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What Goes into the Making of a Criminal?

Soumya Gupta

“An act does not make a person guilty unless their mind is also guilty”

As a society, we are not privy to crime and its implications in society. Crime is as much a part of society as the government and its citizens. Over the years, criminal psychologists and law enforcement officials, alike, have worked towards determining what causes an individual to commit crimes- right from petty crimes to violent crimes, such as, mass murder or rapes, to someone who is more likely to commit a specific type of crime. For the most part, civilians like to group these criminals as "psychopaths" and "sociopaths", even though, in reality, studies suggest that most psychopaths and sociopaths, or as the more clinically correct term suggests, people diagnosed with antisocial disorder do not exhibit violent traits, and on the contrary go on to live normal, successful lives.

Those diagnosed with antisocial disorder may find it difficult to fit in with the norm due to a predisposition to being more aggressive, abusive, impulsive, having a lack of empathy, being pathological liars, etc. However, it is found that a majority of the diagnosed psychopaths and sociopaths do not demonstrate these assumed criminal tendencies at all but may merely be considered more cunning than the average human being, and utilise their deceitful nature to gain success in their workplace. These predetermined attitudinal projections of probable criminals exist over a variety of human attributes which may lead to stereotyping of an entire community. This is clearly evident in cases ruled by racial politics where a person is more likely to be apprehended due to their race. It is also important to note that even though statistically more men are said to commit crimes, the possibility of women committing crimes shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the involvement of women in crimes can be just as catastrophic as that of men’s.

So, why do some people commit crimes?

There are various reasons for this: poverty, harsh upbringing, unfulfilled sexual needs, genetics, the biological and chemical composition of one’s brain. Some people may commit petty crimes, or even carry out actions that may be against the law, but not cause actual harm to other people. Some others may carry out crimes that could lead to harm, or even result in the death of another person.

Over the years, studies have been conducted to study the driving factor of crimes. Research shows a correlation between criminal behaviour and brain dysfunction and states that criminal behaviour may be caused due to a combination of impaired social judgement, hypersexuality, aggression, and violence. Even though researchers have not been able to determine one specific factor that leads to all these crimes, they have inched closer to ascertain specific behaviour patterns that may lead a person to commit crimes. A multitude of studies have found that antisocial activities that people may participate in stem from a grasping need to escape from the trauma from their past. Melitta Schmeidberg*, in her research, speaks of a client who, upon gaining independence from her mother, became a prostitute* in order to feel liberated from the control of other people over her life. Her domineering mother caused her to displace her childhood fears and greed into her prostitution wherein she claimed that she could not bare the thought of letting men leave without making them spend all their money on her.

Can people stop committing crimes?

Whereas it has intermittently been found that punishment does not do much to reduce crime, there have been cases where the perpetrator forwent their crime(s), and in some cases even willingly gave themselves up to the police. One such example is of serial killer Edmund Kemper, who, after murdering 10 women confessed to his murders, stating that “the original purpose (of his killings)” was gone. There are various strategies that law enforcement officials incorporate to catch criminals, however, a fairly new method that has been in use is that of criminal profiling. In this case, a profile of the criminal is formed with the help of the clues left behind on the crime scene, alongside the information gathered with the type of crime committed to narrow down the characteristics of the criminal. Whereas this method is used mainly with repeated offenders, it is not impossible to implicate one time offenders. The different methods of criminal profiling used are: investigative profiling, crime action profiling, geographic profiling, forensics, and so on. This method, however, does not help in the reduction of crime, but only ensures that an offender does not commit the same crime again. The reduction of crime indefinitely is not a question of legal enforcement of rules, but of an improvement in the sociological and economic makeup of a country.

Disclaimer: Please note that in this article, the range of “crimes” spoken of are actions considered illegal by law and not only an impression of the author on what constitutes a crime.

Note: The author does not believe prositution to be a crime, it is merely an example of a behaviour not in lines with the norm.


Cline, Meagan (2016) “Psychopathology and Crime Causation: Insanity or Excuse?,” Fidei et Veritatis: The Liberty University Journal of Graduate Research: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 4.

Barbara Masser, University of Queensland. The Psychology of Criminal Justice, edX.

*Melitta Schmeidberg, Psychological factors underlying Criminal behaviour, 37 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 458 (1946-1947)

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