Essay on the Importance of Motivation in Crime

What causes men to be criminal, violent, abusive and cruel towards women? Three theoretical schools on criminal violence are: Psychopathological school (which focuses on personality traits of offenders and victims), socio-psychological school (which focuses on effect of external factors on individual’s everyday action), and socio-cultural or sociological school (which focuses on pressures of social systems and social structures on individual).

Five important theoretical propositions of socio- psychological school are: (1) innate aggressive drive is directed to source of frustration (Frustration-Aggression Theory), (2) deviant act is the result of infantile instincts, distorted feelings, and split ego of the deviants (Perversion Theory); (3) persons of low esteem seek to improve their image in the eyes of others and themselves through deviant or violent acts (Self-Attitude Theory), (4) deviance is a normal response to provocation (Provocation Theory), and (5) individuals indulge in deviant behaviour when their resentment escalates on attributing malevolent intent/motivations to the actions of other individuals (Motive Attribution Theory).

Four important theoretical propositions of sociological school are: (1) cultural values and norms support and facilitate crime (Theory of Subculture of Violence), (2) crime is the result of strains caused by gap between goals and means (Anomie Theory), (3) crime is used as an instrument when an individual lacks resources for achieving his interests and yet wants to be a dominant person (Resource Theory), and (4) crime is conduct which is learnt through direct experience by observing others’ behaviour and imitating it. Individuals raised in abusing homes learn that violence can and should be used against the weak (Social Learning Theory).


My contention is that causes of crime against women are found to be related mainly to five factors: (1) structure of the situation in which crime is committed, (2) situational ‘facilities’ which enable the committing of crime, (3) precipitating factor(s) that lead to crime, (4) strains experienced by the offender, i.e., his individual problems; and (5) victim’s behaviour with the offender much before the crime is committed against her. A holistic approach to the combination of these factors alone will give us the correct causes of crime against women.

Specifically, three factors seem to play a major role in prompting a man to commit crime against a woman: (1) offender’s history of abuse as a child (like unhappy upbringing, physical beating by parents and emotional rejection); (2) stressful situations in the family; and (3) status frustrations. The first factor points out that the offender’s deviant behaviour is mostly learnt from childhood and adolescent experiences of emotional distresses. This posits the thesis of the ‘Generational Theory’ that growing up in a violent home increases the likelihood of an individual becoming violent / deviant as an adult.

The fact that a very large number of offenders in my study (78%) were the victims of violence in childhood shows that my data supports this theory. The data also supports the ‘Social Learning Theory’ according to which indulging in deviant behaviour as a method of conflict resolution or as a coping mechanism is learnt behaviour.

Women’s tolerance of violence is explained in terms of ‘Learned Helplessness Theory’ and ‘Traditional Socialisation Theory’.


The latter theory refers to woman’s imbibing traditional values and ‘sex-role ideology’ through socialisation process that man is superior to woman and that woman has no right to protest.

The former theory maintains that some events occur in a woman’s life with sufficient regularity because of which she acquires feelings of depression, helplessness and poor self-image and comes to believe that she cannot escape abuse.

Some of the theories mentioned above overemphasise personality, others underestimate the role of environment, and yet others focus on a single factor as the cause of crime. Most of the social scientists today consider holistic approach as a scientific approach in explaining deviant behaviour.

Besides the above theoretical explanations, three other theoretical approaches have also been used for explaining miseries heaped on women and/or the victimisation of women: (i) patriarchy approach, (ii) interpersonal power approach, and (iii) context-specific approach, (see, Mukesh Ahuja, 1996).