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Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC39H3
Professor
David Nussbaum
Semester
Winter

Description
Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PerChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide CHAPTER 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1. Review the prevalence and characteristics of violent offending as well as consequences for victims. 2. Cover some of the major theories of aggression. 3. Introduce some of the key assessment instruments used to estimate risk of violent recidivism and examine their predictive accuracy. 4. Examine the effectiveness of treatment in reducing violent recidivism. 5. Review the prevalence and characteristics of homicide and describe different types of multiple murder. CHAPTER SUMMARY : General Violence Violence is relatively rare in Canada. The rate of violent crime has generally decreased since the early 1990s. Only about one-third of violent incidents are reported to the police. Being young, being single, often going out in the evening, and living in cities are associated with higher rates of violent victimization. Hostile aggression is an impulsive reaction to some real or perceived provocation or threat, whereas instrumental aggression is premeditated and ultimately aimed at achieving some secondary goal. Hostile and instrumental aggression may be best viewed as opposite ends of a continuum along which acts of aggression can fall. Four key approaches to risk assessment are unstructured clinical judgment, empirical actuarial, mechanical, and structured professional judgment. Actuarial risk-assessment instruments (e.g., VRAG, SAQ) are generally more accurate at predicting violent recidivism than structured professional judgment instruments and unstructured clinical judgment. In violence risk assessment, different predictive errors have different consequences. False positives result in unnecessarily restricting offenders’ liberty and wasting scarce resources, whereas false negatives result in harm to those who are victimized by the offender. The optimal balance between the two types of errors will vary depending on the relative costs and benefits of each outcome. Researchers generally find lower violent recidivism rates among treated compared to untreated offenders, and programs that follow the general principles of effective corrections appear to be more effective than programs that do not. Although these seri_ch07.QXD 11/21/09 6:10 PM Page 236 findings are very encouraging, debate continues about whether the lower rates of violent recidivism associated with treatment actually demonstrate that it is effective because the research methodology used in most studies leaves the results open to alternate interpretations. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 138 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PeChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide Homicide rates are quite low in Canada compared to many other countries. Perpetrators and victims are more likely to be male than female. Victims are most likely to be killed by someone they know. Multiple murders, such as mass murder, spree murder, and serial murder, are exceedingly rare. LECTURE OUTLINE 1. Introduction:  In this chapter we will review the prevalence and characteristics of violence in Canada.  We will also present some theories of violent behaviour, the major approaches to risk assessment, some of the more established risk assessment instruments, and research on the predictive accuracy of these instruments.  Research on the effectiveness of treatment programs for violent offenders will also be reviewed.  Finally, homicide, the most extreme form of violence, will be examined. 2. Defining Aggression And Violence:  Aggression researchers have provided useful definitions of aggression and violence.  The terms have a considerable degree of overlap, but they are not synonymous.  Human aggression has been defined as “any behavior directed towards another individual that is carried out with the proximate (immediate) intent to cause harm.  the perpetrator must believe that the behavior will harm the target, and that the target is motivated to avoid the behavior”  Violence has been defined as “aggression that has extreme harm as its goal (e.g., death)” Prevalence of Violence  Violent crime accounts for approximately one in eight criminal incidents in Canada  The rate of violent crime reported to the police (Uniform Crime Reporting Survey) in 2007 was 930 per 100 000 people.  This rate has decreased since the early 1990s.  in 2007, the lowest rate was in Ontario (5228 per 100 000 people) and the highest was in Saskatchewan (13 225 per 100 000 people)  Robbery is often considered a violent offence because it involves at the very least an implied threat of violence.  The robbery rate for Canada in 2007 was 90 per 100 000 people.  In 2007, 11 percent of all robberies in involved a firearm, whereas 60 percent involved no weapon. Of all Canadian provinces, PEI had the lowest rate of robbery in 2007 (11 per 100 000 people) and Manitoba had the highest (179 per 100 000 people). Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 139 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PerChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  Robbery rates have decreased since the early 1990s - This is the case for armed robbery involving a firearm or some other weapon.  robbery without a weapon has increased slightly.  In contrast to decreases observed in other types of crime, violent crime by youth (aged 12 to 17) has increased fairly steadily over the past 20 years - the rate of violent crime reported by youth in 2007 was 6811 per 100 000  Crime reported to the police is an underestimate of the actual number of violent incidents.  