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Criminalogical Theories Applied To Monster: The Autobiography Of An L.A. Gang Member
In Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, Kody Scott tells the story of the struggle between two significantly large gangs. At the age of eleven he was initiated into the Crips, and committed his first murder. It was this day that began what would become a career for Kody: banging (Scott, 1993).
Kody worked hard to secure a reputation for his name. He held loyal to his homeboys and began to build up the Crips. His potential for being in a leadership position became more and more evident as time went on. During one incident, a police officer referred to him as a monster, and the name stuck. He worked hard to live up to his name, and soon the legacy of Monster was well known, by not only his own gang, but in others as well (Scott, 1993).
In this paper I intend to show how Kody's early child hood and teenage years, both proceeding and during his life as a Crip, fit quite well with several theories that were discussed in class over the quarter.
The Arousal Theory says that because some peoples brain's work differently than others, things that stimulate, or interest one person may not do so to someone else. People with lower arousals have a greater propensity to be criminally prone (Class Notes).
Throughout the book there are several examples of how Kody was bored with the everyday happenings of his life. In one part of the book he said that the excitement of the streets was ...the only thing in [his] life that had ever held [his] attention for any serious length of time (Scott, 1993: 5). I believe that Kody was a very intelligent boy, but he also had a problem with his attention span. He never finished his education, but what good is reading and writing to someone who doesn't intend to make a living legally? He would learn more exciting things on the streets instead.
The Differential Association Theory states that all behavior, pro-social and anti-social is learned, and that we choose the behaviors that are the most rewarding to us (Class Notes).
The Night of Kody's initiation he had taken part in shooting down a group of 15 Bloods. After it all was over and he was laying awake in bed, he felt guilty and ashamed of [himself] (Scott, 1993: 13). He knew what he had done was wrong, but when the chance came again for him to choose between right, and what the set wanted him to do, he chose to follow his fellow Crips. Kody chose the praise and approval of his friends over the law, and what he knew in his heart was right (Scott, 1993).
The Social Learning Theory is similar to the Differential Association Theory in the respect that they both depend on the approval of others. It says that ...crime is something learned by normal people as they adapt to other people and the conditions of their environment (Bohm, 2001: 82). People learn by reinforcement weather it is positive or negative. Growing up Kody began to feel more and more that his mom no longer expressed any love or care for him, but that she only nagged him. After returning home from juvenile hall the greeting that Kody got from his mother wasn't exactly what he wanted. I knew she meant well, but I wasn't up to it tonight. I wanted to be loved, to be missed, to be wanted, not scolded (Scott, 1993: 173). The Crips verbally approved of Kody. His mother on the other hand was so worn out and tired of what he was doing, that it was nearly impossible for her to relate and talk to Kody. They'd lost the connection that they once had, and now he got what he needed from his boys in the hood.
The Self-Control Theory is pretty much what it sounds like. People with low self-control are described as being impulsive, lazy, quick to loose their tempers, prefer physical work instead of mental work, and are self-centered (Class Notes). This theory tells us that someone acquires low self-control as a result of ineffective parenting. Proper parenting includes a balance between monitoring and disciplining the child (Class Notes).
By what I have read in the book, I don't believe that Kody had much of either of those. In one instance when he had gotten into trouble his mother sent him to his room. While she was still talking to him through the door, he left the house through his bedroom window to go and do as he pleased (Scott, 1993). The punishment that she gave him was ineffective, and there was a lack of monitoring.
The next theory rejects what the Self-Control theory says and says that parents don't matter as much as peers do. A book written by Judith Rich Harris agues that parents can do little to influence their children's behavior. This theory is called The Nature Assumption and it says that the two major influences on a person's life are genetics, and peers (Class Notes).
If this theory is true, then it really doesn't matter how good or bad of a parent Kody's mother was. He chose the way's of his friends over the ways of his mom, and he inherited genetics from his father of whom he ... couldn't overstand why he mistreated him (Scott, 1993: 4).
The Social-Control Theory as explained by Thomas Hobbes says that people are naturally deviant, and that they want to satisfy their instinctive urges. But then the question is asked, why do people conform when we naturally want to deviate? Travis Hirschi gives us four reasons to answer this question.
-Attachment: if you feel for someone, you want to do what pleases them.
-Commitment: if you are in a place where the stakes of your actions are high, you will be less likely to want to risk them. (I.E. doing well in school, or holding a job.)
-Involvement: the more involved in things you are, the less time you have to commit crime.
-Beliefs: if you don't believe you're wrong it's no trouble for you to commit the act.
In Kody's case he was more attached to his fellow gang members than he was to his own family. At one point in the book he said that the only reason he was even friends with his younger brother was because he had joined the set (Scott, 1993). Also he didn't have much commitment to anything but his gang. He didn't have a legal job, nor did he care about school. He wasn't involved in any activities other than his gang nor did he have any desire to be. As for his beliefs he started out believing that he was wrong, but as time passed he began to rationalize what he was doing. He told him self that the bloods deserved it, or that they were asking for it. Eventually he believed himself (Scott, 1993).
Many theories, both alone and in combination can be used to rationalize why Kody Scott was the way he was, and they can be looked at in many different ways. I hope my interpretations of the previous theories help to better explain, and understand Monster and other delinquents like him.
Bohm, R. M. (2001), A Primer on Crime and Delinquency Theory, Wadsworth, California pg. 82
Class Notes (2001)
Scott, K. (1993), The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, Penguin Books, New York.
pgs. 4, 5, 17, 173.
Word Count: 1211
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