This report is for Criminological Theory relating to Crimes of Violence to explain social learning and strain theory

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Criminological Theory relating to Crimes of Violence

Criminological approaches that relate directly to violence, Profile of a serial killer (what causes people to kill)


Violence is an integral part of human nature, either as a perpetrator or as a spectator of violent behaviour. Government organisations aim to reduce the effects of criminal behaviour within the society by identifying the early markers of violent behaviour by studying the causal factors that lead to the growth of serial killers.

The following study will observe the various types of criminal violence and the impact of such activities on the victims. An understanding of violence based on the tenets of social learning and strain theory would be presented as well. The attributes of violence based on the theoretical perspectives of rational choice and control balance would be provided in the study. Various serial murder theories would be evaluated in the study and the influence of causal factors on the behavioural aspect of Jeffrey Dahmer and Colin Ireland (Gay Slayer) would be studied as well.  



1. Explain the types of criminal violence and their impact on victims

Criminal violence affects the efficient functioning of the society by influencing the people’s behaviour towards public service officers and a general distrust on the government over lack of policing and ability to maintain peace. Violence can be defined as the intentional use of force by threats or actuality on self, other or community that holds the possibility of injury, mental harm, deprivation or death (Who.int, 2019). As per the report generated by Victimsupport.org.uk (2019), there are numerous categories of violent crimes. Different national authorities have labelled various types of crimes as violent. As per the notion developed by Vito and Maahs (2015), burglary, antisocial behaviour, childhood and domestic abuse, fraud, cyber crime, rape, murder, modern slavery, harassment, terrorism and other forms of violent crimes that may affect the members of the society negatively has been labelled as criminal violence. There are variations within the law of different countries that identify various acts as criminal violence in the society. Regardless of the type of criminal violence that victims may experience, the result is similar for every type of violent act on the mental health of the victim.

As observed by Cohen (2017), regardless of the type of criminal behaviour and violence, the impact on the victims’ health and well-being is same in every case. The trauma and fear associated with a future attack is consistent within the victims’ mind. It can be stated that the victims of rape and assault cases suffer from severe mental stress and experiences trauma that takes several therapy sessions to heal. Burglary and fraud victims also experience severe trauma, physical and emotional duress and cognitive difficulties. Shock, fear and anger are three major emotions that victims of violent crimes experience that hinder their growth and sustenance within the society.

2. Explain social learning and strain theory in relation to violence

As observed by the study conducted by Akers and Jennings (2015), social learning and differential reinforcement through imitation of peers plays a significant role in the development of a criminal’s behaviour and personality. The tenets of social learning enhance the learning ability of people as per their associations. Individuals learn behaviours and activities from their peers and their surroundings. As observed from the conclusions drawn by Sutherland et al. (2015), differential association affects the development of psychopathic behaviour within criminals with history of violent behaviour. It can be stated that the growth of criminal behaviour among individuals is based on the lack of opposition that potential criminals experience while performing deviant behaviour.

It can be identified through the strain theory proposed by Agnew (2017) that there are four major types of negative strain that affect vulnerable members within society. Emotional, psychological and physical negative strains enhance the development of criminal behaviour among individuals. Certain stressful situations increase the scope of violent criminal behaviour. There are multiple factors that influence the individuals’ reaction to stress and inhibit the growing aspects of criminal behaviour within their psychology. Elements of domestic and childhood abuse, disruptive familial backgrounds, trauma from past incidents and lack of policing of deviant behaviour are factors that play a significant role in the development of behavioural differences that leads to criminal attitude. As per the tenets of social learning factors, the behavioural differences among criminals are exhibited in the early formative years of childhood, adolescence. Individuals learn from their surroundings especially criminals showing heinous tendencies of performing violent crimes need to be identified by the public service authorities in order to enhance the safety of the society.        