For a variety of reasons, some violent incidents do not come to the attention of the authorities.  The General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization reflects reports from the Canadian population aged15 and older on their criminal victimization.  According to the most recent GSS (2004), only 33 percent of violent incidents were reported to the police  The reporting rates were highest for robbery (46 percent), followed by physical assaults (39 percent) and sexual assaults (8 percent).  There are a number of reasons why victims may or may not report violent crimes.  Reporting to the police was more likely in incidents involving physical injury (47 percent) compared to no physical injury (28 percent), and for incidents involving weapons (53 percent) compared to no weapons (25 percent).  The most common reasons given for not reporting crimes were that: 1. the victim dealt with the incident in another way (60 percent), 2. it was not important enough (53 percent), 3. did not want police involved (42 percent), 4. felt it was a personal matter (39 percent), 5. did not think police involvement could help (29 percent), or 6. for fear of retaliation from perpetrator (11 percent).  The rates of violent victimization did not change dramatically from the preceding GSS, administered in 1999, to the most current Victim Characteristics  The rates of violent victimization were quite similar for men and women: 111 per 1000 men versus 102 per 1000 women in 2004  differences between men’s and women’s victimization become apparent when the type of violence is taken into consideration.  Men were more likely to experience non-sexual violence than women (91 physical assaults per 1000 men versus 59 per 1000 women; 13 robberies per 1000 men versus 8 per 1000 women), whereas women were more likely to experience sexual violence than men (35 sexual assaults per 1000 women versus 7 per 1000 men).  Excluding spousal violence, approximately half (51 percent) of the violent crimes reported were committed by someone known to the victim (e.g., friend, acquaintance) and 44 percent were committed by strangers (Gannon and Mihorean 2005). Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 140 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PersChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  Some characteristics associated with higher rates of violent victimization are being young, being single, often going out in the evening, and living in cities. In terms of age, the rate of violent victimization was considerably higher among 15- to 24-year-olds than older people in Canada.  the rate of violent victimization among people aged 15 to 24 was 226 per 1000 people.  Among those aged 25 to 34, it was 157 per 1000 people.  The rate of violent victimization continues to drop with increasing age.  For those aged 55 to 64, the rate drops to 45 per 1000 people.  Among single people, the rate of violent victimization was 203 per 1000, whereas among married people it was 52 per 1000 people.  In terms of evening activities, the rate of violent victimization was 174 per 1000 people among those who engaged in many evening activities (30 or more per month) versus 44 per 1000 people for those who engaged in relatively few evening activities (less than 10 per month).  Evening activities include things like going to bars or visiting friends.  The rate of victimization for those living in urban areas was 112 per 1000 people, compared to 84 per 1000 people living in rural areas. Consequences for Victims  In 2004, 25 percent of violent crimes resulted in physical injury to victims  Separated by type of violence, 7 percent of sexual assaults, 30 percent of robberies, and 31 percent of physical assaults resulted in physical injury to victims.  In 25 percent of violent crimes, victims reported that the crime caused them to have difficulty functioning in their everyday activities.  some common emotional reactions were anger; feeling upset, confused, or frustrated; and feeling fearful. Hostile versus Instrumental Violence  Aggression can take different forms, serve different purposes, and have different motives.  One major distinction that is receiving increasing research attention is between hostile aggression , (there is little if any forethought and planning, the assault is in response to provocation, and the primary goal is to harm the other), which is an impulsive reaction to some real or perceived provocation or threat, and instrumental aggression, which is premeditated and aimed at achieving some secondary goal  Hostile aggression has also been referred to as affective, impulsive, reactive, emotional, and expressive aggression.  Instrumental aggression is generally similar to predatory, premeditated, or proactive aggression.  Although there are some subtle differences between these terms, they generally reflect the distinctions:  both hostile and instrumental aggression as characterized by the intention to harm at the proximate level, and differing in their goals primarily at the ultimate level. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 141 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PerChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  Operationally defining hostile and instrumental aggression can be challenging.  Some acts of aggression may have elements of both types.  The Instrumental Aggression Rating Measure to assess the extent to which violence is instrumental versus hostile: 1. Planning or preparation before the aggression 2. Goal directed—the act helped obtain a specific and identifiable goal (e.g., money) 3. The aggressive behaviour was unprovoked by the victim 4. Lack of anger during the aggression 5. The victim of the aggression was a stranger  Higher ratings on these items would be associated with instrumental aggression.  hostile and instrumental aggression may be best viewed as opposite ends of a continuum along which acts of aggression can fall.  