The problem selected for analysis deals with the problem of unemployment and crime. Such findings are related to merely all types of crimes, such as robbery, auto theft, homicide, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and so on. The results of the studies by Currie proved the tendency of crime occurring in the middle- to late-adolescence, which subsides in early adulthood. In such a way, unemployment is considered as the strongest factor having an impact on criminal involvement, types and level of the crimes.
While analyzing the unemployment -crime relationship criminologists developed several theories in order to explain the main reasons of committing crimes, why young black people are more involved in crimes than adults or elderly people, what causes long-term involvement in committing crimes, and so on. Such theories include the psychological, biological, social, and behavioral. While all of them are very important in understanding the age-crime relationship, the current paper will discuss the social learning theory. Though, before analyzing the theory in details it might be useful to discuss the main points and discoveries about crimes among adolescents (Skolnick and Currie 2007).
The unemployment -crime relationship can be analyzed based on the age-crime curve with considerable variation in the curve parts, such as peak age, median age, rate of decline from peak age, etc (Silberman, 2000). The peak age is identified as the age group with the highest age-specific arrest rate, which is usually reached at the age of twenty-five and thirty for all reported crimes. The median age in crimes is younger than thirty years old. During the late adolescence young people are less dependent on same-age-same-sex peers being oriented more toward persons of the opposite sex and more mature and older people. Finally, the decline of criminal age is gradual, which becomes more pronounced only in fifties when health problems and physical disabilities prevent from performing the major crimes.
If to consider the biological and physical aspects, it is obvious that young black people with their physical abilities like strength, stamina, speed of movement, flexibility, and aggression are more able to perform crimes, protect themselves, or enforce contracts. Insufficient physical energy and strength might put crime plan into risk or make the crime itself rather difficult and dangerous. Moreover, there are always younger and stronger criminal competitors, which require constant “update” or improvement of criminal resources in order to compete in this field. That is why, the analysis of age-crime relationship proved the low involvement of crimes among children and elderly people due to their insufficient or declining physical abilities to perform crimes.
According to social learning theory, the development of human character and personality occurs within a certain social environment, which might have either positive or negative impact on the individual, his/her life perception, values, emotions, intentions and behavior. Since the internal state of the individual is the base of such theory, the person’s sensitivity toward the surrounding environment becomes crucial during the formative years of childhood and adolescence when cognitive abilities are developed. During this period the child increasingly observe the social environment and behavior of other people around them in certain situations, which helps children to form their self-concepts, perception of the world, manners of behavior and attitude to other people. Exactly during this life stage the perception of good and bad is formed. Thus, it is vitally important to ensure that the child grows up in the healthy and ethical environment forming the positive characteristics of his/her personality (Skolnick and Currie 2007).
The recent social and economic changes in the majority of countries around the world empowered people with various opportunities and skills, which might a base for criminal behavior. Unemployment in certain countries increased the juvenile criminality in the recent decades. There is the importance on another aspect of social learning, which is vicarious learning being based on the consequences of other people’s behavior. In this case, children and young people observe the rewards and punishments as the result of other people’s behavior, which form their perception of what is right and wrong, and which consequences might follow each action. This statement can be proved by the example of a child observing the behavior of his parents. Their improper actions like shouting, hitting, or insulting each other without any punishment, or even worse with some kind of reward, might give a child incorrect perception of relations between people, which he is more likely to repeat by himself (Sutherland and Cressey, 2001).
During childhood and adolescent years young people observe the behavior of others to form their own. If a child is exposed to aggressive or antisocial behavior, he is more likely to imitate that behavior and perceive as normal. Moreover, during the teenage years unemployment people are faced with numerous temptations and potential rewards for offending, such as money, power, status, autonomy, identity claims, natural adrenaline highs, strong sensate experiences stemming from sex, and respect from similar peers. Since the character and personality of those young people are not developed completely, they are open to any kind of information being unable to interpret it properly, which usually leads to unethical and aggressive behavior. Moreover, during the teenage years young people start to understand that due to their young age the punishment for their incorrect actions might not be so severe or even be omitted (Wilson, 2000). Thus, they do not care about the consequences of their behavior. While becoming adults, young people are more willing to accept social norms and values, concern about others in their life, search for serious job or other self-realization. Most of them find their bonds to conventional society strengthening in the form of education, work, personal and professional development. Moreover, early adulthood usually involves a change in crime associations and lifestyle routines that reduce the opportunities for committing the offenses and crimes. Still, unemployed parents create a negative image of work as a source of income (Skolnick and Currie 2007).
Social learning theory provides sufficient explanation of human behavior during the adolescence stressing the role of employment in crime perception, values, intentions and behavior. Criminologists have long recognized that unemployment is a very robust predictor of crime, both in the aggregate and for individuals. Unemployment is a direct cause of crime and violence against other people who possess monetary finds and property. The unemployment -crime relationship varies in the crime types, the structural position of groups, and historical and cultural contexts. While understanding the criminal behavior among unemployed people the social learning theory directs attention toward the rewards and punishments those people observe in their life in the behavior of other people, which they are more likely to imitate by themselves.
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Skolnick, Jerome H., and Elliott Currie. (2007). Crisis in American Institutions. 13th ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Sutherland Edwin H. and Cressey, Donald (2001). Principles of Criminology, 7th ed. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.
Wilson, Margaret (2000). The Crime of Punishment. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.