Crime is a serious issue that affects everyone in society. It affects the victims, perpetrators, and their families. Crime has increased drastically within the last decade. More prisons are being built around the world because there is not enough room to hold inmates. The government has made an attempt to reduce crime by funding programs such as prevention and intervention for youth at risk, as well as rehabilitation for prisoners that will be released. Some argue that criminal behavior is due to the environment, others believe that it is genetic, and yet others think that it has to do with personality. If there were certain personality traits that could be identified with potential criminal behavior, steps could be taken to try to reduce or diminish the “criminal personality”. Although personality is not the only factor in criminal behavior, there does seem to be a strong association between them both.
Alfred Adler believed that children who failed to solve the vital problem of social interest-who lack cooperation and a desire for contributing to the well-being of others-will always meet significant problems later, during their adult years (Adler, 1998). This could include personality problems or criminal behavior. Personality develops early in life. That is why early childhood aggression and antisocial behavior should be taken seriously. Being able to identify potential criminal behavior is vital for prevention and intervention. Childhood factors shown to relate to the development of antisocial behaviors include a difficult early temperament, low IQ, academic deficiencies and learning problems, lack of empathy, underdeveloped social skills, and negative peer relations. (Sutton, Cowen, Crean, & Wyman, 1999). Environmental factors such as family structure and poverty are also associated with potential criminal behavior.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation Report (1993) noted that one violent crime (e.g. aggravated assault, murder) was committed every 22 seconds in 1992, and 15% of those arrested for such crimes were under the age of 18 (Sutton, et.al. 1999). Juvenile delinquency is becoming more common. The age at which these young kids are committing crimes is getting younger. The crimes they are committing are getting more serious. They are not only involved in vandalism and shoplifting like many people might assume, but they are involved in life-threatening crimes such as assault and murder. According to the FBI, the number of arrests for youth 12 and younger, in 1996, was 250,000. For youth age 13 and 14, the number was 671,900; and youth age 15 and older accounted for 1,929,800 arrests (Federal Probation, 1996).
As mentioned earlier, being able to identify personality traits that tend to lead to delinquency is clearly one option to the reduction of crime. However, the problem is that many youths display similar negative behavior during adolescence. This includes negative attitudes, different interests, and a need for privacy. The key is to be involved in the life of today’s youth. Communicating with them, spending time with them, and knowing what they are involved in is part of the process. According to Peace Research Abstracts Journal, (1999) Helping youth find meaning in their lives often involves building connectedness-restoring relationships with others, with their sense of spirituality, and with the earth. Parents must also be aware of the warning signs and follow up on them.
Warning signs in youth include showing a lack of interest in family/school activities, truancy problems and poor school performance, signs of aggression, and negative peer relationships. When the parent acknowledges this behavior, the parent can takes steps to improve it, or at least stop it from getting worse. Individual counseling and family therapy allow the family to learn how to deal with the youth’s antisocial personality and possible delinquent behavior. A number of studies have addressed the question of general Therapeutic effectiveness and found psychotherapy capable of promoting lasting behavioral change (Walters, 1999). There are many individuals that with proper guidance will not become involved in crime. If antisocial behavior is not monitored and treated at an early age, this behavior can lead to a lifestyle of crime.
Alfred Adler believed that children’s problems begin in a child’s ability to cooperate with society, feeling inferior, and lack of a life goal. Adler looked at rehabilitation counseling, parenting skills development, family counseling, and classroom management in a child’s life (Utay, 1996). Adler developed the Encouragement Model for people. The model serves the purpose of encouragement to promote and activate the social interest of an individual. It aims at giving an individual a sense of respect and confidence. According to Adler, “Those who are discouraged fail to operate on the useful side of life and seek to find belonging through neurotic symptoms” (Evans, T. 1997). The model encourages four characteristics: an adequate and positive view of the self, an adequate and positive view of others, and openness to experience, and a sense of belonging. (Evans, T. 1997).
Adler believes that there is no magical cure, however, he believes that we must first understand the child, and then we can determine why he or she has failed to develop adequate social interest. There are many factors that contribute to our personality. Although human personality and behavior are very complex, I think that with proper guidance and support children have the potential to be successful adults. Each child is unique and learns in different ways. Therefore, parents, teachers, and mentors must learn to reach children and youth. As members of society, we must be aware of negative behavior and/or personality that could possibly lead to criminal behavior in the future. If we take responsibility for the youth of society as a whole, we will not only improve the life of that child, but we will improve the world we live in.
The lack of connectedness that is portrayed by the delinquent youth can also be seen by the members of society. The attitude of, “ That is not my kid, therefore that is not my problem” contributes to the criminal society that we live in. I believe that the prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation programs are helpful, but I also think that parents have the power to prevent their children from engaging in such acts of crime. After all, a parent should know their child more than any other person in this world. Although having an antisocial/aggressive personality does not necessarily guarantee that a child will become a criminal, I believe that taking the proper steps to ensure a positive future for children is the best prevention method that a parent can use.