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Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Theories of Crime

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David Nussbaum

C39: Psych and Law Chapter 3: Theories of Crime - Learning and Environment INTRODUCTION Biological theories of crime tend to focus on the impact of physiological, biochemical, neurological and/or genetic factors. Evolutionary theories focus on explanations of how crime can be through of as adaptive behavior, developed as a means to survive in both our ancestral and present-day environments (i.e. achieving status in a group, or reproductive status - females see him as more attractive) PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES The founding father of psychodynamic theories is Sigmund Freud; he well known for his theories of the unconscious mind, defense mechanisms, free association and dream interpretation. Strangely he had relatively little to say about criminal behavior and crime but some of the most important theories of crime in recent history draw on psychodynamic principles. Basic Psychodynamic Principles: The ID, Ego, and Superego Humans are thought to be inherently antisocial, driven by pleasure-seeking and destructive impulses. This perspective believes that crime occurs when these (often unconscious) impulses are not adequately controlled this thought is to happen when internal psychic forces tasked w/ the job of regulating such impulses fail to develop as they should i.e. traumatic childhood experience Ex. David Abrahamsen, a forensic psychiatrist and psychoanalyst wrote what is a detailed account of a murder. It describes how a psychoanalyst would describe the criminal behaviour; he says the act of murder is released by intensity of internal conflicts, immensely tormented - usually by an experience i.e. raped, beaten etc, the murderer feels trapped deep down inside with a struggle bw their sexual and self preserving feelings and external surroundings, they commit murder based on a triggered impulse inner drives, traumatic situations, protecting defenses etc are commonplace in psychodynamic explanations. ID- the unconscious, instinctual part of personality that seeks the immediate gratification of basic drives (e.g. aggression) believed to be governed by the reality principle- the driving force of the ego, which leads people to defer gratification until it is physically and socially safe to pursue it Ego- the conscious part of the personality which acts as the mediator bw the instinctual demands of the ID and the social restrictions of the superego guided by the superego- part of the personality that acts as the moral regulator, making sure that we act in accordance with internalized group standards. it is thought to consist of two sub systems: the conscience, which allows an individual to distinguish bw right and wrong and forces the ego to inhibit id pursuits that are out of line with ones morals, and the ego ideal, which represents the socially accepted standards to which we all aspire. Freud argued that personality development occurs across 5 psychosexual stages and argued that difficulties resolving conflicts within any given stage cannot potentially result in problems w. personality development, which would be apparent in ones behaviour. (pg 72 table 3.1 for description and name of each stage!) psychosexual stages- distinct developmental stages proposed by Sigmund Freud that are characterized by conflicts that people must resolve in order to develop healthy personalities oedipus complex- a conflict expressed in the phallic stage of development whereby young males develop an unconscious desire for the mother and fear of retribution by the father electra complex- - a conflict expressed in the phallic stage of development whereby young females develop an unconscious desire for their father and hostility towards the mother problems that result in superego formation are of particular interest to those attempting to give explanations of crime. Psychoanalysts have proposed 3 main sources of criminal behaviour - e. relates to inadequate superego formation. the three sources relate to the development of harsh, weak or deviant superego. 1- neurotic criminal- an individual who commits crime as a result of a harsh superego, which is assumed to lead to pathological levels of unconsciousness guilt that can be resolved by receiving punishment (i.e. a legal sanction for a crime) 2- indivduals who commit crime bc of a weak superego are commonly associated w/ the psychopathic personality. possessing a superego that fails to sufficiently regulate the primitive and instinctual needs f the ID, this individual is usually egocentric, impulsive, guiltless, and unempathetic. aka serial killers 3- for these individuals, superego standards have developed, but those standards are thought to reflect deviant identification- the process of identifying with deviant role model (e.g. criminal father) i.e. this occurs when criminal parents have a good relationship w/ their son and the son grows up to mirror his parents criminality Psychodynamic Theories of Crime The only thing the criminal types (i.e. harsh, weak, deviant etc) do is suggest it is due to problems with superego, otherwise this lacks inadequate info. It also doesn't go with what we already know that males are more likely than females to commit crimes with the psychoanalytic assumption that girls are less likely than boys to develop a strong superego. Here are more theories... Bowlbys Theory of Maternal Deprivation theory of maternal deprivation- a theory of crime proposed by John Bowlby that suggests that if children are not exposed to consistent and constant maternal care in their early years they will experience difficulties in developing the ability to establish meaningful prosocial relationships and, as a result, will be more likely to exhibit antisocial patterns of behaviour this is a popular theory of how juvenile delinquency develops lacking such abilities, the child will not develop the means to control his conduct (i.e destructive impulses) and will be more likely to exhibit antisocial patterns of behaviour Bowly had research to back this up; in a study of 44 juvenile delinquents he found a significantly higher level of maternal deprivation in the delinquent group (39%) compares to non delinquents (5%) = however this has been challenged on methodological and empirical grounds methodologically, its been criticized everything from unrepresentative nature of his delinquent sample to poor control group matching. empirically his results do not appear to hold up, esp. in studies where there are larger sample sizes. Bowly himself didn't always find strong evidence for the role of maternal deprivation in explaining delinquency Unravelling Juvenile Delinquency: The Work of Glueck and Glueck Despite criticisms on Bowlbys theory, it is known that family discord in general is associated with delinquent behaviour. The work of Glueck and Glueck is known for this; this Harvard husband and wife proposed a theory less a formal one of crme and more a summary of their empirical findings. they were heavily influenced by psychodynamic thinking and spoke of things as mental conflict 2One of the primary interests of their research was discovering the causes of crime and assessing the effectiveness of correctional treatment in controlling criminal behaviour. They use cross-sectional research comparing the lives of juvenile delinquents with non juveniles. Cross sectional research- type of research design whereby different groups of people who differ on a variable of interest (e.g. involvement in delinquency activity) are observed at a particular point in time to determine how they differ on some other variable (e.g. parental supervision) or set variables. They used 500 delinquent boys from the Massachusetts correctional system, and 500 non delinquent boys from Boston public schools (matched on age, race, type of neighborhood, intelligence etc) - they also did a follow up with a longitudinal research Longitudinal research- type of design whereby a particular group of individuals are observed repeatedly over time. Not only were the boys interviewed, so were the teachers and parents. Results: the Gluecks were able to provide a portrait of the delinquent. They attributed the differences of the two groups to parenting factors (primary source for superego development). They indicated a marked difference bw the two across a range of parenting variables o Among the parents (grandparents, siblings) for delinquents there was a greater incidence of emotional disturbances, mental retardation, alcoholism, and criminality. o Parents of the delinquents were less educated, less likely to stay together and less ambitious o Parents of the delinquents shower greater carelessness in the supervision of their children (neglectful) o Greater portion of delinquent family members were found to lack cohesiveness, warmth and respect for the integrity of family members and fewer delinquents were attached to
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