Violence may be completely hostile, completely instrumental, or fall somewhere in between. 3. Explaining Violence: Social Learning Theory  Social learning theory (Bandura 1973) holds that aggression is learned  The main tenet is quite simple and parsimonious: aggression is more likely to occur when it is expected to be more rewarding than non-aggressive alternatives.  As Bandura (1973: 2) noted:  Concern over the adverse consequences of aggression obscures the fact that such behaviour often has functional value for the user.  there is a property unique to aggression that generally creates conditions fostering its occurrence.  Unlike other social behaviors that cannot be effective without some reciprocity acceptable to the participants, aggression does not require willing responsiveness from others for its success.  One can injure and destroy to self-advantage regardless of whether the victim likes it or not.  By aggressive behaviour, or dominance through physical and verbal force, individuals can obtain valued resources, change rules to fit their own wishes, gain control over and extract subservience from others, eliminate conditions that adversely affect their well-being, and remove barriers that block or delay attainment of desired goals.  Thus, behaviour that is punishing for the victim can, at least on a short-term basis, be rewarding for the aggressor.  expected outcomes influence the likelihood and extent of aggressive behaviour.  In operant conditioning, behaviour is shaped by its consequences; that is, reinforcement or punishment. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 142 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PerChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  Reinforcement increases the likelihood that a given behaviour will occur, whereas punishment decreases the likelihood of its occurrence.  Adding to the familiar concept of operant conditioning, Bandura (1973) argued that people learn not only from direct experience, but also from observing the behaviour of others and the outcomes of others’ behaviour.  Observing others receiving various rewards for their aggression would increase the chance that one would engage in similar forms of aggression.  In contrast, observing others receiving punishment for their aggression would decrease the likelihood that one would engage in similar forms of aggression.  The self is also an important source of reinforcement.  Self-reinforcement refers to the influence of self-administered rewards or punishments for aggression.  If self-evaluation following aggression is positive, aggression would be more likely than if self-evaluation is negative  Reinforcers influence aggressive behaviour and are mediated by cognition, such as one’s attention, perception, memory, and resulting expectancies regarding reinforcement. General Aggression Model (GAM)  The General Aggression Model (GAM) is an integration of a number of smaller, more specific theories of aggressive behaviour.  the GAM describes the processes involved in any one episode among an ongoing series of episodes of a social encounter.  The main components are inputs from the person and situation, the routes (cognitive, affective, and arousal states) that mediate the influence of inputs, and the appraisal and decision processes that lead to a particular action in the episode.  The outcome influences the social encounter, which then provides inputs in the next episode.  Person inputs, such as traits, gender, beliefs, attitudes, values, long-term goals, and behavioural scripts, refer to relatively stable characteristics that individuals bring to any given situation and can predispose one toward or against aggression.  Situational inputs can also influence aggression in a given episode.  Such factors include aggressive cues, provocation, frustration, pain and discomfort, drugs, and incentives.  The routes through which person and situation inputs influence aggression are cognitive, affective, and arousal states.  Cognitive states include hostile thoughts and behavioural scripts.  Affective states include mood and emotion as well as expressive motor responses.  Arousal can influence aggression in a number of ways: high levels of physiological arousal preceding a provocation can be mislabelled as anger, thereby increasing aggressive behaviour. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 143 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PersChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  Cognition, affect, and arousal are all interconnected in the GAM and each may influence the other.  Some of the variables may seem to overlap between inputs and routes: scripts are listed as both a person factor and a cognitive state.  scripts as a person factor refer to a relatively stable characteristic (i.e., the presence and level of activation of such a script typical of a given person), whereas scripts as a cognitive state refer to the degree to which a particular behavioural script is activated in a particular situation. Evolutionary Psychological Perspective  In ancestral environments certain physiological, psychological, and behavioural characteristics were associated with increased reproductive success (i.e., having a relatively high number of children who in turn have a relatively high number of children, and so on)  To the extent that such characteristics are heritable, the genes responsible for them would be passed on to subsequent generations more so than genes that are responsible for characteristics associated with reproductive failure.  Building on research and theory on general antisocial behaviour, experts propose that most violent people fall in one of three groups: young men, competitively disadvantaged men, or psychopaths.  