PSYC39 – Ch1. Crime in Canada
The influence of the media
- this text focus on a psychological understanding of criminal behaviour
with a consideration of individual and intra-individual influences.
- Psychology is interested in:
intra-individual differences: variations in criminal conduct within an
individual across time and situations
inter-individual differences: variation in criminal conduct between
- Psychology focuses on individuals, whereas sociology focuses more on
- The terms used to define the study of criminal behaviour vary somewhat
across different texts
Forensic psychology: any application of psychology to the legal system
(Pozzulo, Bennell, and Forth 2008)
but some serve the term for the practice of clinical psychology within the
reflects issues of risk assessment and expert testimony that intended
to guide legal decision making than the understanding of criminal
- Correctional psychology (US and Canada): the specific psychological
study of criminal behaviour (Magaletta and Boothby, 2002)
(UK: referred to as criminological psychology)
the focus is to understand the assessment and management of individuals
who engage in criminal behaviour.
to follow the dispositions by the court, not the actual issues relating to the
operation of justice.
- The phenomenon of decreased criminal activity with the increase in age is
the process: crime desistance.
group-based explanations of crime acquisition and desistance must be
informed by individual difference explanations in order to situate a
psychological understanding of crime
- The Personal, Interpersonal and Community-Reinforcement model
(PIC-R; Andrews and Bonta 2006) posits that criminal behaviour reflects
the immediate situation in that factors (e.g. temptation, facilitators,
inhibitors, and stressors) combine to influence a decision to engage in
Community: family of origin, social economic factors
Interpersonal: family/child relations, childhood attachment, neglect,
abuse, ties to criminal others
personal: early conduct problems, biological factors such temperament
and verbal intelligence, gender and age
Consequence: whether criminal behaviour is rewarded
- the PIC-R reflects a learning theory of crime that attends to social and
cognitive factors and behaviour, underscoring it as a contemporary
cognitive social learning theory of crime. - Farrington’s (2003) theory (contemporary criminological viewpoint),
long-term risk factors (biological, individual, family, peer, school,
community and school) interact with short-term ones (energizing and
inhibiting factors, opportunity, antisocial tendency and cognitive
processes) to influence antisocial behaviour.
(similar to the PIC-R model)
Definition of Crime
- Types of definitions typically include legal, moral, social, and
- Criminal behaviour refers to intentional behaviour that violates a
criminal code; intentional in that it did not occur accidentally or without
justification of excuse.
(Barto and Bartol 2008)
- A definition of crime is critical in that the specific description will
influence prevalence, i.e. a more conservative or restrictive definition will
decrease the rate of crime.
- Any definition of crime must concede that there are inter-cultural
variations regarding normative and acceptable behaviour, and that
acceptable norms can change over time within a culture.
- Sensitivity to legal and cultural issues must be reflected in psychological
responses to criminal behaviour.
Determinants of crime
- Determinants of crime have often been described as distal (historical) and
proximal (immediate, situational)
- Literature reviews are helpful in understanding key issues related to
- A more useful strategy to empirically identify determinants of crime is
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. This method review studies and aggregate
the findings in terms of effect sizes.
First and second order correlates of criminal conduct
- Variables appeared to be related to criminality are ranked and identified
as the Central Eight risk/need factors – the most important factors in
understanding criminal behaviour.
- The Big Four are proposed as the major causal variables in the analysis of
the criminal behaviour of individuals. (p.11)
1. History of antisocial
2. Antisocial personality pattern
(adventurous pleasure seeking, weak self-control, restlessly aggressive)
3. Antisocial cognition
4. Antisocial associates
- Major risk factors – considered as first order correlates of crime - Minor risk factors, confirmed by a series of meta-analyses, are variables
that are previously considered important correlated of crime in
sociological theory but have proved to be relatively unimportant now.
considered as second order correlates of crime
- The most compelling demonstration of the relative importance of major
and minor risk factors comes from an ongoing research project and
collaboration between the University of New Brunswick and Carleton
University (Andrews and Bonta 2006)
- Moderate risk factors – part of the Central Eight but are not major
- Some risk factors are static, cannot change
- Dynamic risk factors can change, e.g. antisocial cognition, substance use
- Major risk factors are often termed criminogenic in that they are
empirically related to criminal conduct. When reduced, lead to reductions
in future re-offending.
- Thus criminogenic needs typically inform treatment referrals.
Impact of Risk and Need model of criminal conduct
- A provincial survey by Hannah-Moffat and Maurutto (2003) for young
offender services confirmed that all provinces except Quebec utilize some
form of a risk and need assessment modeled after the major risk factors
- Most use variants of either the Wisconsin model or the Level of Service
- Adult assessments in provincial corrections reflect the Level of Service
Inventory-Revised (LSI-R) or variations.
- The federal correctional system, Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)
uses an Offender Intake Assessment based on the Wisconsin model
(recently refined and renames as a Dynamic Factor Identification
- All assessments are intended to assist in the identification of levels of
criminal risk for decision purposes (security placement, release), specific
treatment targets (criminogenic needs) and treatment planning.
Role of Substance Use
- Substance use – described as a moderate risk factor (based on a Pearson
correlation with criminal conduct)
- Inordinate numbers of offenders report substance abuse as an important
precursor to their commission of crimes. E.g. for federal offenders 52.1%
report regular drug use and 62.7% report regular alcohol use.
- The use of alcohol or drugs is related to different types of violent crime,
alcohol – interpersonal conflicts like assaults, homicides; drugs – more
acquisitive violence like robbery. Sexual offenders are also more likely to
- Despite the clear link between alcohol and crime, the nature of its
influence is unclear.
- McMurran and Gilchrist (2008) challenge the field to reconsider the role
of substance abuse in domestic