Essay on The Multiple Factor Approaches to Crime Causation !
Despite repeated attempts on the part of criminologists propounding different views to formulate a singular theoretical explanation for criminal behaviour, no hypothesis could answer the issue satisfactorily. Eventually, the sociologists made use of ‘multiple-factor approach’ to explain the causation of crime.
The supporters of this view believe that crime is a product of a combination of a variety of factors which cannot be narrated in terms of general propositions. This view finds support from the writings of eminent American criminologist William Healy, expressing his views on multiple causation theory, Prof. Healy observed that it is not one or two factors which turn a man delinquent but it is a combination of many more factors—say eight or ten—which cumulatively influence him to follow criminal conduct.
He, however, agreed that all the factors associated with a particular crime may not have equal importance as a cause of that crime. The extent of their influence on crime may be in varying degrees, some exerting greater influence on the crime while the others, the least. But this theory has been vehemently criticised by Albert Cohen on the ground that it offers no single explanation which can explain crime causation.
Moreover, it is fallacious to believe that crimes generate only in deplorable surroundings. The greatest shortcoming of the multiple factor approach to crime according to Cohen is that the adherents of this theory confused ‘factors’ with those of ’causes’ of crime.
From the foregoing analysis it is evident that sociologists consider crime as a product of environmental deviations and varying social conditions. The inter-relation between criminality and some of these conditions may be discussed under the following heads:
The rapid growth of industrialisation and urbanisation in recent years has led to expansion of means of communication, travel facilities and propagation of views through press and platform. Consequently, human interaction has gone beyond intimate associations with increased chances of mobility.
Migration of persons to new places where they are strangers offers them better opportunities for crime as the chances of detection are considerably minimised. Mobility, therefore, serves as a potential cause of social disorganisation which may result in deviant behaviour due to lack of family control.
Commenting on the impact of crime reports appearing in newspapers on criminality, Barnes & Teeters observed that it encourages crime and delinquency in two ways. Firstly, those with unstable mind and psychopaths are easily attracted towards such crimes; and secondly, with the frequent reporting of crime-news, people begin to lose faith in law and law-enforcement agencies. That apart, the deviants learn new techniques of crime through crime-news which are published in newspapers or magazines.
(2) Culture Conflicts:
In a dynamic society social change is an inevitable phenomenon. The impact of modernisation, urbanisation and industrialisation in modern dynamic society may sometimes result in social disorganisation and this may lead to culture conflicts between different sections of society. The difference may be between old and new values, local and imported values and traditional values and the government imposed values.
Criminality arising out of cultural conflict theory has been well explained by Shah and McKay through their Cultural Transmission theory of crime which was a dominant criminological theory of the 20th century. The theory simply states that “traditions of delinquency are transmitted through successive generations of the same inhabitation in the same way as language and attitudes are transmitted.”
The inability of local communities to appreciate the common values of their residents or solve commonly experienced problems causes tension leading to deviant behaviours. This is how criminal traditions get embedded into the functioning of a community and they co-exist alongside conventional values.
Sutherland has termed this phenomenon as “differential social disorganisation” which is more common with lower-class neighbourhoods. He attributes three main causes for the culture conflict, namely, (1) residential instability; (2) social or ethnic heterogeneity; and (3) poverty.
The shift of population due to migration or immigration quite often affects the crime rate of a given place. The culture conflict between inhabitants and immigrants results in deviant behaviour. In a recent study Ruth and Cavan found that Eskimos who were free from the problem of crime until recently, now frequently indulge into deviant behaviour such as, loitering, drunkenness and sex-offences due to their migration to urban areas and social contact with non-Eskimos.
The immigration problem which India faced during Indo-Pak partition days in 1947 and Bangladesh partition in 1971 serves as an interesting illustration of cultural conflicts arising out of social disorganisation. The inflood of refugees from Sindh and North-West Frontier region in 1947 completely broke down the traditional social structure of Indian society and resulted into enormous increase in crime.
