What Makes a Criminal?

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What makes a criminal a criminal? Can anyone become a criminal? Answering and understanding these questions is the core work of criminologists as most criminologists attempt to make sense of why people do certain things (Garland, Sparks 2000). This essay will consider the notion that any person could become a criminal and in so doing consider the initial question. This essay will outline a range of theories that attempt to describe human behavior in relation to criminal behavior given the complexities of behaviour. Several theories will be considered as no single theory of behavior can account fully for the complexities and range in criminal behaviour. The theories range from social-control, to classical, to biological, to personality theory, to impulse theory, and cognitive theory. The multiple factors influencing people’s behaviour including criminal behavior are also considered. These include family circumstances, their personality, and mental health issues. The essay will consider the roles that society and individuals have in defining and contributing to people engaging in criminal behaviours.

Before considering the overall question, it is important to define criminal behavior. Defining criminal behaviour is difficult. For the purposes of this essay, the definition of criminal behavior is any person ‘guilty of crime’ (Webster’s universal dictionary & thesaurus, 2007). This definition demonstrates the wide-ranging behaviours, considered criminal. It may range from tasting fruit at the market to speeding to swearing at someone in frustration.

Having defined criminal behavior, its wide terms the explanation of that behavior needs to be equally comprehensive. There are ranges of theories that attempt to explain behaviour i...

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