Criminal Behavior Risk Factors: Early Warning Signs
Childhood Risk Factors
Antisocial behaviors in adults can be traced back to their origins in their childhood. Looking back at the childhood years of criminals, and especially career criminals, for the most part there will be warning signs indicating they may be heading in the wrong direction. There are many theories as to what the risk factors for criminal behavior are in the field of psychological criminology, which is the science of behavior and mental processes of those individuals who commit crimes; many of them agree that the roots of adult criminal offenders can be traced back to their early and late childhood years. Throughout each stage of an individual’s developmental pathway, there will be various risk factors that may contribute to the development of a criminal mindset.
What Are Some Examples of Childhood Risk Factors?
Everyone may be exposed to certain risk factors throughout their life; most experts in the field believe that the more risk factors someone experiences throughout their developmental years (early/middle childhood, teen), the higher the chance that they will participate in criminal or antisocial behavior in their lifetime. Some risk factors include failing classes, dropping out of school, abuse of drugs or alcohol, rejection by peers, or verbal/physical abuse by parents. Other familial risk factors include negative sibling influence, or poor parenting skills. Poor self-regulating, interpersonal, and social skills are some psychological risk factors that often show beginning in early childhood. A nurturing environment is thought to shield children from these risk factors, as well as lessen the effect of risk factors when they are eventually exposed to them. Although it is pretty well known which factors are closely related to juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behavior, researchers are still unsure as to why they are related.
Risk Factor: Poverty
Poverty can be referred to as a living situation in which the basic requirements to live an average life in a specific geographic area are absent. In the United States, 1 in 5 children grow up in households with combined incomes below the
federal poverty line. Children growing up in conditions of poverty are at higher risk of attending poorly funded schools or dropping out of school; teens also are more likely to be unemployed. They may also be exposed to various criminal activities, including violent crimes. Rates of domestic violence are higher in areas of poverty, and children often witness this occur. In low income areas, slapping and hitting a child is a more common form of punishment; this is believed to be due to the fact that this form of punishment is easier to conduct and has immediate effects. Living in a poor environment, in addition to physical punishment is thought to negatively influence a child’s worldview. Adults living in conditions such as these are more likely to be victims of crime.
Police tend to target teens living in lower-class areas more so than people living in middle or upper class neighborhoods. When arrested they are more likely to be referred to juvenile courts and become delinquents. Being sent to a juvenile facility at a young age is argued to actually promote adult criminal behavior, not prevent it.