Polygraph Tests and Crime

Reasons for Criminal Behaviour

Some observers find explanations for modern day violence and increased rates of criminal victimisation in the widespread media exposure of violence, especially on television and in film. Other explanations for crime can also be offered, including those that target biological factors such as genetic abnormalities which may predispose people towards crime and violence and others which look to individual psychological difficulties, or variations in patterns of early socialisation. Likewise social institutions such as the family, schools and religious bodies can be examined for the role they play in reducing or enhancing the likelihood of criminality in the community. For example, the family exerts a daily and persistent influence on the life of an individual. It offers the most intimate experiences with others, showing varying degrees of care, protection, moral instruction and basic physical and emotional satisfactions, especially relevant during the child's most impressionable years.

In this environment the child learns about himself/herself, and his/her physical, social and cultural surroundings, wherein the child acquires habits, attitudes, character traits, and a sense of right or wrong. These tend to endure throughout life. Deprivation of these necessities may well contribute to the individual's attitude towards others, exposing any tendency to crime (Cilliers, 1999: 2-3).

In order to understand criminal behaviour we have to regard individuals as actively responding to their environments in a way that they think will be effective in certain circumstances. While there are many controlling forces or events in our lives, there is also a considerable amount of self determination "free will" or personal responsibility.

It ranges from direct control over all our actions to self-control over our behaviour and its consequences caused by external events. When an individual engages in criminal behaviour it may be his/her way of adapting to certain physical, social or psychological conditions.

These conditions may involve for example, frustration, reactions to authority or group pressure. Crime and violence are often generated out of histories of frustration and inequality. Sometimes criminals have learnt that crime does pay and that criminal behaviour often goes unpunished (Maris 1988: 573).

Regardless of the choice of explanations there is no single cause of crime - crime is rooted in the diversity of causal factors and takes a variety of forms, dependent on the situation in which it occurs.

While interest in crime has always been high, understanding why it occurs and what to do about it has always been a problem. Public officials, politicians and experts always offer incomplete and simple solutions for obliterating crime; more police patrol, self defence classes, speedy imprisonment or severe capital punishment. As in most areas of human behaviour, there are no shortage of opinions, but there are few solutions.

Cilliers, C Criminal Justice Realities, Unisa 1999
Maris, R Social Problems. Chicago, The Dorsey Press 1988.
Bartol & Bartol, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1986

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