3. Explain control balance and rational choice theory in relation to violence

It is opined by Tittle (2018), regarding the terms of control balance theory in criminology as every individual is influenced by the tenets of control and exercises some form of controlling behaviour on their surroundings. As per the terms of control balance theory, the difference between experienced and exercised control is identified as control ratio and plays a significant role in identifying the factors that enhance the growth of criminal behavioural traits among people. The aspects of conformity, deviancy and submission among criminals determine the type of violent behaviour they would exhibit in the future.

Collective and interpersonal violence within criminals from an early age develop their nature and affects the personal bonds with other people within the society. Aspects of constraint and self-control play a centralised role in defending the individual from expressing their inner feelings. As opined by Rebellon and Anskat, (2017), the emotional development of criminals is affected from an early age due to the various attributions of controlling factors within their environment. The lack of discouragement of deviant behaviour and growing obsession with violence in the society results in enhanced violent behaviour among criminals.

As per the tenets of rational choice theory in criminology, it can be stated that criminals perform acts of violence and crime considering the cause and effects of their activities. As opined by Hedström and Stern (2017), rational choice theory marks the behavioural changes within the criminals before and after the commitment of the act of crime. It has been developed by historical criminologist Beccaria that the ideal way to prevent the growth of criminal behaviour among people is to develop laws and regulations that would make potential criminals think of the harsh outcomes that they would incur. The major incentives for conducting violent behaviour can be observed as display of power, seeking thrill and general violence against the weak and powerless. Harsh punishments hold the potential to reduce the performance of criminal activities.     

4. Evaluate theories relating to serial murder

The event of illegally killing two or more individuals by a single perpetrator, in different situations is identified as serial murders (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2019). As opined by Jenkins (2017), the terms of social construction theory in the terms of criminology, it can stated that condition within the society affect the development of criminal theory. Public perception of criminal behaviour through various TV shows, literature and other forms of movements that romanticise the development of criminal behaviour play a significant role in generating an increasing number of criminals within the society.

As per the opinion framed by Messori (2016), it can be stated that there are several types of serial killers and they commit crimes as per their visionary objectives. Some killers are mission oriented, hedonistic and seek to gain control and power over their victims. Criminal specialists identify the type of act the murderers perform on their victims as well as observe their killing patterns in order to develop a profile of the murderer (Holmes and DeBurger, 1985). The criminologists also identify the psychological perspective of the criminal based on the type of organised or disorganised behaviour they exhibit.

5. Evaluate the impact of causal factors on serial murderers in given case studies

As opined by Levin and Fox (2017), it can be stated that there are several factors within the society that encourage the development of psychopathic demeanour within serial killers. It can be observed in case of Jeffrey Dahmer that the pre-existing health issues and mental issues with personality disorders, his criminal psyche developed during his teens. The causal factors of family, control, sexuality and education played a major role in the formation of Dahmer’s cannibalistic and psychopathic behaviour (Widom and Wilson, 2015). Dahmer’s sexuality in combination with personality disorders and scientific curiosity regarding carcasses and bones were identified as primary causal factors to his criminal behaviour (Palmstierna, 2016).

Considering the case of Colin Ireland or the Gay Slayer, it can be noted that motivational aspects of killers also enhance the criminal performance among killers. It is observed in Ireland’s case, the growing frustration and attention-seeking behaviour rendered him to kill people. His confusion with own sexual identity also enhanced his behaviour to kill gay men. The growing interest of the public regarding serial killers also increased his violent behaviour towards people and animals (Sarteschi, 2016). The mental health issues and fantasy regarding serial killers within media affects the development of serial killer mentality among criminals.  


It is observed from the study that the behavioural theories and criminal study approaches plays a significant role in recognising the factors that develop the minds of a serial killer. Theoretical frameworks of social learning and strain theory justify the violent nature among serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Colin Ireland. It is evidenced from the study that the external and internal causal factors affecting the development of a criminal’s mind include the social, cultural and psychological factors, which enhance the violent nature within their personality.

Thus, it can be proved from the study that the criminological approaches to violent behaviour provides necessary information to the government organisations in reducing the outburst of unhealthy behaviour among potential serial killers by observing their environment and behavioural changes. 

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