The incidence of murder, arson, looting, kidnapping and rioting were necessarily an outcome of socio-cultural variations in immigrants who had developed highly individualistic tendencies due to disruption of their family life and loss of status.
The killing of thousands of people in Sri Lanka since 1986 due to ethnic riots and confrontation between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the militant forces of the government is yet another illustration on this point. The Tamilians in the country are fighting against discrimination and are demanding for integration with Sinhalese population.
(3) Family Background:
Sutherland holds that out of all the social processes, the family background has perhaps the greatest influence on criminal behaviour of the offender. The reason being that children spend most of their time with their parents and relatives within the family. Children are apt to imbibe criminal tendencies, if they find their parents or members of the family behaving in a similar manner.
The institution of family is expected to cater to the basic needs of the children. Therefore, the child should feel that he enjoys a certain privilege and protection in his family and that he is loved and liked by his parents and members of the family. This feeling of security, warmth and reliance makes children to learn the virtues of love, respect and duty towards others.
Thus, it is through the institution of family that the child unconsciously learns to adjust himself to the environment and accepts the values of life such as respect for others, faithfulness, trustworthiness and co-operation through his own life experiences. It therefore follows that a child brought up in a broken family is likely to fall an easy prey to criminality.
Lack of parental control over children due to death, divorce or desertion of parent or their ignorance or illness may furnish soothing ground for the children to resort to criminal acts. Again, frequent quarrels amongst parents, undue domination of one over the other, step-motherly treatment with children, frequent births in the family, immorality of parents, misery, poverty or unwholesome family atmosphere and the like may also lead to the neglect of child and finding no adequate outlet for his talents, he/she may tend to become criminal in his/her life. To add to the above list, unemployment, low income or parent’s continued long absence from home for the sake of livelihood are some other causes for child delinquencies.
With revolutionary changes in socio-economic conditions in India, the family patterns- have radically changed. Excessive outdoor indulgences of modern Indian house-wife and a general tendency on the part of Indian educated women to be after jobs has disrupted the harmony of Indian family life.
This view finds support in Taft’s expression that home is growing a source of emotional tension’, the role of family has declined and its self-sufficiency jeopardised due to the outdoor interests of its members. The modern wife is no longer confined to her domestic duties as a result of which the internal discipline of the family is wholly shattered.
Due to divided loyalties of the parents, the child’s personality is over-shadowed by frustration, hatred, jealousy, revengefulness, indifference and dejection and in a fit of bewilderment he throws himself into association with other delinquents. The want of care and affection, non-fulfilment of the basic needs of children and their sad experience in the family lead to their detachment from the family and they easily lend themselves into the criminal world.
After a careful study of the family background of a number of delinquents, Donald Taft’ deduced the following generalisations which are significant from the point of view of crime causation:
(1) Mobility among criminals is far greater than those of non-criminals. In other words, delinquents change their place more frequently than the law-abiding persons.
(2) The delinquents usually prefer to stay away from their family, parents and homes.
(3) The homes of delinquents are often ill-maintained, insanitary and display poor standard of living.
(4) The family life of most delinquents is usually disrupted and their parents are either dead, separated or divorced.
(5) Experience has shown that most of the delinquents are subjected to physical punishment by the parents in their childhood. Consequently they hardly show any respect for the members of their family.
(6) A large percentage of criminals is usually hostile and indifferent towards their brothers and sisters.
(7) Delinquents are encouraged to follow criminality in their homes in either of the following ways:
(i) The parents may not themselves be associated with the criminal act but they might deliberately avoid to prevent their children from indulging into criminal acts.
(ii) Children may learn criminal patterns through the process of imitation. They begin to learn similar behaviour from their parents or other members of the family.
(iii) The parents who have embraced criminality as a way of life like those of professional thieves, pickpockets, prostitutes, etc. often train their children for the vocation. It is, however, true that a reverse process may also operate where criminal parents take all steps to ensure that their children do not follow their foot-steps and keep away from criminality.
