Factors of Committing Crimes Essay

You’re sitting in your living room watching the news, and as you’re watching the news, all you hear about is how this person robbed a bank, how someone hijacked a car, how this person killed this person, etc. The first question to pop up in your mind is, “What possesses these people to do such things? ” We can come up with a few suggestions of possibilities, but is there really an answer to “Why do people commit crimes? ” This is a question which many people wonder about every day. People commit crimes for many reasons.

According to researchers they believe that people commit crimes due to the environment they in live, others believe it can be the cause of poor parenting, while others blame genetics. Let’s begin with Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Power of Context. ” In the article Gladwell theorizes that context, or external pressure, contributes much more to an individual’s behavior than previously thought. The context that Gladwell refers to can be defined by the situation an individual is in. A particular situation can have influencing factors, such as people or the environment that he or she is surrounded by.

He further argues that his concepts, such as the “Broken Windows Theory”, are the main reasons for the dramatic fall of crime rates in New York during the 1990s. In this case, the broken window is a signal that the community in New York was neglected, causing others to commit other types of crimes too. Once the window is repaired, people will feel less neglected and refrain from committing other crimes. His main focus of his argument is that people are affected by their surroundings more than what they think.

The influence that our environment has on us is the primary factor he uses to explain the “Broken Windows Theory”. Here, he describes a broken window left as it is and not being repaired. Because the window is left broken, he feels that people will cause more damage to the property. As he goes on to explain, the reason he states for the window gradually worsening in condition is because people see the damage so therefore it is a sign that no one really cares. This leads people to believe they can commit crimes too, in many cases, more violent: Muggers and robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they reduce their chances of being caught or even identified if they operate on streets where potential victims are already intimidated by prevailing conditions. If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passerby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place. ”(Gladwell, 2009, p. 155). Gladwell proves his theory with evidence from an experiment that was held at the Stanford University.

Where people were split into two groups of prisoners and guards, the guards eventually abusing their power by ordering them to engage in physical exercises and wear bags over their heads. While the prisoners ended up rebelling and barricading themselves in their cells. Another theory would be Siegmund Freud’s theory. One of his theories was the “pleasure principle. ” “This basically means that humans have basic unconscious biological urges and a desire for immediate gratification and satisfaction”(Bryant, 2000-2013).

Freud believed that if gratification and satisfaction could not be acquired legally, people would instinctively try to do so illegally. Freud also believed that we learn right from wrong when we are children and we also learn to control our desires. He believed that morals are instilled as a young child from their parents and that if these were missing it’s because of poor parenting. So in essence he is saying that if our parents teach us as children to control our desires and properly teach us right from wrong, we wouldn’t have desires to acquire things illegally.

For example, a thief’s desire is to have money to survive. So what does this thief do, he goes out and robs either another person or maybe a convenient store or even a bank, acquiring his need for money in an illegal way. Freud’s theory is proven by the simple fact that the thief had poor parenting because he basically had no morals or regrets to what he had just done. Freud’s theory is proven also in the aspect that the thief had no control over his urges, because if he did he would have never made the decision to rob.

Albert Bandura’s theory exposes that, “delinquent and criminal behavior is learned via the same psychological processes as any other behavior: through learned and repeated exposure to rewards (reinforcements) that support the behavior. ”(Bryant, 2000-2013). Bandura may have a point with this theory because even Goetz from Gladwell’s “The Power of Context” was a stereotype that fits Bandura’s theory. Goetz was raised by his father who used him as a target to let out his daily anger, which was why he had psychological issues. Goetz shot four Afro-American in a subway train in New York City.

Gladwell blames the environment around Goetz but Lillian Rubin believes that Goetz still would shoot those four males in a different scenario because of his problems. “Goetz would have shot those four kids if he had been sitting in a Burger King. ” “Psychiatrists talk about criminals as people with stunted psychological development, people who have had pathological relationships with their parents, who lack adequate role models. Gladwell, 2009,p. 159). Bandura believes that people observe others’ behaviors and decide whether or not to adopt them.

He feels that certain things, personality patterns for example, come from modeled behavior, usually the behavior of the parents. He did an experiment with different groups of children. He placed a blow up doll in a room and placed the first set of children in there with an adult that was being aggressive towards the doll. Hitting it and using harsh words. He then placed the second group with an adult that just played constructively with other toys and showed no aggression or violence towards the blow up doll. He then placed the last group in the room with no adult in there.

Later he placed all children in the room with the blow up doll and noticed that the children that saw the violence and aggression were the most aggressive towards the blow up doll. This goes to show that children do mimic their parents and what they do, yet another prime example of Albert Bandura’s theory. According to Patricia Cohen’s article, “Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look” she establishes that over 20 years ago funds had been withdrawn from the National Institutes of Health because of complaints that were being made regarding genetics being the cause of crimes.

She goes further to say that using biology to explain the history of criminal behavior has been completely ignored by criminologists because they rather focus on other reasons for acts of crimes, such as miserable poverty, guns, addictions, etc. But due to other circumstances, criminologists are now considering that genetics maybe a cause on why people commit crimes. They further state that due to genetics there might be the possibility of high risk for a person to commit a crime if they inherit such traits. “Today the most compelling odern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together. ”(Terrie E. Moffitt,2011). There have been over 100 studies that have proven that genes do play a major factor in crimes. But does not necessarily mean that because someone can have the same genetic tendency does not mean they will become criminals. Others who do not have a genetic tendency can be more likely to commit a crime. According to the article Patricia Cohen states that everyone is in agreement, that there is really no crime gene.

There has been further research focusing on different aspects on what maybe the reasoning behind crimes being committed. “A rash of new research has focused on self-control as well as callousness and a lack of empathy, traits regularly implicated in the decision to commit a crime. ”(Cohen, 2011). An example of this genetic theory, there was a study of 1,000 babies that had been born in New Zealand. The research detailed that at the age of 3 if a child showed barely any type of self-control, he or she would be a higher risk for committing a crime at an older age.

Unfortunately, 43% of those children were convicted of a crime later on in life. In conclusion, this debate will more than likely never end. I personally believe that it is a little of each. I don’t believe that all crime is committed in a premeditated manner. I think that some may be at will, or spontaneously. I do also believe that crime can be part of who we are as people. If we chose to act out or not is something different. I chose not to kill or rob banks. I know that this can be accomplished. While my childhood was not picture perfect, I am able to distinguish the difference between right and wrong.

I know that all people are different, and not all cases are the same, but I firmly believe that crime is a personal choice that people do not have to act on. There are factors of course such as environmental factors, poor parenting and genetics. However, society teaches us that we are not to kill, steal, and set fires or commit rape. Unless these people have been under a rock since birth, these have been part of the law since the time of common law, before it was written in statues. We all have the mentality to know what is right and what is wrong. It is up to us to determine what path we take in our lives.


Bryant, L. (2000-2013). Why Do People Commit Crimes. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/why_do_people_commit_crime.htm. Cohen, P. (2011). Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/arts/genetics-and-crime-at-institute-of-justice-conference.html?pagewanted=all. Gladwell, M. (2009). The Power of Context. The New Humanities Reader, pp. 151-167.