Adolescent and young men typically have relatively few resources and low status, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage relative to other males with whom they are competing for resources and mates.  Through violence and general risk taking, these young men may be able to increase their status, resources, and/or access to more and better mates.  as they move into adulthood and begin to acquire legitimately gained resources and status, the costs of violence begin to outweigh the benefits, so they switch from short-term high-risk strategies to more long-term lower-risk strategies.  So the violent behaviour of this group is limited to adolescence and young adulthood.  This is the most common type of violent offender.  This desistance with adulthood, however, does not occur for the competitively disadvantaged men.  Their violent behaviour is life-course persistent.  The ability to compete for resources and status in prosocial ways is impaired by early neurodevelopmental insults, such as obstetrical complications and low IQ.  Because men in this group do not have the skills or abilities to achieve status and resources in prosocial ways, they maintain their high-risk approach into adulthood.  The final group, psychopaths, are also life-course-persistent. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 144 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PerChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  In contrast to the competitively disadvantaged men, psychopaths are not competitively disadvantaged but select short-term high-risk strategies as an alternate approach.  Competitively disadvantaged men and psychopaths are thought to make up a relatively small proportion of violent individuals. 4. Risk Assessment: Recidivism Rates  Compared to general criminal recidivism, violent recidivism is less frequent.  in a meta-analysis of recidivism of mentally disordered offenders, researchers found an average violent recidivism rate of 24.5 percent and a general recidivism rate of 45.8 percent over a mean follow-up period of 4.8 years.  A similar rate of violent recidivism was reported for non-mentally disordered offenders in a metaanalysis, with 21.73 percent over a follow- up period of approximately 2 to 5 years.  Although most violent offenders do not violently recidivate, it is possible to identify subgroups with relatively high rates of violent recidivism. Approaches  Approaches to risk assessment can be categorized in a number of ways.  Four key categories are: unstructured clinical judgment; empirical actuarial; mechanical; and structured professional judgment  Unstructured clinical judgment involves arriving at an estimate of risk based on the assessor’s own idiosyncratic decisions about what factors to consider and how to combine those factors.  In contrast, the empirical actuarial and mechanical instruments both follow explicit rules about what factors to consider and how to combine those factors to arrive at a final estimate of risk.  two characteristics distinguish empirical actuarial from mechanical.  For empirical actuarial instruments: 1. the selection and combination of items are derived from their observed statistical relationship with recidivism; and 2. tables linking scores to expected recidivism rates are provided.  For mechanical instruments, the selection and combination of items are derived from theory or reviews of the empirical literature and no tables are provided.  Structured professional judgment incorporates features of both unstructured clinical judgment and the actuarial approach; there are explicit guidelines for which factors to consider (although additional factors may also be considered), but the combination of those factors is left up to the discretion of the assessor. Instruments  Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) The Violence Risk Appraisal Guide is an empirical actuarial risk-assessment instrument designed to estimate risk for violent recidivism. Copyright © 2011 Pearson Canada Inc. 145 Psychology of Criminal Behaviour: A Canadian PersChapter 7: Violent Offending: General Violence and Homicide  It was developed with a sample from a maximum-security forensic psychiatric institution in Penetanguishene, Ontario.  Violent recidivism was operationally defined as a new charge for violent offence, which included homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, forcible confinement, wounding, assault, armed robbery, and contact sex offences (e.g., rape, child molestation).  The VRAG consists of 12 static items that were selected from an initial pool of approximately 50 variables.  The final 12 items are those that made the strongest independent statistical contribution to predicting violent recidivism.  The Scores are grouped into nine risk categories (or bins), each containing seven points.  Focusing on the extremes, none of the patients who scored in the lowest VRAG risk category violently recidivated, whereas all the patients who scored in the highest risk category violently recidivated.  HCR-20 Violence Risk Assessment Scheme is a structured professional judgment instrument designed to assess risk for violence.  It consists of ten historical items, five clinical items, and five risk management items.  The historical items, which are static and reflect the past, include previous violence, young age at first violent incident, relationship instability, employment problems, major mental illness, psychopathy, early maladjustment, personality disorder, and prior supervision failure.  The clinical items, which are dynamic and reflect current functioning, include lack of insight, negative attitudes, active symptoms of major mental illness, impulsivity, and unresponsive to treatment.  The risk management items, which concern future circumstances that may be encountered in the institution or community that could increase o
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