Criminal Behavior As a Product of the Environment

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The personality of a criminal provokes great interest primarily because it defines the main reasons for a crime. In such a manner, personality is considered the major and most important link in the mechanism of the criminal behavior. Accordingly, its characteristics, which generate such behavior, should be a direct target of preventive actions. The personality of a criminal has always been one of the key problems of all criminal sciences, especially criminology. The history of the latter demonstrates that criminologists have led the acutest discussions on this issue. Criminology investigates personality’s formation, nature, psychological, and sociological features. The scientific solution to the problem of causes of crime depends on the view on personality. Therefore, if an offender inherits causes of criminal behavior through the biological line, it means that the crime is inherited genetically. In turn, this fact presupposes totally different measures of the crime prevention. However, if the identity of a criminal is a product of the society and the content of certain social practices and socio-historical conditions, the approach is unique. Therefore, the solution of practical issues of preventing crime depends on the solution of theoretical problems of the criminal’s personality. These days, the majority of criminologists agree that a person is not born a formed personality but becomes such only in the course of social life; thus, the formation of personality is impossible outside of the society. Consequently, an individual is not born a criminal but becomes such because of the unfavorable impact of the environment on the personality.

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Factors of the Micro- and Macro Environment

Factors of the micro- and macro environment have a great effect on adolescents with forming life principles and value orientations, as well as developing a certain type of behavior. At the same time, their influence depends considerably on the susceptibility of this influence on adolescents. In turn, the microenvironment includes the family, the school, and small groups, in which adolescents spend much time, for example, the street environment and sports sections (Andresen, Brantingham & Kinney, 2010). The macro environment includes mass media and such public formations as subcultures, law enforcement bodies, and religious associations (Andresen et al., 2010). In such a way, an adolescent is in constant contact with a great number of factors, which have an ambiguous effect on his or her personality. Factors of the micro- and macro environment can have a destructive impact on the minor developing the low level of legal culture and legal consciousness (Andresen et al., 2010). Nevertheless, there can also be a positive influence when the environment forms correct attitudes and develop an adolescent as a law-abiding person with the high level of legal culture and legal consciousness (Andresen et al., 2010). The personality of a criminal whose criminal behavior developed under the impact of factors of the micro- and macro-environment has a special place in the designated process of interaction.

The Personality of a Criminal

A concept of the criminal’s personality is multifaceted and has been studied by many scientists from various points of view. For example, Hess, Orthmann, and Cho (2015) assert that personality of a criminal is a particular set of socially important properties, signs, circumstances, and connections that combined with other conditions trigger the commitment of the crime. Personality of a criminal is a combination of negative and criminogenic traits of personality that have the commission of the crime (Hess et al., 2015). In studying the identity of a juvenile offender, some researchers do not focus on the commission of a crime but rather emphasize the qualities of a minor that will make it possible to judge his/her behavior in general (Hess et al., 2015). The complex of qualities of the personality and properties determining the criminal behavior is common in all these definitions. It is believed that the personality of a criminal is characterized by a special vector of the social orientation: either antisocial or negative (Hess et al., 2015). This vector also defines the public danger of a person’s behavior.

The age of the minor is a highly important factor. The characteristic feature of adolescence is explained by the fact that fundamental qualities are being laid, which are later implemented in real life. During the minority period, a person is actively forming, developing, and changing constantly; one is open to any social influence on his/her attitude and worldview (Hess, Orthmann & Cho, 2015). In accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, every human being is considered a child before the age of 18 years old, unless the adulthood is attained earlier under the law applicable to this child (Hess et al., 2015). Therefore, there is the elaboration of the possible attainment of adulthood according to laws of a particular state. According to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, a minor is a child or a young person who, within the existing legal system, can be prosecuted in the offense in a form that is different from the form of responsibility applicable to an adult (Hess et al., 2015). In this international legal act, the establishment of specific age limits is excluded because of the fact that they are not the same in all countries. Despite this fact, the age of the achievement of the criminal responsibility is of particular interest in the term of the personality of a minor criminal (Hess et al., 2015). This age is also different from country to country – from 13 to 18 years old. These days, a number of adolescents committing crimes is constantly growing. Annually, there are more than two million arrests of young people (Harris-McKoy, 2014). In general, this age is connected with the awareness of the special social danger of a number of crimes, and a certain social and mental immaturity is usually typical.

