Term Paper: Self-Control Theory of Criminal Behavior Criminal Justice

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¶ … Self-Control Theory of Criminal Behavior

Criminal justice experts and psychologists have continually debated the origin of the antisocial or criminal impulse among individuals who engage in criminal behavior.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the relatively new field of human psychology included the eugenics theory (since discredited as unscientific and invalid) according to which behavioral traits were both functions of inherent personal characteristics as well as identifiable by the relative shape of the skull (Gerrig & (Zimbardo 2005).

Modern psychologists now focus on developmental factors rather than inherent criminal predisposition, but still disagree on the relative roles and the degree to which parental roles and upbringing, society, and genetics play in the formation of the criminal personality. On one end of the spectrum are those who believe that criminal predisposition is explained by genetics and parental roles alone; on the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that neither genetics nor parental roles is as important as purely environmental factors such as social class, economic opportunity, and other societal influences.

Parental Responsibility and the Role of Self-Control:

One of the most commonly identified traits among delinquent youth and adults inclined toward criminality is lack of appropriate impulse control (Gerrig & (Zimbardo 2005). Individuals lacking appropriate impulse control typically exhibit difficulty considering the negative consequences of their actions and often react to situations (or initiate them) despite the relatively obvious and predictable consequences, to themselves as well as to others, of their conduct. Because lack of impulse control is also commonly observed among spoiled and otherwise poorly-parented children, some theorists have concluded that predisposition to criminal conduct is more directly related to parenting and self-control than to any other factor or any other combination of factors outside of the realm of parenting and self-control.

Undoubtedly, parenting is an important component of personality development, affecting the development of self-confidence, ability to trust others, to bond securely within close relationships, to experience empathy for others, and to express and receive affection. In fact, the degree to which early childhood personality development is influenced by parental style is apparent already in infancy, particularly with respect to the profound difference between children whose parents interact with them in a manner conducive to secure attachment and children whose parents interact with them in a manner more conducive to very insecure attachment (Gerrig & Zimbardo 2005).

Likewise, criminologists and criminal profilers have long known of the connection between parental neglect, emotional and physical abuse and the development of sociopathic personality common to many perpetrators of violent crime, domestic abuse, and serial murder (Innes 2007). Nevertheless, not all victims of parental neglect or abuse lack impulse control as adults or become criminals; in fact, most probably do not, despite the fact that those who do tend to share some element of similarity in their childhood experiences. More importantly, many criminals do not have histories of troubled childhood experiences, impulse control issues, or bad parenting. To understand the origin of their criminal behavior in particular, one must consider alternate theories.

The Significance of Race, Economics, and Social Culture:

Very few (if any) criminal theorists completely discount the contributory role of early childhood experiences and parental roles in relation to impulse control in adults.

Still, many experts emphasize the much greater significance of environmental circumstances outside the family, such as race relations in society, economic opportunity or comparative lack thereof), and other elements of social culture that often contribute to the development of criminal predisposition in the individual. According to this view, parental roles and self-control issues are merely two of many contributing factors within more complex interrelationship of developmental elements that correspond to criminal inclination.

Historically, especially during much of the first century following the Emancipation Proclamation, many American social theorists believed in the fundamental behavioral and intellectual differences supposedly inherent in racial categories. Purely anecdotal evidence in the form of highly successful intellectual, educational, vocational, technical, literary, and artistic success of many African-Americans, in particular, since the opportunities emerging from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 suggested very strongly that race was not, in and of itself, a component of achievement or criminality. Finally, with the evolution of modern DNA technology and the completion of the Human Genome

Project shortly after the turn of the 21st century, hard science… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Self-Control Theory of Criminal Behavior Criminal Justice.  (2008, January 12).  Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/self-control-theory-criminal-behavior/21992

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