Factors Influencing Criminal Tendencies


Criminality and criminal justice are vast fields that differ across cultures and time dynamics. While one activity is legally punishable in one community, it may be the norm in other cultures. Despite the disparities in legality and criminal laws, people commit crimes all over the world. Thus, scholars and criminologists have tried to come up with ideas on the causes of criminal activities. Although some individuals claim that crimes do not have causative factors, various research indicates that crimes rise from sociological, psychological, and biological factors that trigger or influence a criminal activity. This paper discusses the theories regarding biological, sociological, and psychological aspects that influence illegal actions.

Biological Theories

Biological theories link criminal tendencies to particular natural conditions, such as mental conditions or responses to specific biological factors. The most common biological disorder that causes criminal tendencies is atavism. Biologically, the term refers to generational traits that recur among a particular lineage (Pieroni & Lanari, 2018). For instance, medical reports indicate that some people still give birth to babies with tails, an ancestral trait. In the criminological field, the term refers to individuals who still perceive the world as primitive, leading to backward attitudes and mentalities towards life in the modern day (Pieroni & Lanari, 2018). Such abnormalities affect an individual’s behavior regarding how to lie in society since their minds work like animals or early humans hence prone to violence.

The biological theory on crime causative factors has various supporting research from scientists, including William Sheldon. He argues that tall, athletic men have more criminal cases than thin and softer men (Pieroni, & Lanari, 2018). Further research supporting Sheldon’s assumption suggests that most criminals have direct relatives with criminal records, indicating the genetic connection of inherited tendencies (Pieroni & Lanari, 2018). For instance, a case study on criminals from orphanages revealed that most youth who developed criminal tendencies had a parent in jail or a criminal record (Fakhrzadegan et al., 2017). Other biological factors influencing criminal behaviors include substance abuse, alcoholism, eating habits, and toxins in the body.

Alcoholism and substance abuse cause temporal aggressiveness, leading to criminal activities, such as fights and careless driving. Serious crimes due to substance abuse include murder and suicidal attempts through overdosing. Substance toxicity is the ingestion of harmful substances into the body. A case study among prisoners indicates that many crime offenders have substance abuse issues, especially opium (Fakhrzadegan et al., 2017). Thus, large amounts of toxic substances in the bloodstream are dangerous and cause individuals to commit crimes.

Psychological Theories

Human psychology influences a significant part of individual actions through emotions and instincts. Early researchers on psychological factors influencing crimes include Sigmund Freud, a neurologist, and psychoanalyst. According to Freud, human psychology contains instincts that demand certain pleasures which drive a person’s responses to particular events, such as committing a crime to feel gratification (Pieroni, & Lanari, 2018). For instance, an individual may desire something they cannot afford, yet instincts command the pleasure of obtaining the object leading to theft.

Freud’s psychology theory argues that modern society functions morally due to specific rules and regulations governing behaviors and morals. The scientist uses the phenomena of superego, id, and ego to describe how some individuals develop criminal minds. When a child grows, they learn and practice moral values from their elders through trust and attachments, which form a basis for their superego (Sikand & Reddy, 2017). The morals guide their life through adolescence to adulthood. Adults have the cognitive ability to rationalize things, which develops their personalities and restraining behavior forming their ids and ego. Thus, Freud concludes that criminal behaviors result from the superego’s underdevelopment, the foundation of an individual’s personality and ethics.

Another psychological theory suggests that all human beings have a criminal mind that needs manipulation or reinforcements to react. The approach focuses on behaviorism through social learning, where individuals act according to their social surroundings. For instance, adolescents from violent families tend to be more aggressive than those from loving families. Today, media broadcasting also influences violence and criminal activities through broadcasting cases and television shows depicting crimes (Sikand & Reddy, 2017). Most people learn and practice what they see leading to illegal activities. Freud’s theory and behaviorism differ but suggest the same concept: social environments influence individuals’ actions.

Psychological theory on crimes also suggests that mental illnesses cause individuals to commit crimes. Psychologists always associate antisocial behaviors with criminal activities because they do not share thoughts, making it difficult to perceive their intentions (Sikand & Reddy, 2017). Despite the arguments, the criminal justice systems believe that society exaggerates the criminal activities of people with mental illnesses since they are incapacitated and troublesome. However, a case study among prisoners indicates that most prisoners had personality disorders while committing their crimes. According to the research, seven out of ten prisoners had mental disorders associated with crimes (Fakhrzadegan et al., 2017). Therefore, criminal experts should consider mental issues and expertise before giving verdicts and jail terms. Generally, psychologists associate criminality with a lack of morally good foundations and exposure to criminal activities early.

Sociological Theories

Social theorists argue that individuals’ criminal behaviors result from their social backgrounds, influencing their psychological and biological responses. Most criminal experts concur with this theory, which is the commonest assumption in criminal justification. The sociological theory argues its credibility through four approaches. The first approach is the differential association that states that individuals learn criminal behaviors from close and frequent contact persons (Pieroni & Lanari, 2018). Individuals adopt behaviors through observation and social learning, which influences their actions and attitudes in life.

The second approach states that individuals commit crimes as a method of proving their abilities in society. According to Fakhrzadegan et al. (2017), individuals focusing too much on societal expectations are vulnerable to committing crimes to achieve the expectations. Thirdly, social control theory claims that individuals commit crimes due to a lack of personal restraint. According to this theory, offenders lack a moral sense and indulge in impulsive instincts, which are more physical than mental actions (Pieroni & Lanari, 2018). This theory also associates unethical criminality with the underdevelopment of the superego.

Contrary to the above sociological approaches, the realism theories suggest that society defines criminals by judging individuals. Most families, social circles, and employees reject former convicts, which makes them vulnerable to retracting to criminal behaviors. Additionally, social theorists argue that social structures influence criminality whereby people form high society contracts or lure individuals from low social classes to commit lumpsum payments. According to Pieroni and Lanari (2018), wealthy and prestigious people transact more criminal activities through the poor who cannot stand against the temptation of ready benefits. Apart from the influence of power, most people nowadays commit crimes to climb social ladders or achieve a particular social status. Considering all these arguments, sociological assumptions on criminology is the most applicable criminal inquiry in modern justice systems.


Criminal activities have causative and triggering factors, which include psychological, biological, and sociological aspects. Biological factors influence criminality through inherited traits, substance abuse, and alcoholism. Psychological aspects concern a criminal’s mental stability while committing crimes, such as mental illnesses or forming attitudes. Sociologically, people commit crimes due to societal pressure, the influence of power and wealth, and estrangement due to being ex-convicts. Sociological factors contribute to most criminal offenses than psychological and biological aspects.


Fakhrzadegan, S., Gholami-Doon, H., Shamloo, B., & Shokouhi-Moqhaddam, S. (2017). The relationship between personality disorders and the type of crime committed and substance used among prisoners. Addiction & Health, 9(2), 64–71. Web.

Pieroni, L., & Lanari, D. (2018). The role of fathers in the criminal careers of juveniles in Italy. Journal of Demographic Economics, 84(4), 419-445. Web.

Sikand, M, & Reddy, J.K. 2017) Psychological underpinnings of criminal behavior. Forensic Research & Criminal International Journal (3): 00157. Web.

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LawBirdie. 2023. "Factors Influencing Criminal Tendencies." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/factors-influencing-criminal-tendencies/.

1. LawBirdie. "Factors Influencing Criminal Tendencies." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/factors-influencing-criminal-tendencies/.


LawBirdie. "Factors Influencing Criminal Tendencies." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/factors-influencing-criminal-tendencies/.