To take an illustration, it is often seen that prostitutes usually take care to keep their children away from the dubious profession so much so that they take all precautions to ensure that their children do not even come to know that their mother is a prostitute. So also, most of the notorious dacoits prefer to dissuade their children from following similar criminal traits and provide them best education for an upright and honest living. This change in their attitude is perhaps due to the impact of education and social transformation in recent decades.
Those who denounce the influence of family surroundings on criminality may argue that this hypothesis is incorrect because cases are not wanting when persons brought up in most down-trodden and deplorable family situations have become most useful members of the society and have held prestigious positions.
It may be noted that family is only one of the multiple factors affecting criminal behaviour. Therefore, if a child living in degraded family situations finds other surroundings favourable to his upright growth, he adapts himself to those norms and eventually becomes a law abiding citizen. Thus, if other conditions of the child remain conducive to his upright living, the evil influences of degenerated family are held in check by other stronger forces.
(4) Political Ideology:
It is well known that the Parliamentarians who are law-makers of the country are also politicians. They succeed in mobilising public opinion in the desired way through the media of press and platform and finally enact suitable laws to support their policies. Thus, political ideologies gain strength through legislative process thereby directly influencing the criminal patterns in a given society.
The liberalisation of abortion law, imposition or withdrawal of prohibition laws, anti-dowry, protection of women against domestic violence, prohibition on pre-natal sex-determination, untouchability laws etc. are some of the examples to show as to how the concept of criminality changes with the changed ideologies of the politicians and the government in power.
With the change in ideologies what was unlawful and illegal till yesterday may become lawful and legal today and vice versa. The law-makers justify these changes for the good of the society keeping in view the changing norms of civilisation and culture.
To take a concrete example, live-in relationship between the spouses which considered highly immoral and illegal until a couple of years ago, is now gradually being accepted as a permissible conduct in the society and even the Supreme Court has declined to hold it as illegal holding that it is for the society to take a decision on this issue rather than the law court.
Again, political changes in a country may give rise to new political offences. The excessive interference of politicians in executive functions of the Government weakens the morale of the administrators as well as the police, with the result there is spontaneous growth in crime-rate.
With the coalition governments coming into power during 1990’s, instability of the government has become a common phenomenon in India. As a result of this, the anti-defection law instead of being an inhibitor of floor-crossing, became an opportunity for elected members to make quick money.
This paved way for political corruption which became an acceptable norm for MP’s and MLA’s who got ready money in toppling or saving the government in power and did not even hesitate to deposit it in bank or keep note bundles under their pillow. As smaller parties emerged, coalition politics became inevitable.
Political leaders would tend to maintain their political parties financially sound and at the same time ensure themselves and their families against the uncertainties of future. This led to increasing nexus between politicians and organised criminals. This is followed by political bureaucracy-organised crime nexus. Once politicians get involved, they become vulnerable and there is continuous pressure on them to repeat the process.
(5) Religion and Crime:
The changes in religious ideologies also have a direct bearing on incidence of crime in a particular region. It has been rightly said that morality can best be preserved in a society through the institution of religion. The bond of religion keeps persons within their limits and helps them to keep away from sinful and criminal acts.
The declining influence of religion in modern times has tended to leave men free to do as they like without any restraint or fear. Consequently, they do not hesitate to resort to criminality even for petty materialistic gains. Looking to the present day Indian conditions, things seem to be still worse.
Religious places in most parts of India have become dubious centres of vices. Cheating, stealing, exploiting and kidnapping are too common in these places. The so-called champions of the cause of religion, namely, the priests, the pujaris and Pandas of these religious places are virtually the plunderers who do not hesitate to ransack the innocent pilgrims. They consider themselves to be the agents of God and are in fact more dangerous than the real criminals.
It is, therefore, necessary that public opinion should be mobilised against the superstitions which are deep-rooted in Hindu religion and greater stress be laid on the spiritual aspect of Dharma rather than the rituals and formalities insisted upon by the priests. This would help in reducing crimes in pilgrim places in India. It is desired that the government must initiate stringent measures to save these sacred places from becoming the centres of nefarious activities of anti-social elements.
