PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES OF CRIME 1
PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES OF CRIME 2
Psychological Theories of Crime
The question of why people commit a crime has baffled criminologists and scholars for decades as they try to understand crime. The question is complex, and scholars and criminologists have, over the years, come up with several theories to explain why crime is committed. These theories act as explanations to the question. These theories include psychological, biological, and social theories. Psychological theories of crime focus on the personality of those who commit a crime. This paper looks at the psychological theories of crime and delinquency.
The explanation for crime has baffled criminologists and scholars in the field of law and psychology for decades. This is because everyone has tried to come up with an explanation that makes sense and can relate to why crime is committed. Numerous reasons try to explain why crime is committed. These reasons are in the numerous theories and concepts developed by various scholars over the years. Meneses and Akers (2011), while trying to compare four general theories of crime, conclude that the environment and its surrounding factors contribute to crime. This is part of the several theories and concepts developed to understand why crime is committed. These theories include psychological, biological, and social theories. This paper looks at the psychological theories of crime and delinquency while analyzing the various literature on crime and psychological theories.
Psychological theories of crime were developed to understand crime and delinquency. These theories look at the personality, which may include early negative childhood experiences and inadequate socialization. These theories include psychodynamic theories, behavioral theories, cognitive theory, personality theories, and intelligence theories. These different theories were developed by different scholars to understand the various reasons why crime is committed. According to Jones (2015), the diverse perspectives from different theories can provide an understanding of criminal behavior. The various theorists looked at how mental processes influence individual tendencies for the crime.
Psychological Theories of Crime
Psychological theories of crime look at the mental process and how it affects individual tendencies of crime. They are influenced by several individual factors like negative childhood experiences and inadequate socialization. These theories include psychodynamic theories, behavioral theories, cognitive theory, personality theories, and intelligence theories.
The issue of school violence has existed from the 19th century towards the 20th-century plunging schools into episodes of violence. There was a period when school shootings were rampant in America, especially in rural suburban. The rate of violence in schools was high that schools that were supposed to offer protection for the students and act as a safe haven for students became a hub for violence. Scholars have, for the longest time, tried to understand the reason for the school shootings. With the limited information that was usually available, it became difficult for the studies during that period. Earlier studies on school shootings could not provide the reasons for school violence. According to Rocque (2012), there have been over 60 school shootings since 1996.
There were various suggestions to the prevalence of school violence during that certain period. One of the major understandings was a surge in school violence after the Second World War brought about by the different ideologies. The '70s brought an increase in school violence after the students became politically active (Rocque, 2012). The situation in the country during the '70s presented an increase in violence due to racial segregation. Social movements were on the rise with an increase in street violence as the number of protests increased. This influenced students, with some of them being able to join social movements and becoming active members. This involvement in social movements led to an increase in school violence during this period.
Psychological theories of crime can be used in understanding school violence and why the shooters committed the acts. In one of the shootings, it was claimed that the shooter was mad. Psychological theories that were used to understand the school shootings involved mental illness. One logical explanation for youth to engage in that type of violence shows a troubled person suffering from depression. Psychodynamic theories are used to explain violent crimes in individuals. According to Moore (2011), serious and tenacious crime is usually a display of mental illness. Various explanations lead to crime based on psychodynamic theories. Conflict arising from different stages of a person's life has a profound way of affecting the person in the future. In the case of school violence, it is believed the violent behavior is a product of unconscious forces in the perpetrator's mind.
Psychodynamic theory suggests that the person's personality is controlled by an unconscious mental process that has been grounded since childhood. The theory looks at the three elements that make up the human personality, including the id, ego, and superego. These elements have a major impact on the personality of the individual. This would explain why criminal offenders are usually a frustrated lot. They are always drawn to past events that may have happened during their childhood. Like an absent or negligent parent, a negative childhood will lead to the person having a weak ego.
This theory explains that human behavior evolves through learning experiences. Jefferey (1965) explains that criminal behavior is learned through behavior. School shootings can be explained through the behavioral theory of crime. According to Rocque (2011), the students in the '70s were involved in social movements relating to racial segregation. This shows that most of these students had to learn certain criminals by associating with any criminal groupings in the movements. This can be explained by one of the behavioral theories called differential association. The differential association theory is a behavioral theory that states that criminal behavior is learned by associating with criminal elements. Through associating with violent members of the social movements, the students become violent.
Ilan and Walter (2017) suggest that criminal behavior is usually retained if the criminal is able to experience rewards and is abandoned if they receive punishment. This would explain why, after the '70s and '80s, school shootings were on the decline as most of the perpetrators were either in jail or dead. The behavioral theories of crime can best explain why the number of school shootings was on the increase during certain times. The social learning theory that was developed by Antony Bandura best explains criminal behavior based on behavioral theory. The social learning theory can explain that nobody is born a criminal and that violence is learned through interactions.
