.) it might cause even greater distress for the victim.
Further, there is a need for examining the different psychological elements of crime: psycho-chemical, physiologico-sensory, psychological, physiologico-motor and the process of perception. Psychology in criminal research can provide frameworks and tools to determine the reliability of accounts at court or statement taken by the police.
The most accepted theory of criminal psychology comes from Freud, stating that criminal activities are triggered by the unconscious mind, creating destructive energy. (Quoted in: Sammons, 2012) Bowlby (1944), however, approaches the problem from a more psychoanalytic aspect; stating that maternal deprivation is the main source of juvenile delinquency. Indeed, several studies have been created to prove this thesis, still observing the pattern should not provide criminals an easy escape from responsibility for their crimes. Further, the fact that one is raised in a dysfunctional family would cause a damage to the “superego” and result in anti-social behavior.
Overall, psychological approaches to crime need further testing and evaluation. They can be useful for determining patterns for criminal behavior. For example, Megargee’s theory (Quoted in: Sammons, 2012) can help understanding the connection between anger management problems and really serious crimes, but detecting the given condition before the crime is committed is very unlikely to happen.
There are also several ethical considerations related to mental health assessments, detailed by Kalmbach and Lyons. (2006) Considering the evaluation of the criminal, different conditions need to be disclosed; such as mental illness, mental retardation and participation. Int he case of juveniles, the process has several legal challenges.
Sociology of Crime
Sociological approaches to crime are designed to provide researchers with details on groups that are at risk of getting involved in or becoming a victim of criminal activities. Sociological approaches can help determining patterns based on economic, social and minority status. They sometimes use data from criminal psychology and anthropological studies to support their theories. Sampson (2000) determines the aim of sociological studies of criminal activities as answering the question: “why some individuals commit crimes and others do not”. (p. 711.) When looking at all the disciplines related to crime research, all of them are asking the same question from a different perspective. He defends the sociological approach, stating that family background variables do not indicate higher rate of offending, neither childhood extroversion or egocentricity. (p. 712.) Therefore, he calls for a community-level examination for crime, claiming that it is a more effective way of determining patterns. Instead of individual poverty and low socio-economical standing, he looks at patterns in different groups related to social control, as well as social processes.
The social-process approach of examining criminal behavior have several theories in practice today. The learning theory and Tarde’s Imitation theory states that “important acts of social life are carried out under the domination of example” (Quoted in: Reid, 2011) That also means that the inferior imitates the superior, and the customs of the group are also influencing individual behavior. The more aggressive teaching is present, the lower the level of restriction for criminal activities is, the more likely the individual is to follow that particular path. Modern media is said to have influenced young people, making criminal activities and aggression appear acceptable, and many publications have been created studying the influence of aggressive images in media on the society’s level of crime.
The Social Learning Theory (Quoted in: Reid, 2011) states that criminal behavior is learned the same way any other pattern, therefore, it is not inherited. While this theory is against anthropological approaches and somewhat defies psychology. Sutherland simply states that no person is able to “invent criminal activity” but anyone is able to learn it. Still, that said, what determines whether an individual can be influenced in learning these patterns? Moral values? Personality traits? Support? This brings us back to other approaches, and it is important to insert a side note here that the social learning theory cannot stand strong without being supported by other human behavior studies. One of the important statements of Sutherland, however, should be adapted by criminologists in order to stay objective when assessing delinquency:
“While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values since noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values.” (Quoted in: Reid, 2011)
Aker, (Quoted in: Reid, 2011) however, goes further than that: he states that there is an influence of individual moral judgments, as well as the greater the meaning of the activity is for the person the more likely they will imitate it. Further, family deviance has a strong influence on an individual’s learned behavior patterns. Peer associations also form learned behavioral patterns, and the stronger the relationship is the greater this influence would be.
Control theory does not try to explain criminal behavior, but tries to highlight the patterns that indicate that an individual would obey laws or not. This theory also has a borderline-statement, which needs to be supported by relevant research of other disciplines: when punishment in the family is applied, children would learn to obey. When this parental task is neglected, they would lack the skill of obeying laws. Control theory seems to be the most suitable for creating a framework for preventing crimes, as it states that indirect and direct control of youths can result in lower delinquency rates.
The examination of the three different approaches to studying criminal behavior have been useful in a way that several connections have been identified. Indeed, a few of the theoretical approaches have used interdisciplinary theories. The above review has revealed that in order to successfully determine criminal behavioral patterns in different societies, there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach, where criminologists, law experts, prosecutors, criminal psychologists, anthropologists and sociologist evaluate their own results and reflect on other disciplines’ research and identified patterns. By creating a report that does not claim the superiority of any of the disciplines but builds theories based on findings across different areas of study would provide countries with a conclusive and detailed framework to reduce, prevent and deal with different types of criminal behavior, delinquent and anti-social patterns within the society. Prevention programs can only be successfully developed if the affected groups and patterns are clearly identified.
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