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Friday, June 28, 2013

Essay on Crime Causation

James T. Johnson is a 24-year-old construction worker who lives at home with his mother. During the week, he goes to work on time, does his work, and comes home. Occasionally, he will go out with a group of coworkers on a Friday evening. He has one other secret. He burglarizes homes and garages in the neighboring communities, selling what he steals via the internet or at pawn shops two counties over.

This past weekend, he was arrested during a burglary when he entered a home where the home owner was present. His mother had to mortgage her home to bail him out of jail. While driving him home, she started to berate him, stating that he has ended up "just like his father, a criminal" and that she will probably end up dying early due to the stress of having a criminal son.

James was angry and blurted out that it was her fault, that this was the only life he knew because his father never taught him anything worthwhile. He said that his mother and father fought all the time,
and the main subject of the their fights was his constant drinking.

Essay on Crime Causation

Numerous scholars agree that parents with criminal behavior highly impact their children which could then result to juvenile delinquency. In fact, a large body of studies show that convicted mothers or fathers often have children who are law offenders as well. In this case, it is worthy to note that James’ mother blurted out the statement that he will “end up just like his father, a criminal”. Such line therefore suggests that James’ father may have been convicted of a crime before. Consequently, it is also probably that James’ behavior may have been influenced by his father’s. Similarly, it is also likely that as a child, James may have acquired or learned such behavior from his father but was only developed during his adult years (Farrington, 2010, p. 210).

Apart from the father’s criminal history, there are a number of factors that may have contributed to James’ behavior. Child experts maintain that parental style and upbringing as well as the child’s environment are two of the most influential factors that affect a juvenile’s behavior. According to recent research, children who were brought up in homes characterized by lack of love and affection, whose parents lack proper parental skills, and whose lives are filled with violence or abuse will more likely develop to become delinquents. Alternatively, children who grew up with a supportive and loving family will more likely develop a positive attitude of trust and responsibility. In addition to this parallel studies suggest that individuals convicted of a serious offense are often a product of predictors such as low parental affection and warmth, constant parental discord, and improper parental discipline and supervision among many others. The findings of these researches therefore suggest that the presence or absence parental monitoring is an essential element commonly related to delinquency.  

In this case study, James was apparently a product of a chaotic household as his parents are constantly arguing and bickering. As such, it is likely that James compulsive behavior to steal roots from his unhappy childhood filled with by parental discord and conflict.

Another contributing factor that caused James’ theft behavior is his family’s economic condition. Studies show that family with low socio-economic status is a predictor of an individual’s criminal behavior (Farrington, 2010, p. 211). It can be therefore suggested that James participation in criminal activities such as theft or burglary is a result of growing up in a deprived and impoverished environment.

This case study can be analyzed by using the Strain Theory, which posits that social structures or culture within a society are the main reasons why an individual chooses to commit a crime. Merton suggests that the deviance within society is in fact, a product of the culture and society’s shared values and beliefs.  In addition to this, the subculture perspective asserts that certain groups or subculture within a community display attitudes and values that fosters negative behaviors such as crimes and violence. In this situation, it can be noted that James’ family and low socio-economic status is represented by his family and his environment. As James grew up in a surrounding filled with parental conflict, it is highly probable that the subject grew up in a social structure with crime, tension, and conflict as the dominant values. These strains therefore exposed James to negative emotions such as anger or frustration which then caused the subject engage in unlawful activities (Merton, 2013, p.125). 

Farrington, D. (2010). Family Influences on Delinquency. NY: Jones and Barlett Publishers
Merton, R. (2013). Social Theory and Social Structure. NY: Free Press
Smith, C. & Stern, S. (1997) Delinquency and antisocial behavior. Social Science Review, 71,

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