The social control theory as the root cause of crime
“Neighborhood that once were safe at night have become dangerous during the day Random acts of violence once almost unknown have become common.” (D. Mc Rae)
This is not exaggeration nor is Mc Rae trying to scare anyone. Statistical figures don’t lie nor are they fabricated for any reason. For centuries psychologists, the church, non- government organizations, the police authorities and other concerned groups have conducted their independent researches and experiments relative to the real cause of crimes. Because of the complicated nature of crimes, several theories have been presented and debated upon; and yet no single theory has been officially accepted as the root cause of crime. Generally, there are two main theories attributed to the increase in crime rates: the Natural causes and the Sociological causes of crimes. Of the two, I personally bring higher bearing to the arguments and proofs presented by the sociological theories of crime, of which The Social Control Theory belongs.
If we are to trace the root causes of crime, criminologists said that by studying the life of the criminals: their family background, the community where they belong, their economic status, race and gender has to be thoroughly analyzed. Some studies have argued that poverty, racism, cultural pluralism and social disadvantage are the root causes of crimes. But if we are to look into the basic, meaning the smallest unit where the criminal came from and spent his childhood, we will be able to see that home and family has the greatest burden in shaping the attitude and discipline of the child. It is always at home where a child’s life starts to be developed and expected to be shaped the right way by the ultimate authority at home: the parents.
It all starts with a vulnerable child raised by parents or a parent. Initially the child is trained in the family set up. Discipline starts at home through the child’s dealings with the members of the family. What the child sees and hears from the people around him are in time acquired by the child. This is the reason why a home, where the child belongs, has to have a strong foundation where the child could seek refuge, feel the sense of belongingness, affection and love. Now if what he sees are quarrels, physical and emotional abuse, his trust and his safety could be threatened. This is what the Social Control Theories of Crime are trying to point out. This theory “studies how effective bonding with authority figures like the parents, teachers, preachers and other officers translates into bonding with society.” (L. Coser, 2004) The sad truth about this is that the family is on its ongoing decay, which means more and more individuals are being raised in a dysfunctional and inherently weakened environment. How could a child possibly feel secured in a family and in an institution where he experiences violence and fear? Studies were able to establish a direct link between abuse of women and child abuse in delinquent behavior.
Children who have been raised by a single parent or by abusive parents are more likely to be criminal offenders. Studies by the John Howard Society of Canada found that 50% of violent young offenders have witnessed child abuse in the home and that physically abused children are five times more likely to become violent adults. The study also revealed that “80% of incarcerated males have experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse as a child.” (Howard Society of Canada, 1995) In considering these figures, it is clear that crimes are not brought about by born criminals. Crimes are invoked and provoked by an escape and aftershock of violence right inside a child’s home.
In England, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have concluded and reported that “bad parenting causes child crime.” (BBC News, March 2002) The news said that “feckless and abusive parents are to be blamed by the government for youth crime and unruly behavior in schools.” Using the cases of the two teenage brothers who were caught behind series of crimes and an eleven year old girl who smashed a shop window, the Association called for the government’s immediate action against abusive parents. Parental techniques of raising a child comes in two general ways: either the parents are overly punitive or too permissive. Too much punishment on the child makes him feel unloved instead of creating fear from doing bad things. On the other hand, when the parents are too permissive the child gets to think that what he is doing is right. The parents are supposed to correct bad behaviors but not to the point of inflicting physical and verbal abuse to the child. The most important and effective method on my personal view is that the parents must show an excellent behavioral example to their children.
Criminals are not born criminals, and I strongly believe that committing crime is not a natural phenomenon. Having this stand, I would like to use the analysis made by the Heritage Foundation analyst, Patrick Fagan, which was published at Imprimis on October 1995. Fagan’s analysis pointed to the home environment as the root cause of crime, and thus proving the credibility of the Social Control Theory of Crime. Fagan’s five-stage analysis of the life of the future violent criminal points to the breakdown of the family as the root cause of violent crimes.
At the first stage the child’s behavioral problem starts at “parental neglect and abandonment of the child in his early home life.” (P. Fagan) Frequent quarrels by the parents, physical abuse and even sexual abuse form part of the child’s frustrations. The absence of attention and affection from the parents deprive the child of the sense of belongingness. This situation becomes worse when the parents separate. When there is an absence of either of the two parents, aggressiveness and hyperactivity of the child begins. According to studies fatherless homes are more prone at producing violent children. The US Department of Justice reported that 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes. In Texas 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes. (Texas Department of Corrections 1992) These children I would say are emotionally disadvantaged. They hunger for love and affection from the parents, who among others should be the one primarily responsible for this aspect of their lives. Sad to say, these parents do the contrary. Another study revealed that 60% of child abuse is inflicted by mothers with sole custody of their children. (US Department of Health, 1983)
At the second stage, the child’s behavioral problem continues. At school, the child becomes socially rejected because of his bully behavior. As Fagan puts it, “he satisfies his needs by exploiting others.” Because he lacks attention at home, he seeks recognition from others. He then joins other children with the same situation because it is in their company where he feels the sense of belongingness. It is this kind of gang where he feels that he is being understood and loved. This behavior continues as he grows older especially when the poor supervision at home continues. As he gets used to his bad habits and attitudes, he begins to commit criminal behaviors at stage three, by the age of 15. By this time the child then was able to establish his personal identity in his gang or with his companions. The Canadian Council on Social Development stands that “ineffective parenting encourages youth to associate with peers who are involved in criminal activities, and the lack of parent-child involvement is consistent indicators of delinquent behaviors.”
At the fourth stage, the vulnerable child now commits violent crimes and become a full-pledged gang member. As the number of broken families increase, the members of the gang increase, and thus increase the counts of violence. As he gets used to committing petty crimes at first, he then tries to engage into higher risks ones: from bullying to burglary, robbery and then to gun running. From drug use to drug pushing, the criminal gets into much trouble of committing even murder and other violent crimes. At stage five, the youth then gets used to being in and out of prison. The cycle continues until these children have their own families. Most likely they will have their children raised the way they were raised. They too will start with unwanted pregnancy; have their child without getting married, and raising a family without preparation. Divorce will then be the easiest way to get out of the mess and the responsibility. Another child deprived of love and affection is born. Unless this cycle is cut by responsible parenthood, violent families will continue to increase and like a cancer, will soon kill the society’s normal and peaceful environment.
Having these facts, it is but fair enough to conclude that “violent families are producing violent youths, and violent youths are producing violent communities” (P. Fagan, 1995)
Coser, Lewis. Crime Theories. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/warcrimes/index.html
Fagan, Patrick F. The Real Root Cause of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Family. The IMPRIMIS. Hillsdale College. October 1995. Vol.24, No.10
Mc Rae, David. United States: Uniform Crime Report-State Statistics from 1960-2005. The Disaster Center. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/
Bad Parenting Causes Child Crime. BBC News. March 24, 2002. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1890222.stm
Causes of Crime. Security Electronics Magazine. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.semweb.com/apr02/managementapr.htm
The Root Causes of Crime. The Contrarian. June 10, 2000. No. 63. Retrieved on February 19, 2007 from http://www.quebeccoislibre.org/000610-9.htm