Criminal Belief Systems: An Integrated-Interactive Theory of Lifestyles

Criminal Belief Systems: An Integrated-Interactive Theory of Lifestyles

Criminal Belief Systems: An Integrated-Interactive Theory of Lifestyles

Criminal Belief Systems: An Integrated-Interactive Theory of Lifestyles

Excerpt

Lifestyle theory holds that crime is a consequence of the conditions to which a person is exposed, the choices he or she makes in life, and the cognitions he or she invokes in support of an evolving criminal pattern (Walters, 1990). A criminal lifestyle can be formally or structurally defined as an interactive style characterized by irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule breaking. Lifestyles are also defined by their function—which in most cases entails furnishing the individual with a short-cut solution to existential fear and the problems of everyday living (Walters, 2000a). However, neither definition adequately captures the essence of lifestyle process for we must look beyond structure and function to ascertain the true nature of a criminal pattern. It has taken me 14 years, 120 publications, and countless hours of reflection to realize that a lifestyle is a belief system, or more accurately, a series of belief systems. My intent in writing this book is to elaborate on crime-congruent lifestyles by defining them as integrated sets of belief systems that assist people's daily interactions with the internal and external environments.

This book begins with a review of six traditional criminological models, each of which is considered to be of sufficient breadth and profundity to advance our understanding of crime-congruent belief systems. Strain theory elucidates how sociocultural factors impact on crime initiation and maintenance, while differential association/social learning theory offers insight into the role of learning in the initiation and maintenance of a criminal pattern. Social control theory affords criminal justice scholars and practitioners a means of fathoming the socialization process that impedes crime initiation, whereas neutralization/drift theory and the labeling perspective account for crime maintenance. One of the fundamental premises of this book is that the relationships that form between variables are as instrumental as the variables themselves in explaining crime. In his interactional theory of delinquency development, Thornberry (1987) asserts that these relationships are often reciprocal and interactive, a concept that has been incorporated into this book.

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