Despite the fact that all religions speak of communal harmony and peaceful co-existence, most wars on this earth are fought in the name of religion. The war between Iran and Iraq for over eight years, the wars in Lebanon, and the continuing fight between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and even terrorist activities in India are being carried out in the name of hidden religious overtones. These divisive forces contribute considerably to the incidence of murder, mass killing, destruction of public and private properties and other anti-social behaviour.
(6) Economic Conditions:
Economic conditions also influence criminality to a considerable extent. Present day industrial progress, economic growth and urbanisation have paralysed the Indian domestic life. The institution of family has disintegrated to such an extent that control of parents over their wards has weakened thus leaving them without any surveillance.
Under the circumstances, those who lack self-control fall an easy prey to criminality. The employment of women and their other outdoor activities have enhanced the opportunities for sex crime. Again crimes such as hoarding, undue profiteering, black-marketing, etc., are essentially an outcome of economic changes.
Now-a-days money is the paramount consideration to assess the social status of a person in society. Crimes in higher circles of society can easily be wiped off through money. Unemployment among the youths is yet another cause of increase in crime rate. If the energies of these young persons are properly channelised, they can surely contribute to the national man-power development.
It has been generally accepted that there is a strong relationship between criminality and economic or income inequality as also between crime and unemployment. Rut poverty per se is not the sole cause of criminality; it is only a major factor in crime causation. It is the social disorganisation which accounts for criminality among the poorest and not their poverty.
Undoubtedly, there is close relationship between unemployment and criminality and particularly, accounts for an unprecedented rise in property crimes and a consequential increase in the arrest rate of juveniles and youth. Those who are jobless or have less secure employment such as casual and contract workers, are more likely to be involved in property related crimes.
Analysing the impact of economic conditions on criminality, Prof. Hermann Mannheim observed that if we leave aside traffic offences, three-fourth of the time and energy of the criminal law administrators of the world shall have to be devoted to economic crimes.
Focusing on the importance of economic factors in the causation of crime, he pointed out that poverty contributes both directly and indirectly to the commission of crime. However, poverty alone may not be a direct cause of crime because other factors such as frustration, emotional insecurity and non-fulfilment of wants often play a dominant role in giving rise to the criminal tendency.
The Marxist theory has emphasised that all human behaviour is determined by economic factors. Supporting this view, Fredrick Engels attributed increase in the incidence of crime in England in mid-eighteenth century to the deplorable economic condition of the workers due to class exploitation. W.A. Bonger also adopted similar approach in explaining crime causation and asserted that a criminal is a product of capitalistic system, which created selfish tendencies.
In such a system, each person tries to extract maximum from others in return of the minimum from himself. He identified many evils in the capitalistic system which were responsible for generating crimes. In fact, the theory of Radical Criminology is based on this concept which further explains that crime occurs due to the exploitation of the poor by the rich.
(7) Ecology of Crime:
Ecology is the study of people and institutions in relation to environment. Topographical conditions also affect the incidence of crime in a particular region or locality. After a series of researches Enrico Ferri, the eminent Italian criminologist analysed the crime index of his country and concluded that in the same country the crime rate varies considerably from one region to another.
Some typical crimes are more peculiar to a particular region than other parts of the country. Similar observations were made by criminologists in France, England and U.S.A. which sufficiently established the influence of ecology on crime. It is well known that violation of customs, excise and drug laws are more common in border areas and coastal regions than in plains. Illegal felling of trees and violation of forest laws is an everyday occurrence in forest regions.
In India, the impact of ecology on crime is apparently to be seen in dacoit-infested forest regions and ravines of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh where opportunities for escape and detection are plenty. Similarly, pilgrim places of India are the breeding ground for all sorts of anti-social activities such as cheating, stealing, exploiting, etc. The cheats operating in the guise of fortune-tellers and Sadhus are often the first rate criminals who carry on their dubious activities right under the nose of the custodians of law in these so called holy places.
