Several factors increase the likelihood of white-collar offending. These factors include the inability to achieve economic goals through legal channels; the experience of a range of economic problems, with these problems involving actual or threatened losses and the presentation of negative stimuli; the inability to achieve status goals; and several work-related strains. These strains are most likely to result in white-collar crime when they are high in magnitude and perceived as unjust. These strains may result to in a variety of white-collar crimes, including occupational crimes by higher class individuals, particular economic crimes such as fraud and embezzlement- often committed by lower class individuals, and corporate crimes.
Various conditioning factors increase the likelihood of an individual to commit a white collar crime. According to Simpson and Weisburd (2008), these conditioning factors include:
First, Poor conventional coping skills and resources: the individual lacks the skills and resources to cope with strains in a legal manner. Such skills include problem solving skills, financial resources, and selected personality traits such as high constraints and low negative emotionality. Such individuals are more likely to respond to strains with corporate offending, in part because of their strong fear of failure and their willingness to take risks. Related personality traits such as “egocentricity” and a “hunger for power” may also play an important role in conditioning the effects of strains in the individual. Likewise, the business skills and corporate resources available may condition the effects of strains on offending. For example, corporate offending frequently occurs when managers feel much pressure from top administrators to achieve particular goals, but lack the resources necessary to achieve these goals.
Second, low conventional social support: individuals are more likely to commit white collar crime when they are strained and are unable to turn to other for assistance in legal coping. Such assistance or support includes emotional support, information or advice, and direct assistance such as financial assistance. The literature on work stress confirms the importance of social support in explaining white-collar crime. A central theme in certain of the white collar crime research is that offending is most likely when an individual experiences serious financial strains and they are unable to turn to others for help.
Third opportunity: individuals who are not able to cope in a legal manner cannot engage in white-collar crime unless they have the opportunity to do so. Opportunity is a circumstance where a particular behavior is possible. The opportunity to engage in certain white collar crimes, such as passing bad checks, is fairly widespread among the adult population. The opportunity for other white collar crimes are more limited, with such crimes requiring a white-collar occupation, sometimes a high status occupation in a corporation (Simpson & Weisburd, 2008).
Fourth, criminal coping skills and resources: the inability to cope in a legal manner does not guarantee criminal coping even if opportunity for crime is available. White-collar offenders often have criminal self-efficacy and have some knowledge about how to best commit such crimes. Most higher class individuals and corporate individuals have the skills and resources to engage in a range of white collar offences. These skills and resources may have been acquired as part of their occupational socialization. Such individuals may have received deliberate instruction in the techniques of white-collar crimes. As such, these individuals are less likely to respond to strains with street crimes and more likely to respond with white-collar crimes.
Fifth, low social control: individual in low social control are more likely to engage in white collar offences. They have a low attachment to conventional others and institutions such as family, community, and work. They have low commitment to conventional society. In particular, they have poor reputations, little involvement in their communities and are unemployed or work in poorly paid jobs in the secondary labor market. They are also amoral in their beliefs regarding white collar crime. However, these characterizations are less easily applied to the explanation of offending among higher class individuals and corporate offenders. Researches have noted that higher class and corporate offenders appear to be high in most forms of social control. Corporate offenders tend to be highly trained, properly ambitious, and conventionally socialized who strain to manage the ethical and legal dilemmas they face. According to Vito, Maahs, & Holme(2007), many white-collar offenders have led lives not only unmarked by prior trouble with the law, but characterized by positive contributions to family and community life. Social control, however may still aid in the explanation of offending among such individuals. In particular, higher class offenders may be low in certain forms of social control, such as attachment to work and beliefs condemning white-collar crimes.
Sixth, low perceived costs and higher benefits of the crime: perceptions of the costs and benefits of white-collar crime are likely influenced by certain individual, organizational and social characteristics. While higher class individuals have more to lose by engaging in the crime, they may believe that are better able to resist the sanctioning efforts of others, particularly the efforts of government agencies. This belief may be a function of such things as their reputations in the community, connections to powerful others, and assess to good legal advice and representation. Individuals who work in large, highly diversified organizations may believe that the likelihood of sanction is lower because it is more difficult to monitor employee behavior in such organizations.
Lastly, beliefs favorable to white collar crime/ association with criminal others: individuals are more likely to engage in white collar crime when they associate with white collar criminals and hold beliefs favorable to white collar crime. Such beliefs increase the likelihood of white collar offending and that white collar offenders hold such beliefs. In certain cases, white collar crimes may be defined as generally unacceptable, but it is often the case that such offences are defined as justifiable or excusable in particular circumstances.
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