Psychology of Criminal Behaviour
Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Chapter 1- Crime in Canada
The Influence of the Media
James Wallace's 2008 story Even inmates eat better than seniors in nursing homes
increased the meal per diem to $5.46 in senior long-term facilities
prisoners receive meals worth more than $10 per day
Crime and justice issues receive considerable media scrutiny, sensational crimes receive front-
page billing and the public is inundated with facts, figures, and opinions about what to do about
crime and how to increase public safety
44% of Canadians believe more money should be spent on the criminal justice system
FIGURE 1.1- Information Sources Rated as Highly Important
Psychology is interested in intra-individual differences and inter-individual differences
Intra-Individual Differences: variations in criminal conduct within an individual across time
and situations (personality influences)
Inter-Individual Differences: variations in criminal conduct between individuals
psychology focuses on individuals; sociology focuses more on groups
social context is an insufficnet way to look at individual differences
o ex: all poor people dont commit crime and all rich people dont avoid crime
Forensic Psychology: refers to any application of psychology to the legal system
In U.K psychological study of criminal behavior is referred to as criminological psychology
In U.S and Canada, the area would be described as correctional psychology
Criminal Behavior: Intentional behavior that, when detected, is sanctioned by the courts as a
breach of society's established rules
younger males are more likely to be involved in criminal behavior, and crime decreases with
Crime Desistance: The ending of criminal behavior, most often described as process of
change rather than an instantaneous event.
Psychology attempts to refine our understanding of criminal behavior by considering individual
variation in order to account from heterogeneity and provide differentiated assessment and
Apsychological understanding is derived from recognizing the variability of criminal behavior
between individuals as well as within an individual over time and across situations
Aprominent psychological picture of the interplay among factors influencing criminality,
sometimes referred to as a general personality and social psychology of criminal conduct, is the
Personal, Interpersonal and Community-Reinforcement model.
This model posits that criminal behavior reflects the immediate situation
Cognitive Social Learning Theory of Crime:Alearning theory of crime that attends to both
social and cognitive factors as well as behavior.
DEFINITION OF CRIME
individual's motivation, opportunity, politics, social convention and context have been used to
types of definitions typically include legal, moral, social and psychological explanations: PSYC39
Psychology of Criminal Behaviour
legal refers to acts prohibited by the state that are punishable under the law
moral refers to the violation of norms of religion and morality that are punishable by supreme
social refers to the violation of certain norms and customs that are punishable by the
psychological refers to act that are rewarding to the perpetrator but harmful to others
Criminal Behavior: refers to intentional behavior that violates a criminal code; intentional in
that it did not occur accidentally or without justification of excuse.
any definition of crime must concede that there are inter-cultural variations regarding normative
and acceptable behavior and acceptable norms can change over time within a culture(eg.Abortion
DETERMINANTS OF CRIME
determinants of crime have often been described as distal (I.e historical) and proximal (I.e
from psychology's perspective, it is of interest to identify those factors that are most strongly
associated with criminality in order that the assessments are developed to reflect these domains
and that interventions are derived to address them and reduce future re-offending
meta-analytic reviews are less biased in that they provide a quantitative estimate of the
importance of the results rather than a narrative interpretation by the author.
BOX 1.1- Statistical Information For Understanding Research
Effect Sizes and Meta-Analysis
meta-analysis is one way to synthesize information which uses statistics to aggregate the results
of individual studies and develop one averaged effect size for all the studies combined
meta-analysis give some studies more weight than others
effect sizes provide information about the magnitude of the difference
studies involving two dichotomous variables typically use effect sizes such as a phi correlation or
an odd ratio
for studies looking at a continuous variable and a dichotomous variable, effect sizes are typically
reported as the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (Area Under the Curve
[AUC] for Receiver Operating Characteristic [ROC]), a Cohen's d correlation, or the B1
coefficient from logistic regression.
Meta-analysis is useful because the aggregated effect size provides a quantitative summary of a
large body of research
In meta-analysis, formulae can be used to convert information from one effect size measure into
the conclusions of the meta-analysis are only as strong as the quality of the individual studies that
Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) analysis is a technique for measuring the accuracy of
risk assessments by examining false positive and true positives across decision thresholds.
First and Second Order Correlates of Criminal Conduct
Central Eight: the eight most strongly identified risk factors, as identified through meta-analysis
Big Four: The four most strongly correlated risk factors, as identified through meta-analysis
Minor Risk Factors: Risk factors with very weak association with criminal behavior
Moderate Risk Factors: Risk factors with moderate association with criminal ; less strong PSYC39
Psychology of Criminal Behaviour
than the Big Four
Static Risk Factors: Risk factors with a demonstrated correlation with criminal behavior.
Dynamic Risk Factors: Risk factors that can change, unlike static factors, with such change
related to reduced criminal behavior.
Criminogenic needs/factors: Changeable risk factors that, when reduced, result in reduced
criminal behavior. Sometimes referred to as dynamic risk factors.
Impact of Risk and Need Model of Criminal Conduct
adult assessments in provincial corrections also reflect the Level of Science Inventory-Revised or
Provincial Corrections: Jail an probation services for youth and adults, the latter who receive
sentences of less than two years.
The federal correctional system, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), uses an Offender Intake
Assessment based on the Wisconsin model.
Correctional Service of Canada (CSC): Integrated prison and community correctional
system responsible for supervising offenders who receive sentences of two years or greater.
Role of Substance Use
substance abuse is described as a moderate risk factor, based on a Pearson correlation with
An inordinate number of offenders report substance abuse as an important precursor to their
commission of crimes
number somewhat vary; for federal offenders 52.1% report regular drug use and 62.7% report
regular alcohol use
same research noted that 50% of federal offenders report using drugs and/or alcohol prior to or
during the commission of their crimes
in the 2006 study, Kunic and Grant state that 68% of federal officiers have substance abuse
problems warranting intervention
substance abuse has also been uniquely implicated for sexual offenders, where rapists and child
molesters report higher levels of alcohol consumption than non-sexually violent offenders.
LINKING THE RESEARCH TO CASE STUDIES
a clearer understanding of typical criminal behavior comes from a review of primary or first-order
Most individuals involved in criminal behavior are ordinary individuals with ordinary
problems(ex. poor self-regulation, substance abuse, lack of employment, or poor choice in
friends) whose decision to engage in criminal conduct reflects disinhibition, a failure to consider
short and long-term consequences, support from peers, and attitudes about such behavior
Federal and Provincial Correction
Federal Corrections: The term used to describe correctional agencies for offenders serving
two or more years. Includes prisons and parole offices in every region of the country.
correctional services are operated by both federal and provincial governments
offenders who receive sentences of less than two years or who receive community sentences such