U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Psychological Analysis of Vandalism

NCJ Number
Schriftenreihe der Polizei-Fuehrungsakademie Issue: 2 Dated: (1980) Pages: 148-161
U Fuellgrabe
Date Published
14 pages
Types and causes of vandalism are described from a psychological perspective.
The high rate of vandalism in Europe and the United States has produced such negative effects as immense financial losses, destruction of priceless art works, reduced public services, and growth of general mistrust. In general, vandalism may be motivated by malicious greed, by the wish to draw attention to a particular condition, by a political ideology, by the desire for revenge on a particular person, by frustration, or by misguided playfulness. Whether an act is categorized as vandalism depends on the social and political circumstances surrounding the act as well as on the connections of the offenders to influential individuals. Feelings are as a rule are determined according to the psychological dimensions excitement - lack of it, desire - lack of it, and dominance - subordination. The living conditions of juveniles, the most common perpetrators of vandalism, can arouse entirely negative feelings of subordination and boredom. Youngsters seek various types of solutions to their problems, e.g., excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, immersion in intensely stimulating music and movies, fanatic identification with well-known stars, and aggression. Vandalism permits powerless individuals to strike out against the institutions which control them and to take charge of the situation themselves, arousing fear in others and raising their own self-esteem. An inhibited person who acts aggressively and is not punished feels relieved and encouraged; psychologically, these pleasant feelings demand increasing reinforcement, escalating aggressive behavior. As several American studies show, automobiles, a symbol of wealth, invite vandalism. Damage is more likely to occur in urban areas like New York where the individual can act anonymously. Destructive behavior by one individual tends to stimulate similar behavior in others, especially when individuals are highly excited and aggressively oriented. --in German.


No download available