Subject: Law
Language: English (U.S.)
Pages: 4
Beccaria argued that the threat of punishment controls crime. Are there other forms of social control? Aside from threat of punishment, what else controls our behavior? How would you explain gender differences in crime rate? Why do you think males are more violent than females? What social and environmental factors do you believe influence the crime rate? Are criminals rational decision makers, or are most of them motivated by uncontrollable psychological and emotional drives or social forces such as poverty and despair? If research could show that the tendency to commit crime is inherited, what should be done with the young children of violence-prone criminals? Why would it be unfair to monitor their behavior from an early age?

Controlling Crime

Social Control of Crime

Social control theories stipulate that deviance and crime occur as a result of lack of adequate constraints. Based on these theories, crime is deemed as a predictable behavior that stems from non-socialization of the person performing the crime or the society’s failure to curtail such behavior. The lack of close relationships with other socialized people releases individuals from any social constraints, freeing them to perform an array of criminal activities. 

Social control theory states that people resist the urge to commit crimes because of the costs of such behavior. Punishment is the main form of social control that deters people from committing crimes. However, other social controls have the potential to deter criminals from carrying out criminal activities. 

Social values, once internalized, can act as a deterrent to crime. Social values are indoctrinated in individuals through mores, customs, and norms. Sanctions such as shame, criticism, sarcasm, and ridicule can also act as a social control deterring individuals in that society from committing crimes. In some instances, sanctions can be extreme by including discrimination and isolation. 

Gender Differences in Crime Rate

Fewer females than males are arrested on a daily basis for virtually all types of crimes except prostitution. One explanation for the gender differences in crime perpetration is evolutionary nature of men to engage in risky and violent behavior as they compete with other males for resources. Women are naturally predisposed to avert from risky and violent behaviors, as they are more inclined to taking care of their young (McDonald, Navarrete, & Van Vugt 2012).

The gender disparity in crime can also be attributed to the role of men and women in sexual activity. Men are more sexually active and are usually the dominant partner in sexual relations. On the other hand, women are more passive in sexual life and in especially in criminal sexual life. The social conditioning of women to be sexually passive is thus a significant contributor to their reluctance to engage in criminal activities.

Sociological explanations further postulate that the greater rate of men engaging in crime than women is a direct result of society’s strong emphasis on deterring girls from violent behavior or criminal activity than it does for boys. The society prescribes a strict code of conduct, otherwise known as gender norms, for girls than it does boys. Due to this social conditioning, more boys engage in behaviors that ultimately lead to crime than girls and thus the disparity in crime rates between the two sexes (McDonald, Navarrete, & Van Vugt 2012). 

It is important to note that when it comes to prediction of crime, biological factors are more predictive of female criminal activity while environmental activities are more predictive of male delinquency.  

Social and Environmental Factors Influencing Crime Rate

Social factors influencing crime rate include educational and poverty levels. Research has shown that there is a close interrelationship between educational level, poverty, and crime. Studies show individuals who have lower levels of education end up without any economic power resulting in them committing crimes to meet their daily needs. On the other hand, people from poor backgrounds have little access to educational opportunities resulting in a life of poverty. They commit criminal acts in order to sustain themselves financially.

Individuals who are from broken families where violence is prone are also predisposed socially and environmentally to commit crimes. Sociologists opine that constant exposure to violence in the home lowers an individual’s sensitivity to violence when they are growing up. People with lower sensitivity to violence are more inclined to commit crimes than individuals who are more sensitive to violence due to a peaceful upbringing.

In addition, growing up in an environment where people are career criminals can lead many down the path of crime. An environment that does not abhor minor offences or considers them normal occurrences is usually the best breeding ground for people to engage in criminal activities. Environments such as these usually glamorize criminal activities, making it alluring to the impressionable children and young adults who live in those environments. 

Rational Decision Making in Crime

Some criminals are rational decision makers when committing the crime while others are driven by uncontrollable factors. There seems to be an overlap between rational decision making and committing a crime due to factors beyond the individual’s control. Some individuals commit crimes because it has become a career of sorts for them. They enjoy the thrill, the violence, and the risk of getting captured usually involved in committing crimes. To them, participating in crimes gives them an adrenaline rush. Therefore, these individuals are considered rational decision makers when it comes to committing crimes.

Some theories suggest that criminals usually weigh the cost versus benefit of committing a crime. If the benefits far outweigh the cost then the individual will most likely engage in the criminal activity to reap the benefits of the activity. This form of decision-making is seen in white-collar crimes where the perpetrators are driven by greed rather than poverty to commit the crimes. Many would consider this thinking pattern as a form of rational decision-making. 

The Anomie theory suggests that social forces, often uncontrollable, push people towards crime. People from poor backgrounds have the same goals as other people from well-off backgrounds but they do not have the means to achieve these goals. Thus, they resort to crime as a rational alternative to achieving their goals. From this scenario, the decision maker is driven by an uncontrollable factor, poverty, but he decides that crime is the rational alternative to alleviate the poverty. 

Inheritance of Crime

Several studies have shown that there are certain elements of criminal behavior that can be inherited. The studies usually focus on the tendency of children of criminals to engage in criminal activity especially activities that are chronically violent. With this knowledge, scientists contend that we could see a marked reduction in overall crime levels if children of violent criminals are monitored closely throughout their formative years. They also advocate the use of preventative treatment in those children who are genetically predisposed to committing violent crimes.

The preventative treatment would involve giving these children education and mentoring in the hopes of preventing them from entering a life of crime like their parents or relatives. In theory, the monitoring of these children is a well-intentioned idea. The government would equip these children with the skills and opportunities to become better citizens than their parents.

However, civil libertarians are against such a program for several reasons. One major reason is the stigmatization that such singling out would cause for the children. They have enough emotional issues to deal with as one or both of their parents could be in jail. Constantly keeping tabs on them would only result in them suffering from more stigmatization. Depression and suicide could increase because of the constant monitoring.  



McDonald, M., Navarrete, C.D., & Van Vugt, M. (2012). Evolution and the psychology of intergroup conflict: the male warrior hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367 (1589): 670-679.