The Psychological Causes of Homicide

The Psychological Causes of Homicide

Among different forms of criminal activities, homicide is by far the one that causes the most public uproar. The increased frequency and startling high statistics of homicides stress the need to establish and address the psychological factors influencing homicide. In 2015 alone, about 470,000 people were victims of homicide globally. Studies show that there is a chance that one in every 200 Americans will be murdered before the age of 75. Psychological causes of homicidal crime emphasize that criminal behavior stems from differences in thinking processes. The four psychological theories of crime suggest that the criminal behavior of a person is influenced by their thoughts and feelings. According to psychological theories of crime, there are four basic assumptions that homicidal behavior results from:

  1. Lack of psychological development

Individuals who do not grow or develop like others are more likely to engage in crime. According to Freud Sigmund, human nature is based on a great reservoir of instinctual drive and satisfaction. These instinctual drives are controlled by moral and ethical codes acquired during a young age. Certain childhood experiences like poor parental child-bearing methods and extremely harsh and inconsistent discipline tend to influence criminality in adulthood.

  1. Acquired behaviors

The social learning theory of Arnold Akers suggests that criminal behavior is learned from contacts with family, friends, intimate groups, peers, and exposure to certain behaviors in media and television. Children emulate behaviors from their caregivers and people around them from a very young age. Suppose a child grows up in a violent and aggressive environment. In that case, they are very likely to become violent and aggressive as adults.

  1. Personality traits

Studies have established that criminals of homicides share certain common personality traits. Psychologists believe that some of these personality traits are genetic and predispose an individual into criminal behavior. Such traits include antisocial character, low self-control, substance abuse, and sociopathy. Such people are often grossly selfish, impulsive, irresponsible, and are unable to feel empathy, guilt, or learn from experience. But this does not necessarily mean that criminals are born that way, only that there are biological factors that increase the likelihood of developing criminal behaviors.

  1. Mental illnesses

Criminality has also been linked to mental illnesses. Statistics show a significant proportion of people involved in homicides suffer from mental disorders. One particular mental illness strongly associated with criminality is antisocial personality disorder. Research also shows that 10% of homicides are caused by individuals living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in the United States.

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Coccia M. A Theory of general causes of violent crime: Homicides, income inequality and deficiencies of the heat hypothesis and of the model of CLASH. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2017 Nov 1;37:190-200.

Webber C. Psychology and Crime: A Transdisciplinary Perspective. SAGE Publications Limited; 2019 Oct 26.

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