The proponents of ecological theory attribute social disorganisation as the main cause of criminality. They believe that treating or punishing the individual offenders would do little to alleviate the problem and the solution is to be found in making efforts to stabilise the social organisation and promoting community feeling, particularly among youths. As Durkheim rightly put it, “the overall disorder and disorganisation, social and personal, shifts behaviour in the direction of crime”.
The regional comparisons of crime rate in different parts of the country sufficiently indicate that certain crimes are peculiar to a particular location. It can therefore, be inferred that ecology of crime consists in the study of influences such as neighbourhood, population, topographical factors, etc., on criminals considered from the point of view of location.
Commenting on this aspect, Donald Taft observed that “ecology of crime may be studied in terms of location of criminal or residences of delinquents or some supposed influence upon crime which has distribution in terms of space and topography”. He further observed that criminals are often mobile and there seems to be a casual relationship between location of delinquency and the criminal.
It may, however, be pointed out that ecology of crime need not be confused with the proximity of crime and social conditions. The predominant consideration in the ecology of crime is topographical conditions of different regions and their impact on causation of crime peculiar to those places. Thus, ecology is undoubtedly one of the multiple factors of crime causation.
(8) Influence of Media:
The importance of mass media in influencing human mind has been repeatedly emphasised by some experts. Experience has shown that television and films have the maximum impact on the viewers due to combined audio-visual impact. Most of serials or films shown on television or cinema halls depict scenes of violence which adversely affect the viewers, particularly the young boys and girls who often tend to imitate the same in their real life situations.
The rising incidence of juvenile delinquency is essentially the result of evil effect of violence and vulgarism and undesirable sex exposures depicted in movies or television. Likewise, pornographic literature also has an unwholesome influence on the impressionable minds of the youth which generates criminality among them.
Most criminologists believe that films and television are major contributors to violent behaviour. A survey conducted by the Broadcasting Group of the House of Lords indicated that exposure to media violence was closely linked with aggressive behaviour. But Hagell and Newbury opposed the view that there was any real link between violent media images and criminality after finding that persistent offenders watch films or television far less than non-criminals. Gillin has also expressed doubt about any real link between media violence and criminality. According to him, films, T.V. and other media teach methods of violence to those who are already susceptible to them but it does not go further than that.
Again, the role of media in helping the mushroom growth of fake and fictitious educational institutions which are duping large number of degree-seekers, needs a particular mention in this context. The modus operandi of these institutions is simple; they splash full page advertisements in leading newspapers, collect huge sums from franchises and fat course-fee from students and make a huge profit leaving students to fend for themselves.
This is particularly true with the rotten computer training institutes which have mushroomed all over the country under different impressive names. These ‘fly-by-night’ computer institutes are taking students for a ride through attractive advertisements and on-line contracts.
Therefore, there is urgent need for framing a law to curb malpractices by these institutes through misuse of media and computer net-work. To take a concrete example, Murtaza Mithani owned Wintech Computers; a Information Technology education company was launched with a splash in 1998-99. The company reportedly collected Rs. 10 to 20 lakhs from each franchisee.
Similarly, it charged a fee ranging from 15 to 30 thousands for different courses. One fine day, the promoters of Wintech Computers quietly disappeared, leaving thousands of students in a lurch. There is no response from company’s headquarters in Delhi. Similar is the case of a Mumbai based Zap Infotech company which duped thousands of students.
Thus, it would be seen that in recent years the media has a powerful effect on public perceptions of the dangers posed by particular events, actions or behaviours. The emotive power of the media may, however, sometimes lead to illogical and ill-conceived conclusions.
At times, it may be noticed that crime depiction in the media is deliberately distorted to suppress reality. Again, there may be occasions when an act committed by an influential person or a politician may not be given coverage or condemnation despite being patently criminal or anti-social.