An example is children who are able to learn about violence through observing. This can be through three elements like family, environment, and mass media. The explanations are straight forward because children brought up in a violent home will tend o become violent when they become adults. Those brought up in regions prone to crime will exhibit violent behavior compared to those brought up in areas with less crime and violence.
Cognitive theory can be used in understanding why the rate of school shootings was high or why the students decided to partake in the act. The cognitive theory tries to understand how criminals see the world around them. Moore (2011) suggests that cognitive theories can be used to understand misanthropic behavior during the four distinct periods of time, including pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school. Antisocial behavior during these times will increase the chances of continuing with the behaviors during later times in life. The theories also deal with information processing. This deals with the processes of acquisition, retention, and recovery of information.
Crime and violence can also be explained in terms of personality traits (Moore, 2011). The personality of a person is what makes them and who they are. Personality theories of crime are more complicated when compared to other theories because it is difficult to associate them with criminal behavior. Most of the studies that have been done on the relationship between personality and crime are inconclusive. However, Larry (2000) explains that scholars have been looking at one area with persons without any emotions and concern for others. A comparison with the school shootings shows that one of the students involved in the school shootings, Andrew Golden had no remorse and emotional connection with others (Rocque, 2012). The shooter enjoyed torturing small animals like kittens, while another had journals filled with hate messages (Rocque, 2012). The use of personality theories can be used in understanding why these students committed these crimes.
Personality theories are complex as linking a person's personality to the reason why a crime was committed difficult. However, the big five models of personality provide a structure where most characteristics can be seen. The five domains include neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Each of the domains has both upper and lower scores used to determine whether the person's character fits that of a criminal. An example is a neuroticism, where a high score will indicate anger and sadness, giving room to irrational ideas and anxiety, while a low score will indicate a relaxed person.
The relationship between a person’s IQ and crime has been researched for a long time. In most cases, people believe that criminals have a low IQ, while those who do not engage in criminal activities are smart. This is not always the case as the existence of white crime has been able to show people with a high IQ perform some of the most sophisticated crimes. White-collar criminals are usually intelligent people. According to Schmalleger (2008), research on the prison population has shown that prison inmates have a low IQ. There is limited information linking a person's IQ and engagement in criminal behavior. Over the years, scholars have tried to link the two, with most of them having inconclusive results. According to Moore (2011), various scholars have been able to find a link between low IQ and delinquency. All these studies have concluded that school performance was the intervening factor. Low IQ has also been linked to antisocial behavior, concluding that there is a connection between low intelligence and criminal behavior.
Studies have tried to link religion and crime as they aim to show the impact religion has on crime. Religion is a belief in a supernatural being, and Christians believe in the existence of God. According to Christians, there are several laws called the commandment that is meant to guide them in their daily lives. These commandments are adhered to and are simple, with most of them appearing on other world religions like do not kill or steal. The impact of the commandments on the lives of Christianity affects crime. Christianity, as a religion, affirms that God is the Supreme Being and obeying the commandments given by God, means living under the laws of God.
As religion plays an essential role in people's lives, the various norm of society also exist. According to Adamczyk et al. (2017), scholars have been looking for the connection between religion and crime for the past 20 years. The existence of crime in the world shows that the perpetrators are against the laws of God. The various laws in the bible were given in order to ensure order. A study by Salas-Wright et al. (2014) was able to show that youth who engage in religious activities are less violent. Religious activities in a Christian context refer to activities like singing in the church choir, attending religious services, being part of bible study groups, being part of religious groups, and participating in religious activities. The study was able to show the impact of religion on crime through the reduction of violence and other criminal activities. Salvatore and Rubin (2018) conducted a study on the impact of religion on crime during emerging adulthood and concluded that there is the existence of other behaviors that are shunned in the bible. These include substance abuse, which has a direct correlation to crime. The use of drugs plays a major role in crime and violence. However, in the same study, it was ascertained that emerging adults engaging in religious activities would exhibit fewer antisocial behavior. This is able to show the impact of religion on crime. The various Christian beliefs and practices are able to influence the young and older adults against engaging in criminal activities.
Psychological theories of crime look at the person's thoughts and feelings. These theories look at the personality of the person. Several theories can be used to explain the rising numbers of school shootings in the United States. Psychological theories that explain the rising numbers of school shootings include psychodynamic theories, behavioral theories, cognitive theory, personality theories, and intelligence theories. These theories try to explain why students were able to engage in violence. The reason given in some of the school shootings is that the student was mad (Rocque, 2012). This explanation is better explained by the psychodynamic theories, which are able to explain how mental illness could lead to criminal behavior. The cases of mental illness leading to severe depression could explain why the students were able to engage in criminal activities. The behavioral theories also offer an explanation of the violence, including the theory of differentiation and Bandura’s social learning theory.
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