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Vandalism - The Urge to Damage and Destroy

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 23 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1981) Pages: 69-73
M D Whittingham
Date Published
5 pages
Recent vandalism research indicates that vandalism can be specifically directed, politically motivated, and can serve instrumental as well as expressive functions comprehensible to the participants if not to society at large; the varied forms of such behavior have been variously viewed as an index of social tensions, aggression, and as communication modality.
Vandalism can best be viewed as a behavioral continuum, covering conduct such as juveniles' play activity through tactical and vindictive variants to the most serious forms. Criminological research indicates the apprehended vandal is most likely to be a male juvenile under 18-years-old, but adults as well engage in vandalism. The motivational factors include peer group pressures, frustration-aggression notions, mental instability, a desire for recognition, revenge or acquisitive motives, and simple recreational enjoyment. Temporal factors may combine with learning processes and environmental stimuli or cues to make latent destructive personality tendencies expressively manifest; e.g., the impact of the mass media upon aggressive and destructive conduct has been documented by the 1972 U.S. Surgeon General's report and by the recent Canadian Royal Commission on Violence in the 1976 Communications Industry Report. Vandalism has been shown to peak with seasonal variations, with the greatest incidence recorded in early spring and late fall. The range of the theories of human motivation which can explain vandalism include Freudian views of unconscious motivation and those based on tenets of learning theory. However, it is within the broader social context that the individual reacts based on self-conception, social role, and statuses. Since the motivational component producing acts of vandalism is varied and complex, prevention and control strategies must be adjusted accordingly to be successful. References are provided.


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