A2 OCR Psychology G543 Forensic Psychology

A2 Psychology G543 Forensic studies (27 in total)


Turning To Crime: Upbringing - Bowlby

Bowlby (1944)

Babies have a biological need for a monotropic bond with their primary caregiver. This bond is needed from the age of 7 months up to 3 years when the child develops a biological adaptive mechanism and is in a critical period.  If it is disrupted by the child experiencing maternal deprivation then a consequence is emotional disturbance that can manifest itself in criminal behaviour.

His study consisted of 88 juvenile delinquents.  44 of these participants had been caught stealing.  50% of each group were aged 5-11 and the other 50% were aged 12-16.

A social worker interviewed their parents to get a record of the child's early life whilst the child had their IQ tested by a psychologist.  Bowlby then conducted an initial interview and the three met to compare results.  RESULTS: 17/44 who stole were found to have had some maternal deprivation before the age of 5. 2/17 were found to have developed affectionless psychopathy.

Bowlby concluded that maternal deprivation can effect the child's social development (may be unable to form solid relationships).

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Turning To Crime: Upbringing - Sutherland

Sutherland (1939)

Crime is a behaviour that can be learned in much the same way that other behaviours are learnt, and this can be done through exposure to an excess of pro-crime attitudes.

Sutherland's Differential Association theory says that if an individual is exposed to more ideas that promote criminal behaviour than they are to those that do not, then they are more likely to commit criminal behaviour.

This links to social learning theory as it explains that by watching or hearing about criminal behaviour, it is more likely to be repeated.

The theory of differential association can be summarised in a set of 9 propositions that explain how and why people turn to crime.  He explains that criminal behaviour (including techniques of committing crimes and the directions of motives and attitudes) is learnt through communication.

He summarises this by explaining that a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of favourable definitions to the violation of the law over those unfavourable definitions.

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Turning To Crime: Upbringing - Wikström

Wikström (2002-2012)

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Turning To Crime: Cognition - Palmer & Hollin

Palmer & Hollin (2000)

Criminal acts can be explained by reference to attributions and neutralisations:

  • Young offenders seem to be more likely than non-offending youths to interpret ambiguous situations in a hostile way - insofar as this is a pattern, it could make sense of why they might react violently in a particular situation and get into trouble.
  • By using techniques of neutralisation, offenders can feel justified in their offending behaviour and so continue.

Palmer and Hollin interviewed 97 convicted male offenders aged 13-21, and compared them to 77 male non-offenders aged 12-24, to establish to the extent to which young offenders display the hostile attribution bias - where one has the tendency to interpret ambiguous events as hostile.  Through their research, they found that the offenders made more hostile attributions of intent when the scenarios were ambiguous.  This shows that having a hostile attribution bias may explain why certain situations are likely to end up in a criminal offence.

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Turning To Crime: Cognition - Kohlberg

People turn to crime if they operate at a low level of moral developmentPalmer & Hollin showed how offenders had less mature moral reasoning than non-offenders, with moral reasoning scores of the offender group being at the stage where moral decisions are made on the basis of rewards and punishments.

Kohlberg studied 75 boys from the USA over 12 years in the 1950's and 60's.  In this longitudinal study, he presented the boys with hypothetical moral dilemmas (Heinz Dilemma) about whether a man should steal drugs for his dying wife and the reasons for their decision, thus discovering their morals.  Their answers were analysed according to the 'underlying' structures of their moral reasoning.  He was interested in how they justified themselves, not their decision.

He claimed that a) moral reasoning can be seen to develop over 3 levels (pre-convential morality, conventional morality and post-convential/principled morality) and b) it is true of all children.  Progression from one stage to the next is dependent upon cognitive development and social perspective.

He created 6 stages of moral development: 1) punishment & obedience 2) instrumental relativist 3) 'good boy/girl' 4) law & order 5) social - contract legalistic 6) universal principles.

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Turning To Crime: Cognition - Jahoda

Jahoda (1954)

One way in which we try to understand what is going on in social interaction is to work out what other people think of us.  If in doing this it becomes clear that other people expect us to turn to crime then this expectation can lead us to turn to crime - if we are going to get the blame for crimes, then we may as well get any potential benefits.

This would mean that the prediction (prophecy) that we would turn to crime has been fulfilled. However, it has only happened because of the prediction in the first place so that prediction has amounted to a self-fufilling prophecy.

Jahoda (1954) suggested that if people expect you to behave in a criminal/aggressive way, this could cause us to act in ways that confirm their expectations.  Jahoda studied delinquency rates amongst the Ashanti in Western Africa.  They traditionally chose 'soul names' for boys according to the day that they were born, they believed that this also affected temperament - this had the potential to be self-fulfilling.  Jahoda found over a 5 year period, that 22% of violent offences were carried out by 'Wednesday' names (aggressive) and only 6.9% boys for 'Monday' names (placcid), supporting the idea that the boys lived up to the reputation.  Jahoda confirmed that it wasn't the Ashanti's belief that the day of birth dictated characteristics but it was the cultural expectation that enhanced aspects of their development.

Therefore, if a child is brought up to fufill a prediction, that they know about, then they are likely to develop these characteristics and behave in a certain way. 

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Turning To Crime: Biology - Raine et al

Raine et al (1997)

It has been suggested that criminal behaviour can result from damage to particular parts of the brain:

  • Damage to the amygdala is associated with 'fearlessness'
  • Damage to the pre-frontal cortex can result in impulsivity, immaturity, altered emotionality, loss of self-control and an inability to modify behaviour, all of which may increase the likelihood of aggressive acts.
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