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Throughout history, there are many things that have remained constant. One of these constants is criminal behavior. Theft, murder, fraud, and kidnapping are only a few of the crimes that can be found generation after generation around the world (Donald, n.d.). However, one can only wonder what the source of this behavior is. For instance, consider the Lillelid murders. At the age of 19 years, Natasha Wallen Cornett and her accomplices murdered the Lillelid family (Mayshark, 1998). Sensation-seeking behavior, group dynamics, and Moffitt's Trajectories of Offending can explain Natasha Cornett's criminal behavior.
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Sensation seeking behavior, otherwise known as risky behavior, is a commonplace to many young people. According to Marvin Zuckerman, young people exercise risky behavior for several reasons (Zuckerman, 2006). First, young people have a difficult time understanding the consequences of their actions (Zuckerman, 2006). Second, young people generally have larger amounts of endogenous hormones, such as testosterone, which manifest physiologically in a way that reduces fear of consequences; this is also an important aspect in the concept of biochemical factors (Zuckerman, 2006). Third, young people often perceive that they do not have very much to lose (Zuckerman, 2006). Common examples of sensation-seeking and risky behavior include substance abuse, crime, and anti-social behavior (Zuckerman, 2006).
There is strong evidence to conclude that Natasha Cornett was exhibiting sensation-seeking behavior. First, Natasha Cornett became entwined in Goth subculture (Mayshark, 1998). She was dressing in all black clothing and listening to negative music (Mayshark, 1998). She lost many friends, could not maintain her marriage, was anorexic, and diagnosed with bipolar disorder (Mayshark, 1998). The bipolar disorder is evidence of a contributing brain function issue. In addition, her accomplices testified that he was abusing controlled substances and engaging in self-mutilation. Second, Natasha Cornett's intention on traveling to New Orleans was due to boredom in Pikeville, Kentucky (We TV, 2009). This is a clear and direct admission of sensation seeking due to boredom. Overall, Natasha Cornett fits squarely within the theoretical concept of sensation-seeking behavior.
Group dynamics is the study of groups in terms of psychology, sociology, and communication (DeBraganza, n.d.). A group is defined as, "a collection of people who interact with one another, accept rights and obligations as members and who share a common identity" (DeBraganza, n.d.). This definition adequately describes the relationship that Natasha Cornett had with her accomplices; they interacted with one another closely, developed their own rights in the form of a hierarchy, shared a common identity, and, arguably, an experience that defines them all forever (Mayshark, 1998). In a group setting, individuals will often go further with a particular cause or action than if they were alone (Ambrus, Greiner, & Pathak, 2009). This behavior is likely attributable to the internal group support system, which can readily override an individual's understanding of ethics and morals (Ambrus, Greiner, & Pathak, 2009).
There is strong evidence to conclude that Natasha Cornett's understanding of right and wrong were affected by her group interactions. Based upon all of the available information, police investigating the Lillelid murders concluded that Natasha Cornett was the leader of the group, which was organized in a vertical hierarchy (Mayshark, 1998; We TV, 2009). While entwined in her group, Natasha Cornett and her accomplices hijacked the Lillelid family, murdered them on a back road, and then drove across the country towards Mexico (Stambaugh, 2007). It was not until Natasha Cornett was caught and separated from the group that she recognized the severity of her actions, which led her to plead guiilty to all of the charges. This is a clear indication that her individual behavior was affected by the group relationship.
Moffitt's Trajectories of Offending
Terrie Moffitt's Trajectories of Offending is the theory that a young person's behavior can be predicted by analyzing their child actions (Brewright, n.d.). The theory is supported by empirical research that has established a statistically significant relationship between certain adolescent conditions and associated criminal behaviors in young adults (Brewright, n.d.). For instance, conditions such as neurological problems, peer rejection, and early low-level criminal behavior are all indicators that the individual in question is heading towards escalating criminal actions (Brewright, n.d.). Moffitt was also able to show that this escalation in criminal action often occurred despite parental intervention (Brewright, n.d.).
Natasha Cornett fits Terrie Moffitt's theory very well. As discussed above, her actions represent all of the physiologic and social manifestations of criminal behavior, such as neurologic problems and peer rejection. Her crimes all follow a path of escalation; she first exhibited low level crimes such as substance abuse, followed by mid level crimes such as theft, and followed by high-level crimes such as kidnapping and murder. This path of escalation coupled with her other behavior is clear evidence that Moffitt's Trajectories of Offending is applicable.
Natasha Cornett's crimes against the Lillelid family are well explained by sensation-seeking behavior, group dynamics, and Moffitt's Trajectories of Offending. All of these theories and concepts are directly applicable to Natasha Cornett. However, it is important to remember that these concepts are not the only ones that explain her behavior. A more thorough analysis might reveal that Natasha Cornett's actions are complicated by a variety of different theories or concepts.
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