Tuesday, 12 May 2015

TURNING TO CRIME: Upbringing - How can our upbringing influence criminal behaviour?


Akers: Social Learning and Deviant Behaviour. 

Research questions: Is there a correlation between alcohol/drug use and measures of differential association (i.e. the theory that the behaviours of an individual are influenced and shaped by other individuals they associate with).

Method: Correlation using questionnaires to gather data.

Sample: 2500 13-18 year olds.

Measures: Researchers tested differential association and looked at what the most important factors in determining why some teenagers abuse alcohol and marijuana, and why some don't.

Dependent variables:

Firstly a questionnaire was used in order to measure the use of alcohol and marijuana on a six-point frequency-of-use scale ranging from nearly every day to never. This was then correlated separately with the following factors of differential association:

1. Index of Imitation: Total number of "admired" models (parents, friends, other adults) whom the respondent reports having observed using the substance.
2. Differential Peer Association Scale: A scale of three items measuring how many of respondents' best friends, friends with whom they associate most often, and friends whom they have known for the longest time use the substance.
3. Friends' Rewarding or Punishing Reactions: Do the respondent’s friends act in a positive or negative way when they use the substance. This ranged from encouraging the use of the drug (positive) to turning them in to the authorities (negative).

Results: Aspects of differential association theory (i.e. the theory that other individuals influenced behaviour in general) accounted for 68% in marijuana taking behaviour, and 55% in drinking behaviour.

Two main factors which appeared to be significantly linked with drinking and marijuana behaviour were differential peer association e.g. they had ' best friends, friends with whom they associate most often, and friends whom they have known for the longest time using the substance, and imitation index e.g. they had "admired" models (parents, friends, other adults) who they reported having observed using the substance.

Conclusions: This study provides great support for Social Learning Theory as it suggests that there is a relationship between individuals turn to crime and imitating role models i.e. learning by copying people they look up to and therefore wish to share similar behaviours. In addition, Social Learning Theory is supported as there is a relationship between individuals who turned to crime and imitating and copying people who they are close with and associate themselves with i.e. friends. However, more research is needed in order to establish cause and effect between drug and alcohol abuse and differential association as this study was a correlation.



Aim: To test whether a sudden change in poverty might cause an increase in crime levels

Background: Following a disputed presidential election, fuel supply to the central highlands of Madagascar severely decreased, resulting in a massive -- if temporary -- increase in poverty. This situation, however dramatic it was for the population, enables us to ascertain the immediate effect of poverty on crime. Using data on crime and poverty before and during the crisis in a number of locations or ‘communes’, we examine whether locations where poverty increased more also experienced a higher increase in crime.

Method: Natural experiment
IV = Level of Poverty (low or High)
DV = Crime rate

Materials: Questionnaire with several variables the key ones included: Levels of poverty, Numbers of cattle theft, property theft, homicides and crop theft

Sample: A stratified sampling frame was set up and included 72 communes

Procedure: Via interviews with key informants and focus groups -- typically local administrators, public servants, traders, and farmers. The survey collected detailed information on crime incidence in before poverty increased and during the increase in poverty. 

Results: The increase in poverty resulted in an increase in burglaries and crop theft. In addition, the increase in poverty had no effect on homicides or cattle theft. Cattle theft is regarded is an organised crime as it requires a lot of planning. 

Conclusion: In conclusion: people steal food and others possessions when poverty has increased suggesting that the effect of poverty makes people more inclined to turn to crime, perhaps because they have no choice. The fact that it is petty crimes compared to serious crimes e.g. homicides and cattle theft suggests that crime is due to having no other way to provide for themselves and family i.e. a situational explanation. In addition, theft appears to be used by some of the rural/urban poor as a risk coping strategy. The rise in transport costs led to a rise in cattle and crop theft, suggesting that geographical isolation (i.e. not being able to make exchanges or trades with other people due to not being able to afford travel costs) is associated with these forms of crime. Therefore they can’t earn a living, so steal instead, again a situational explanation.


Farrington & Juby: 

Aim: To compare delinquency rates (minor crimes) among boys living in permanently disrupted families (not raised by biological parents e.g. adopted, foster care or single parent) at age 8 and 9 with delinquency rates of boys living in intact families (raised by both biological parents).

Design: Prospective longitudinal study where interviews were carried out with parents and boys on numerous occasions between the ages of 8-46 years.

Participants: 411 boys from state schools in South London

Parents - interviewed by psychiatric social worker, collecting data on family income, parenting practices and family situation.
Teachers - questionnaires about the boys truancy and aggression were carried out on numerous occasions between the ages of 8 and 14.
Boys/participants - self reported minor crimes and adult convictions. They also completed tests on intelligence and personality. Criminal records were also checked.

Results: Delinquency rates highest in boys living in permanently disrupted families at age 15 compared to those living in intact families.

On their fifteenth birthdays, boys from disrupted families had committed considerably more crimes than those who were from intact families (29% to 18%).

Boys from high conflict (families going through divorce, domestic abuse or have parents with mental health issues) intact families had similar delinquency rates to those from disrupted families

Interestingly, boys who lived solely with their mothers had similar rates to those in intact families.

Other notable findings included that absence of a parent due to divorce was more of an indicator of delinquency than parental death.

In addition, boys who'd lost their mother were more likely to offend than those who'd lost their father.

Conclusions: In conclusion, socialisation in a family that has been significantly disrupted in some way, due to occurrences such as long-term unemployment, divorce, imprisonment or parental death, can lead somebody to commit crimes. In other words, "problem families" create "problem children". Furthermore he proposed that criminality was an aspect of a large anti-social behaviour syndrome (a syndrome which involves having a lack of consideration for the well-being of others, which is also the result of upbringing in a disrupted family. It is important to understand that socialisation is the process whereby an individual learns social norms, values, social skills and morals. If this is disrupted, these skills are unlikely to be learned and therefore increases the chances of criminal behaviour. It is interesting that the mother has such an important influence on likelihood of anti-social syndrome. This could be due to the fact that the mother is stereotypically the parent who is more nurturing and caring, if the mother is not there, the child may find it difficult to learn these skills and instead learns to reject and hate.

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