This period is characterized by the age peculiarities, the passing of which results in either positive or negative socialization of a minor. In such a manner, by the age of 12, judgments on the principle of the bad and the good are formed in a child based on his/her perception (Hess et al., 2015). These judgments are grounded on the analysis of everyday situations that occur in the family, along with the assimilation of ideas drawn from books and movies. By the age of 16, beliefs develop on the basis of judgments (Hess et al., 2015). Depending on the perception and awareness of either positive or negative judgments, a teenager develops a clear position – a belief about the norm of a particular way of life. Grounded on these convictions, a teenager defines the circle of friends, determines the type of behavior, and forms a particular set of values. Up to 18 years old, there is the search for worldviews (Hess et al., 2015). Particular beliefs that have been formed earlier continue to strengthen in the mind of the minor or change under the influence of the environment; former beliefs and the formation of new ones are reconsidered.

By the age of 18, a worldview emerges on the basis of personal beliefs and judgments (Hess et al., 2015). The system of ideas about the surrounding world, nature, society, and individual institutions formed under the influence of different factors determines greatly the further life of a person. This complex, multifaceted, and multistage process occurs because of the effect of different powers on the minor, especially the factors of the micro- and macro environment (Hess et al., 2015). A minor does not live in a social vacuum but is in constant interaction with different social manifestations that have a considerable influence on his/her behavior (Hess et al., 2015). If a child was born and raised not in society among other people but in isolation, he/she would never turn into a socialized person behaviorally and psychologically (Hess et al., 2015). The more diverse groups, the active participant of which becomes an individual in the course of life, the more opportunities a person has for the development and acquisition of different human qualities.

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The Role of the Family

Socialization is considered the main process of the formation of the personality. It is a process when a human acquires social properties, establishes social ties, chooses life paths, forms a system of social orientation and self-consciousness, and enters the social environment adapting to it and mastering certain social roles and functions (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). During the process of socialization, typical reactions to emerging life situations arise considering the most standard preferences for a particular person. Socialization as an active process does not last for the whole life but only for a period that is necessary for the perception of a set of attitudes, roles, and norms. In other words, it is the time needed for a person to become an individual (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). Psychologists allocate socialization of a small child or primary socialization and intermediate socialization marking the passing from the youth to maturity (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). Both types of socialization have a great effect on the formation of personality. Also, this influence can be either positive or negative.

The primary socialization plays a particularly important role in the formation of one’s personality. A child unconsciously assimilates behavior, habits, and typical reactions of the adults to particular problems. As psychological studies of the personality of criminals demonstrate, an adult frequently reproduces what was imprinted in his/her psyche in childhood in terms of actions and behavior (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). For example, a person can resolve conflicts with the help of brute force as parents used to do. In a certain sense, the criminal behavior is a consequence and extension of the primary socialization but in other forms. Defects of the primary socialization in the family can be of criminal significance, especially because a child has not learned other positive influences yet, and thus, he/she is completely dependent on the elders and defenseless before them (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). Therefore, problems connected with the formation of personality in the family deserve particular attention of criminologists. To a certain extent, the family is a model of relationships between an individual and the society (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). It performs the function of socialization – adaptation of a young person to life in the society. It can be mentioned that any intentional crime testifies to the fact that the family of the given criminal either contributed to the incident or at least did not give it the due resistance (Fennelly & Crowe, 2013). The society expects families to have an ennobling effect on their members. In such a way, the family is the major connection in the cause-and-effect chain, which leads to the criminal behavior.

Today, there is a great amount of information about families of delinquents and the conditions of parental upbringing. They are basically socio-demographic and sociological data on the family. Nonetheless, at the present stage of the development of science and the demands of law enforcement practice, it becomes clear that it is no longer possible to explain the origin of the criminal behavior adequately with the help of only such information (Walsh & Bolen, 2016). Therefore, for the great value of numerous data on incomplete or disadvantaged families, it is still unclear why many children from such families never commit unlawful acts. Dysfunctional families include only those, in which parents commit immoral or illegal acts (Walsh & Bolen, 2016). However, the immoral behavior of a father or his absence does not always serve as the main reason for the formation of the criminal’s personality. In such a way, it should be considered that an important role is played not by the composition of the family, the relationship between the parents, and unlawful behavior but mainly by the adults’ emotional attitude toward a child (Walsh & Bolen, 2016). It is obvious that the listed negative factors cannot be indifferent to such emotional contacts. Nonetheless, it is possible to find a sufficient number of families, in which parents commit offenses but their emotional attitude towards children is heartfelt and warm (Walsh & Bolen, 2016). In such a manner, the absence of such relationships in childhood defines the inadequate human behavior in the future. It is possible to conclude that the family is considered the most important part of one’s microenvironment.

