What is the Definition of Criminal Behavior?

In today’s world, we hear plenty of talk about criminal behavior – particularly with the proliferation of crime dramas and true crime shows on television. But what exactly does that mean?

Criminal behavior is the basis for the study of criminology. Understanding what criminal behavior is, and why people commit crimes, is key to furthering your career in criminology. With an online Master of Science in Criminology degree from Regis University, you’ll delve deeper into what constitutes criminal behavior – and why criminals do what they do.

Understanding criminal behavior

To understand what criminal behavior is, and why it occurs, it’s important to look at the psychology of crime. There are four generally accepted parameters that define behavior as being criminal1; they are:

  1. The act is prohibited by law and punished by the state.
  2. It is considered to violate a moral or religious code and is considered punishable by a supreme spiritual being.
  3. The act violates norms of society or tradition and is punishable by a community.
  4. It causes serious psychological stress or mental damage to the victim.

If criminal behavior is defined by these four criteria, it can be difficult to explain exactly what constitutes criminal behavior, since society’s acceptance of certain behaviors can change over time. So the definition of criminal behavior can vary from one era to another and even from one region or society to another.

Who commits crimes?

Anyone who breaks the law is considered a criminal. Although we typically think of the worst offenses when someone mentions crime, the truth is that a criminal is technically anyone who does something unlawfully, whether it’s ignoring a speeding ticket or burglarizing a home or cheating on taxes.

What differentiates these acts is the severity of the crime and the motivation behind it. Psychology suggests that specific factors influence what makes individuals more likely to commit crimes, such as:

  • Financial motivation. When a person is struggling to survive, they are more likely to commit crimes. This is particularly true in third world countries, where starvation is a genuine threat and people become thieves just to stay alive.
  • Social status. Someone with a low social status may become angry and fight back against society as a whole – particularly if they are bullied or demeaned because of their status.
  • Genetics. In some cases, genetic mental disorders will lead to aggression, pathology and criminal behavior.

The study of criminal behavior is complex and fascinating. With an on-campus or online Master of Science in Criminology degree from Regis University, you will learn more about what prompts such behavior, what kind of thought patterns criminals have, and what can be done to address these issues. You can play a vital role in determining how we, as a society, can reduce criminal behavior and gain a better understanding of the motivation behind that behavior. Request more information or call 877.820.0581 to speak with an admissions counselor.

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1 http://www.e-criminalpsychology.com/criminal-behavior/