Trait theory why people commit crime

Trait theory why people commit crime

Trait theory. Specific personality traits predispose a person to commit a crime. The assertion is suggested in t he individual trait theory, explaining why some criminals tend to take unlawful paths in life. As Beaver and co-authors (2017) explain, their perception and learning of social behaviors are affected in such a way that they are unable to follow the law and social contracts. In this essay, a high profile case is summarized and analyzed based on the trait theory. Specifically, a focus is given to the case of the United States versus Timothy James McVeigh (1995). A closer look indicates that the study of personality traits in criminology is vital because it can help in explaining the prevalence of crime in a society.

Trait theory
Trait theory

Trait theory. Summary of the Case

On 19 April 1995, a massive explosion took place at the Murrah building in Oklahoma. A total of 168 people were killed while many others were injured (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). The suspected persons, McVeigh, and Terry Lynn Nichols were charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by using an explosive, and eight counts of murder. The government proved that the accused had committed the crimes. McVeigh was sentenced to death while his counterparts were given a life sentence.

Trait theory. Applicability of Trait Theory Applies

The trait theory is applicable in the case of the United States versus Timothy James McVeigh (1995) for several reasons. First, while the consequences of the crime were fatal, the reasons for committing the crime were irrational. It is hence important to analyze the personality traits of the accused to understand their motivations and perceptions. Michel and Herbeck (2015) explain that the accused rationalized the death of hundreds of people by stating that people worked for the government were unworthy of living. It was important, he felt, for citizens to control the government by using guns. McVeigh was also angered by the move to take a siege at Branch Davidians in Waco in 1993 (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). The location was chosen because orders to commit the siege came from Murrah building while its architecture made it an easy target. Further, the accused made well-calculated plans on how to turn a truck into a bomb with explosives stolen from a firm. From the letter sent to his family and conversations with his friends, it was revealed that the accused argued that bombing buildings is an act of patriotism (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). It is clear that they were unwilling to follow the ideal path of dealing with injustice and instead chose to murder and injure innocent citizens. Such a distorted perception of reality confirms that their personality predisposed them to crime.

Trait theory. How the Trait Theory Explains Why the Accused Committed the Crime

The trait theory explains that the personality of an individual determines their capacity to commit a crime. Sinha (2016) explains that they are incapable of loyalty to social values. They are selfish, impulsive, and irresponsible. Further, they do not have the capacity to feel guilt after their acts. Instead of viewing humans as driven by thoughts, they opine that an individual must be forced to comply with certain rules and orders. In the case study, the accused felt that the United States government was bullying the citizens (Michel & Herbeck, 2015). It is also disclosed that they had remained shy and withdrawn throughout their adolescence and had issues sustaining relationships with women. During their service in the military, the accused indicated in an interview just before his execution that he celebrated decapitating an Iraq soldier. Further, he engaged in gambling and wrote letters to local newspapers complaining of various issues including taxation. Considering this history, it is clear that the accused was unable to follow the norms and values in the society. Studying their personality would hence offer sufficient explanation as to why they committed the crime.

Trait theory. How the Trait Theorist Would View the Case

Trait theorists would consider the specific traits that predispose McVeigh to commit murder. The accused may be required to complete a questionnaire to determine their personality type. An assessment may also be conducted based on the big five model (Sinha, 2016). It evaluates the personality traits namely extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and conscientiousness. Certain combinations such as introversion, failure to agree with others, and an inability to consider other options can explain why the accused committed the crime. Further, the intelligent quotient levels of the accused would be measured. It is argued that people with low levels of IQ are likely to commit crimes. The logical explanation for this is that the accused was unable to access good educational opportunities, resorting to the criminal path.

Trait theory. Significant Studies

In the study conducted by Beaver et al. (2017), the association between the five-factor model that measures personality traits and crime was examined. It was disclosed that psychopathic personality traits are a predictor of an individual’s arrest and incarceration. Accordingly, studying psychopathic personality traits is vital in criminology. The study by Ray and co-authors (2017) confirms these suggestions. The researchers assessed the relationship between callous-unemotional (CU) traits and delinquent behavior amongst adolescents. The 1216 participants were male juvenile offenders. They were interviewed for 6 months. It was disclosed that the CU traits would predict the delinquent behaviors. Parents’ warmth and supervision would help in minimizing the criminal tendencies.

Certainly, the prevalence of crime in a society can be explained by studying personality traits. In the case of United States versus Timothy James McVeigh (1995), the suspected had traits that predisposed him to commit murder and injuries of hundreds of people. They rationalized the use of force against innocent people working for the government. Early in life, they portrayed introverted, selfish, irrational, and impulsive behaviors. The previous studies on the theory confirm that a personality trait can predict the probability of incarceration in a group.

Trait theory. References

Beaver, K. M., Boutwell, B. B., Barnes, J. C., Vaughn, M. G. & Delisi, M. (2017). The association between psychopathic personality traits and criminal justice outcomes: results from a nationally representative sample of males and females. Crime & Delinquency, 63(6), 708-730.

Michel, L. & Herbeck, D. (2015). American terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. New Jersey: BookBaby Publishing

Ray, J. V., Frick, P. J., Throton, L. C., Wall Myers, T. D., Steinberg, L. & Cauffman, E. (2017). Callous-unemotional traits predict self-reported offending in adolescent boys: The mediating role of delinquent peers and the moderating role of parenting practices. Developmental Psychology, 53(2), 319.

Sinha, S. (2016). Personality correlated of criminals: A comparative study between normal controls and criminals. Indian Psychiatry Journal, 25(1), 41-46.

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