Factors that Affect Criminal Behavior

Man on bike rides through tunnel filled with graffiti

When law enforcement officials and students earning criminology degrees study the different causes of criminal behavior, they often examine different conditions that might encourage a life of crime. From parenting to environment to genetic makeup, a number of factors may be indicators that someone will commit a crime in the future.

Studying criminal behavior

Some experts believe that by examining different risk factors of criminal behavior they can better understand how to prevent illegal activity from occurring. Students in criminal justice degree programs may learn more about the factors that affect crime as they work to become better law enforcement officers.

Delinquency risk factors – While understanding risk factors for delinquency and criminal behavior can help deter these acts, the process of doing so poses its own questions. A report by Michael Shader for the Department of Justice (DOJ) outlines the problems with properly identifying risk factors and the effectiveness of doing so.

Specific factors that can affect crime

By performing risk analyses on criminal behavior, researchers have found a few individual factors that may be key causes of illegal activity. Some criminal justice programs may outline these key signals to better prepare students for future careers in law enforcement and prevention.

Youth gangs and juvenile crime – A specific study in California identified risk factors in juvenile crime. One particularly strong identifier was youth gang activity in the area.

Genetics and criminal behavior

Much research has been done on the possibility that a person’s genetic makeup could influence his or her chances of committing a crime. While better understanding this potential could lead to improved law enforcement techniques, the ethics of it are under heavy debate, which students may learn about when earning a degree in criminology.

Behavioral genetics – The study of human behavior dates back to the 1800s, and while experts have found that behavioral patterns often run strong in families, it is debated whether these are inherited or learned through example. This is commonly referred to as the nature versus nurture argument.

Preventing crime through cognitive behavioral therapy – While it is uncertain whether criminal behavior can be linked to genetics, therapy has been a proven tool to help deter delinquency. According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), counseling, therapy, discipline and restorative programs have shown to be successful rehabilitation and preventive tools for crime fighters.