Chapter 4 focuses on environmental factors that underlie criminal behavior. In 1300 to 1650 words, describe how behavior is learned as a result of interactions with the environment. At a minimum, your paper should examine classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning as it relates to crime. Students are expected to find research studies from at least three separate scholarly sources (one research study for each theory at a minimum) that conducted studies on classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning to use as references.

The text book is Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2014). Criminal behavior a psychosocial approach. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sample paper


With the advancement in information technology and warfare technology in the globe today, there has been an increase in crime in our societies. Crime is an action that comprises of an offense that may be prosecuted in the court of law and is punishable by law. Despite the increased security awareness among the police forces, criminals always find a way to get away with their criminal activities in one way or another. There are different types of crimes that are carried out in different ways and attract different penalties. Some of the common crimes among the people include assault, battery, homicide, rape, false imprisonment and kidnapping. As a way to curb the spread of these criminal activities, most governments highly invest in criminology an area that mainly focuses on the study of crimes, their causes, and effects in the society. Criminology involves data and information analysis to determine why individuals engage in criminal activities and developing ways to predict as well as prevent these activities. It is the duty of every citizen to live in a peaceful neighborhood, but this will not be possible unless all citizens combine their efforts in the attempt to fight crime (Bartol, 2014). It is not a one man fight. This essay will attempt to examine and discuss environmental factors that underlie criminal behavior. Criminal behavior focuses on understanding offenders better thus making it easy to determine who the criminals are, why they do commit offenses.

Criminal behavior is any antisocial behavior which punishable by the laws or norms stated by the community. Moreover, causes of criminal behaviors can be grouped into two broad categories – genetics and environment. Past studies have indicated a close and positive correlation between sociological and environmental factors of criminal behavior. One of the environmental factors that are known to influence the behavior of an individual is socialization. The ring of the circle of friends that a person associated with influences his or her behavior. It is also worth noting that socialization is very crucial in the childhood development of a child or the way he is taught to act by his elders. If a child grows and develops in a society where criminal activities are the norms of the day, there is a high likelihood that the child will learn and adopt the same criminal behavior. Children learn merely to obey the rules, and if they are not taught that stealing or involving in criminal activities is wrong, they will grow up without realizing that it is against the laws (Raine, 2013). Socialization in this context refers to that crucial period that an individual develops the ideas of morality and socially accepted behavior to exhibit certain characteristics because they believe them to be inherently correct.

Key factors that determine criminal behavior


On the other hand, scientists believe that psychology is one of the key factors that determine criminal behavior in an individual. Psychologists believe that classical condition which comprises of a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired contributes to the creation, development, and adoption of criminal behaviors. Just like the dogs used by Pavlov in his experiment, people must be subjected to both unconditional stimulus and unconditional response to developing a criminal behavior. In this case, rather than the use of food top represent unconditional stimulus, human behavior is usually driven by satisfaction and desires. Thus, when an individual is exposed to money and perhaps sexual satisfaction, that person will do everything possible to get his hands on them at all costs. Regular exposure to what an individual badly needs in life (sex and money) makes him get used to having them to the extent that he cannot survive without them. In a criminal’s life, the likely response that he or she is likely to give is happiness and satisfaction. After being exposed to these two stimuli, a person tends to associate money and sex to satisfaction and happiness and thus, women, other individuals, and objects with monetary value become neutral stimuli (Yang, 2015).Moreover, if a child is exposed to luxurious life in his childhood, he is likely to develop criminal behavior in case that kind of life is taken away from him or her.

2.Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning is another environmental factor that is believed to be a key factor that determines the criminal behavior of an individual. Operant conditioning is a method of learning that is influenced by rewards and punishment that an individual is subjected to regarding their behaviors. Operant conditioning helps a person to create an association between a behavior and the consequences for that particular behavior. According to Skinner, who advanced this theory, it is not necessary to look and study the internal thought and motivations of a person to explain his behavior. According to him, a mere study of external and observable causes can explain a person’s behavior. If an individual can relate commendable and good behavior with rewards, he or she is likely to behave constantly is an appropriate manner to be rewarded. On the other hand, if he is punished for the wrong behaviors, he is likely to drop those behaviors to avoid further punishments (Thompson, 2013). If an individual is rewarded for criminal behavior, this encourages and motivates him to improve his game and participate in more criminal activities to get more rewards. On the same note, if that particular individual is punished for not displaying criminal behavior or rather for behaving in an appropriate manner, he is likely to drop the good behavior and adopt inappropriate behavior. The basic principles of this environmental factor are behavior and consequences associated with behavioral traits.

As a social being, human being learns from his social environment which influences his behaviors and characters. According to Albert Bandura, who advanced social learning theory, learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context and can occur purely through observation or direct instruction even in the absence of direct reinforcement. Social learning theory explains the nature of the human being, especially how the children learn behavioral trait by watching the behaviors of other individuals around them and eventually imitates them. Although social learning theory is highly connected to both operant and classical conditioning, there are two important aspects of this theory that is not in the other two: Mediating process occurs between stimuli and responses, and behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning. Children and the youths are surrounded by people they regard as models and in most cases; they try to copy their exact behavior. The first step in this process comes when the child tries to imitate these role models regardless whether their behavior is appropriate or not. However, people around that child plays an important by responding to the behavior imitates with either punishment or reinforcement and encouragement. If the child imitates criminal behavior and those around him are okay with it, there is a high possibility that he will upgrade it to the next level and become a criminal (Zentall, 2013). However, if the child is punished for those inappropriate behaviors, they are likely to drop them. Furthermore, social learning theory states that if an individual is directed on how to carry out a certain activity, regardless of whether it is criminal or not, they are likely to perform it independently. Thus, if a person is trained on how to behave like a criminal, he is likely to behave just like one.

Environmental factors on encouraging criminal behavior

In conclusion, we can say that environmental factors play a significant part in developing and encouraging criminal behavior in different ways. However, as evident from the above discussion, this behavior takes place in the presence and approval of other people. This is to say that people around a person play a vital part in encouraging or punishing criminal behavior. Parents should always be careful, keen and attentive to detect any criminal behavior in their child before it grows. Notably, there are those individuals who have criminal genetics in them and it becomes hard to control their behavior. However, the majority of criminal activities are learned from both social and environmental factors. It is upon individuals to create and develop mental disciplines to resist any influence to engage in criminal activities and criminal behavior.


Bartol, A. M. (2014). Criminal behavior: A psychological approach. . Boston: Pearson, c2014.                xxiii, 644 pages: illustrations; 24 cm..

Raine, A. (2013). he psychopathology of crime: Criminal behavior as a clinical disorder.                         Elsevier.

Thompson, A. K. (2013). Operant conditioning of a spinal reflex can improve locomotion after                spinal cord injury in humans. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(6), , 2365-2375.

Yang, Q. K. (2015). Hyperpolarization-activated, cyclic nucleotide-gated cation channels in                     Aplysia: Contribution to classical conditioning. . Proceedings of the National Academy                of Sciences, 112(52), , 16030-16035.

Zentall, T. R. (2013). Social learning: psychological and biological perspectives. Psychology                  Press.