psychodynamic explanations for offending - forensic psychology

a2 psychology unit 3

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  • Created on: 09-06-12 15:15

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Psychodynamic Explanations
Freud never attempted to explain offending behaviour, but the following aspects of the
psychodynamic theory can be used:
o Inadequate superego
Freud argued that the personality has three components:
The id ­ demanding, self-gratifying instinct
The superego ­ conscience or internal parent who develops through
identification with same-sex parent in the phallic stage as part of the
resolution of the Oedipus/Electra complex
The ego ­ moderates the demands of the id and the harsh strictures
of the superego, and responds to the demands and expectations of
external society
Freudian theory would say that offending behaviour is caused by an
imbalance between the three components of the personality, mainly
because the id is not properly controlled
Blackburn argued that three types of superego may result in offending
The weak superego ­ absence of same-sex parent at phallic stage.
This means the child has no opportunity to identify with the parent
and learn their moral code. The superego does not cause guild, so
the individual has no inhibitions about what is right and wrong
The deviant superego ­ the same-sex parent is immoral. The child
internalises a moral code that is deviant. Their views of what is right
and wrong are different from those of society
The over-harsh superego ­ the child's superego causes too much
guilt, leading them to seek out opportunities for which they will be
punished. They commit criminal offences because of an unconscious
desire to be punished
Superego-based explanations rely on Freud's psychodynamic theory of
psychosexual development
According to Freud, boys identify with their fathers more than girls relate
with their mothers because of their fear of castration
Therefore, according to Freud, girls are less morally developed because
they didn't internalise a moral code as much as boys
o Defence mechanisms
Unconscious processes designed to defend the unconscious self from
unpleasant events and truths
Some defence mechanisms work by keeping emotions hidden (denial
Others allow the individual to release pent-up emotions (cathartic)
Defence mechanisms can be used to explain offending behaviour in a
number of ways:
Denial ­ refusing to acknowledge that an unpleasant event is
happening consciously, because of the disturbing thoughts (e.g.
committing a series of murders but not acknowledging the severity
of those actions)
Rationalisation ­ explaining unacceptable behaviour in a rational and
accepting way (e.g. targeting those who might be considered to
`deserve' it)

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Displacement ­ the individual takes out their anger and frustrations
on a substitute object (e.g. a stranger is killed as a replacement for
the person the individual really wanted to kill)
Sublimination ­ redirecting normally primitive impulses into more
acceptable activities (e.g.…read more


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