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Psychology theories of crime and their assumptions

focus on personality or learning; assumptions include:
1) Assumption of offender deficit
2) Assumption of discriminating traits


Definition: Community Psychology

analyzes social problems like crime as a result of organizational and institutional characteristics of society


4 Levels that Psychologists view crime

1) Individual level
2) Small group level
3) Organizational level
4) Institutional or community level


Psychoanalytic theory

main ideas being that human nature is inherently anti social and needs to be socialized as well as personality is fixed from childhood; Freud himself did not apply psychoanalytic theory to crime



1) Id: biological drives
2) Ego: directs impulses of id; mediator/rational
3) Conscience


Ideas regarding crime by psychoanalysts (6)

1) When ego/superego fail to control id
2) It is a form of neurosis
3) Criminals seek punishment to alleviate guilt
4) Crime is gratification not obtained in family
5) Due to repressed traumatic events
6) Displaced hostility


Moral Development Theories (Piaget/Kohlberg)

suggested that the key to understanding criminality is the development or failure to develop a sense of morality and responsibility


Kohlberg's 3 Stage Moral Theory

1) Preconventional: egocentric; focus on punishment and hedonism; moral values are dos and donts
2) Conventional: social expectations; focus on approval of others and authority maintains morality; internalization of rules and expectations
3) Postconventional: universality; focus on democratically accepted law and principles of conscience; morality based on self chosen principles


Eysenck's theory of crime and personality

crime is natural and easy to explain; focus on people who do not commit crime; based on classical conditioning (punishment becomes conscience); criminals less susceptible to conditioning (extraverts perhaps?)


Social learning theory (Bandura)

combines social factors with individual cognitive functions and choices; idea of modelling is prevalent (especially with aggression); aggression can come from family, sub culture influences and symbolic (TV); suggests that crime can be reduced through prosocial models or increased sanctions


Operant Conditioning (Skinner)

behavior shaped through rewards and punishment; differential reinforcement (Burgess and Akers); soft behaviorism includes environment; token economy shown to work just in short term


Antisocial personality

a disregard for others rights; impulsive, aggressive and irresponsible; psychopathy, sociopathy, moral insanity are all other terms; they do not learn from punishment/no fear; prevalent for extremely violent offenders


Crime and Mental Illness

originally thought that all crime was caused by mental illness; not true however there is a higher proportion/prevalence (could be because of deinstitutionalization); most start young; serious = schizo, depressive & psychotic