Stress Causes Crime

By ACS Distance Education on August 11, 2015 in Psychology | comments
Most crimes also occur, at least partly, as a result of stress. There are many authoritative comments, and studies on record, which attest to this fact. People commit crime because of greed, revenge, anger, jealousy and pride. These feelings may prompt crime, but other things may have caused the negative feelings beforehand. These earlier negative feelings can be a precursor to crime and are usually due to some type of psychosocial stress.

James is living in poverty. He is homeless and receives no state benefits. He steals from others when he can. At other times, he begs. We may think he steals because he is living in poverty and needs money to eat, but we also have to consider the factors that led to him being homeless in the first place.  There are many factors that can lead to homelessness and stressful life events can be part of this. Shelter UK states that:

“A number of different personal and social factors can contribute towards people becoming homeless. These may include one or more of the following:

1. Individual factors including lack of qualifications, lack of social support, debts - especially mortgage or rent arrears, poor physical and mental health, relationship breakdown, and getting involved in crime at an early age

2. Family background including family breakdown and disputes, sexual and physical abuse in childhood or adolescence, having parents with drug or alcohol problems, and previous experience of family homelessness.

3. An institutional background including having been in care, the armed forces, or in prison.

If we look at the factors that they mention, we can see stressful situations throughout. It is too easy to think that James “only” steals because he is living in poverty, but stress was involved in leading him to that unfortunate position in his life in the first place.

This brief quote from the National Institute of Justice in America shows the potential impact on children who are abused or neglected:  “Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59 percent, as an adult by 28 percent, and for a violent crime by 30 percent according to one study that looked at more than 1,500 cases over time (the researchers matched 900 cases of substantiated child abuse with more than 650 cases of children who had not been abused). When the researchers looked at the children's race, they found that white children who had been abused and neglected were no more likely to be arrested for a violent crime than those who had not been abused or neglected. By contrast, black children who were abused and neglected showed significantly increased rates of violent arrests compared to black children who were not maltreated.

Findings from another study — the Rochester Youth Development Study - funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, suggest a strong relationship between childhood maltreatment and later delinquency. The Rochester study followed a sample of 1,000 urban youth over time. Researchers found that childhood maltreatment was a risk factor for officially recognized delinquency, violent self-reported delinquency and moderate self-reported delinquency. Overall, child maltreatment appeared to be a risk factor for more serious delinquency, such as assaults, but not lesser forms of delinquency, such as underage drinking. Substantiated cases of adolescent maltreatment (against children aged 12 to 17) increased the odds of arrest, general and violent offending, and illicit drug use in young adulthood.”

This is yet another example of the impact of stress in these children’s lives and how this can relate to higher rates of crime later in their lives.

Other research studies have shown varying degrees of correlation between other factors and criminal behaviour, such as peer pressure, genetics, drugs, alcohol etc. that can create stress in a person, and increase their inclination towards criminal behaviour.   Peer pressure can be an important factor on children and teenagers. Children and adolescents want to be accepted. They want to belong and at times this can mean that they may do things they wouldn’t normally, to be accepted by their peers.  Sometimes this can mean that they take drugs or commit crime. This can lead to increased stress in the child as they are doing something that they may not want to do.  It can also cause stress within their family and friendships.