What Role Does Frustration Play in Criminal Behavior?
Frustration and criminal behavior may be related, but the relationship between the two is complex. It is hypothesized that the more intense and frequent the periods of frustration are in a person’s life, the more sensitive they may become to future frustrating events.
When various animals, including humans, are unable to respond in a way that has previously produced a reward, their behavior may often become frantic, energetic, or aggressive. For instance, animals may bite, growl, or scratch; even humans may do this as well, becoming increasingly irritable or rambunctious. Frustration can be seen as an internal state of arousal, producing feelings and behaviors with the goal of reducing the aversive experience. When such behaviors produce the desired result of reducing frustration, they may become reinforced or strengthened. If an individual chooses to act violently, that behavior may reduce the aversive arousal, and will be seen as rewarding; over time, this violent behavior may escalate, and under extreme circumstances may result in murder or other violent crimes.
Criminal personalities can be divided into two different groups: the socialized offenders, and the individualized offenders. Socialized offenders are products of their environment, and learn their antisocial tendencies through peer interactions, modeling, and conditioning. These individuals offend because over the years they have learned to act a certain way in order to gain some type of reward. Individualized offenders are also thought to be products of their environment; rather through learning or modeling, their crimes are a result of a long series of unmet needs beginning early in their life.
Frustration seems to be especially intense if the individual has high standards for themselves and a high expectation of reaching a certain goal they have set in their minds. Those who feel they have personal control over their lives, decide to commit to a task, and are able to visualize reaching the goal, are much more likely to react more intensely or aggressively when confronted with interference.
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