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The tendency to commit a crime isn’t something that happens instantly it deals with major psychological and sociological factors. Family behaviour plays an important role in developing a child or youth. According to criminology, many criminologists have suggested that a child who grows up in a dysfunctional family or environment may be more prone to lean towards an aggressive lifestyle. While studying criminology we all have heard a legal maxim “Mens Rea and Actus Reus” is essential to crime. Where did the person get the idea of committing such a crime? Family or neighbourhood is one factor in the development of behavioural patterns of a person. A child’s first role models are their parents and family members. A child’s brain absorbs what the family does and tends to do the same as them. Example: If a child sees the father or mother using a spoon to eat, it will automatically try and use a spoon. In the same way, children pick up bad habits too. Families in which parents ignore or do not give attention to their kids often get antisocial behaviour and the tendency to engage in criminal acts. While children whose parents instil the values of society and love their children do not enter this road of life. Children go into depression and become quiet in families where parents keep arguing.

Family patterns can be seen changing over the years, from close-knit families to now nuclear families. Young adults feel the need to move out of the house as early as they start earning. We often notice that criminals usually change the place of their stay from time to time and also stay away from their families. Their homes are often in a mess and poor standard of living which may lead to financial difficulties and unemployment. A scholar known as Donald Taft said that according to his studies, most delinquents were subject to their parents’ physical abuse or punishment. A large number of criminals usually are hostile toward their siblings. [1]

Criminals are encouraged to follow the path in either of the following ways:

  • Parents may not be associated with the criminal act and may not prevent their children from performing the act.
  • Children learn criminal acts and imitate their parents and follow in their shoes by joining the family business.
  • Parents who indulge in such activities may train their children to do the same. [2]

Parents who suppress their kids from sharing their expressions and the absence of love encourage the children to go against their parents. A study of criminology suggests that criminals are linked to family environments that are characterized by low integration, instability, domestic violence, and hostile parenting. [3]

Some famous criminals in history and their family backgrounds:

Jeffery Dahmer

We know this case where he killed 17 victims by having sexually assaulted and murdered them. These victims usually were dismembered gay men and boys. When you look at his childhood you realize his mom was a patient of depression and his father, a lab technician, would often give her medication and go to his lab, leaving the two children and her alone in the house. This shows the pent-up frustration where he was neglected and formed into a rage. [4]

Harold shipman a.k.a Dr. Death

He was a medical doctor and serial killer who killed more than 200 of his patients before he was arrested. His father was a truck driver and he was close to his mother but unfortunately, she passed away from terminal cancer which left him devastated. His motives were unclear to many. Some thought he was punishing people for his mother’s death. Some thought he was practising euthanasia and eliminating the elderly as he thought they were a burden to the healthcare system.[5]

Ted Bundy

The serial killer killed more than 30 women in the 1970s. Ted was born out of wedlock and was raised in the early years as he was the child of his parents and the brother of his mother. Ted’s mother later got married and had children with Ted’s stepfather. Ted would meet his victims at a public place forging injury or showing he was an officer, and then he would knock his victims and take them to a secluded area to rape and kill them. People believed that he did this out of the anger that he never knew his biological father and out of anger that he was born out of wedlock. [6]

Haji Mastan

An Indian smuggler. He was born in a poor household, due to which he and his father migrated to Bombay to work and earn. As a child, he worked as a cycle repairer. He dreamt of once having a huge bungalow and all the luxurious things. After 8 years he saw that his hard work would not get him his desires. In his early twenties, he met Galib Sheikh, an Arab gentleman, and started smuggling for him. If his father had stopped him then he would have never been a smuggler.[7]

Manohar Surve a.k.a Manya Surve

He was a B.A graduate of Kirti College, Mumbai. He created his gang of college children by being influenced by his stepbrother Bhargav Dada. In 1969, he along with Bhargav Dada was involved in the murder of a man known as Dandekar. He went to prison and later formed his gang and did substantial damage to the reputation of Dawood Ibrahim’s business.[8]


Most of us have a loving family and we are taught the rights and wrongs of life. Some unfortunate go through a rough patch in life. We must understand these cases and make people aware of the consequences and how a child’s life will be affected. Maybe we can reform a child who’s having these tendencies at an early stage. We need more counselling in schools and colleges for children and young adults. So that we can stop them from going down the wrong path.

Author(s) Name: Lobo Allwyn Francis (University of Mumbai)


[1] Prof. N.V. Paranjape, Criminology and Penology (18th ED.,2019) 93

[2] Prof. N.V. Paranjape, Criminology and Penology (18th ED.,2019) 93

[3] Kevin N. Wright and Karen E. Wright (no date) Family life and delinquency and crime, office of justice programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention . Available at: (Accessed: March 5, 2023).

[4] Sophie Lloyd, ‘Newsweek’ (True-Crime Expert on Whether Jeffrey Dahmer’s Childhood Made Him a Monster, 10/11/2022) < > accessed March 7, 2023.

[5] John Philip Jenkins, ‘Britannica’ (Harold Shipman British physician and serial killer, Jan 10, 2023) accessed March 8, 2023.

[6] , ‘Crime Museum’ (Ted Bundy, ) < > accessed March 8, 2023.

[7] , ‘Stars unfolded‘(Haji Mastan (Gangster) Age, Biography, Wife, Affairs, Facts & More, ) < > accessed on March 8,2023.

[8] , ‘Alchetron’ (Manya Surve, Jun 16, 2022) < > accessed on March 9, 2023.