The Influence of Other Factors of the Microenvironment

Another factor of the microenvironment includes the everyday environment outside the family that can be viewed as a single sphere of family-household relations. At the same time, there are also noticeable differences between these elements of the social microenvironment. Besides, at times, their effect on the moral development and formation of the personality can be characterized by the state of the counterweight being multidirectional (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2015). While the way of life, in general, can be represented as a sphere of personal life of people and a part of the nonproductive sphere that is associated with personal consumption of spiritual and material goods, the everyday environment is a sphere of the personal non-productive consumption behind the family (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2015). This everyday environment is closely associated with leisure. This fact allows considering them together as a single sphere that accounts for a significant part of the free time and where the so-called informal small groups occupy a prominent place. This type of the microenvironment has important social functions. A healthy everyday environment and thoughtful leisure contribute to the aesthetic, physical, and moral development of an individual, the increase in the level of external and internal upbringing, and the enrichment of one’s spiritual culture. Leisure is the most conservative sphere of the social life (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2015). The soil for the development of such a phenomenon as anti-culture is present in it, as well. Particularly, there can be drinking and drug traditions, with which a great number of crimes are connected.

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A problem of the negative impact of the nearest domestic environment on the moral formation of an individual is the functioning of informal small groups of the antisocial orientation. They can have an especially dangerous effect on adolescents. Antisocial groups are characterized by the absence of rigid regulations of relations and the non-specialized nature of the antisocial behavior (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2015). According to selective data, about 20% of their members do not exclude the possibility of receiving money by criminal means, while more than 60% consider violence a possible way of the conflict resolution (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2015). Essential is the fact that communication of individuals within these groups has a socio-psychological basis. It is performed on the basis of commonality of needs, views, life goals, interests, behavior, and past experience. In general, in the senior adolescence and youth, the peer group performs extremely important functions. It provides emotional comfort and is an information channel and the basis for interpersonal relations. The recognition by peers is especially significant at this age.

Strain Theory

In addition to the microenvironment, various strains also have a great impact on the formation of one’s personality. According to the strain theory, negative conditions or events provoke crime commitment (Baron & Agnew, 2010). This theory is considered one of the most significant in delinquency and crime. It asserts that strains can result in many negative emotions including frustration, anger, humiliation, and depression. In this case, crime is a way to cope with such strains (Baron & Agnew, 2010). Adolescents can commit crimes in order to reduce the effect of the same. The strongest emotion is anger, and usually, people break the law under the effect of this emotion. Anger provokes individuals to act disregarding concerns about the future consequences and creating a desire to revenge (Baron & Agnew, 2010). A crime can also occur when people try to cope with their negative emotions through the illicit drug use. Whether an individual will react to stress by delinquency or not depends on a number of factors, for example, the ability to solve problems, the character of a person, a level of the social support, and a level of the social control and communication with peers.

At the same time, it is important to note that not all individuals who experience negative emotions resort to delinquency. Researchers seek to identify the types of people that are the most likely to react to strains with committing crimes (Baron & Agnew, 2010). Nevertheless, there is no unanimous opinion on this issue. For example, some authors have found that those who have peers with delinquent behavior are more likely to react to strains with delinquent behavior, while other scientists have not confirmed this idea (Baron & Agnew, 2010). Many young people can cope with strains staying within the law, and the family can develop the necessary skills for it. In such a way, the microenvironment, and especially the family, can teach young people to cope with negative emotions.


An individual is formed gradually under the influence of the environment, in which one lives. A person starts committing crimes because of a negative influence of different people and life conditions on him/her. In the mechanism of personality formation, the microenvironment has a special role because it mediates the impact of the macro-environment. The microenvironment that cultivates antisocial attitudes and views can turn into a criminal one. The consideration of the main elements that constitute the microenvironment should begin with the family. The influence of the family upbringing is the most significant in childhood and adolescence. The influence of the nearest everyday environment can also be a factor of the negative formation of one’s personality. It can include acquaintances, friends, neighbors, and different social groups with whom a person contacts directly and constantly. Depending on the prevailing attitudes, value systems, and orientation in the household environment, it can become the criminal environment. The impact of criminogenic groups is particularly noticeable in minors. The influence of these forms of the social microenvironment on an individual is conducted through different channels and in various directions. It is associated with the fact that one interacts with different forces of the social microenvironment and with other humans. Such interaction can be characterized by different relationships. A positive influence of one type can be supplemented and multiplied by a similar influence of another type of the microenvironment, while one type of a negative influence is aggravated by a negative influence of another one. In this connection, it is possible to talk about a chain reaction that is a mutual addition of different negative influences of the microenvironment.

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