criminological psychology

  • Created by: Jessica
  • Created on: 17-04-09 15:22

Definition of Crime 1

Crime can be considered: a social/moral wrong & an illegal act/breach of legal rules

Intention - was the act intentional or accidental?

  • Need to establish whether the act was committed under pressure
  • Can't be proved if individual doesn't have sufficient understanding to know what they're doing
  • Important to establish whether a person has learning difficulties/psychiatric illness before deciding whether their behaviour is criminal

Age - is there a minium age where indiviudlas can't be considered legally responsible?

  • Very young children cannot be held responsible for their actions
  • Legal systems have established an age below which people aren't considered criminally responsible - differs between countries e.g. England/Wales=10/Scotland=8/Sweden=15
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Definition of Crime 2

Culture - can culture influence what constitues to a crime?

  • Culture IS very influential in deciding what constitutes a criminal act e.g. female circumcision is legal in Egypt but illegal in England
  • Cannabis has been decriminalised in UK, yet possession is a hanging offences in Singapore

History - how does history reflect what is meant by crime or criminal behaviour?

  • Suicide, homosexuality & adultery have been wholly or partially removed from criminal law
  • Negelct & abuse of children/employees have been added
  • New laws have to be regarding technology advances e.g. driving offences/computer hacking

Crime is a social construct that is subject to social & cultural influences rather than a universal truth

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Theories of Offending - Learning Theories 2

Differential Association - turning to crimes is learnt & association with others helps

Sutherland (1947) > a person may turn to crime when their definitions favourable to law-breaking exceed their definitions favourable to law-abiding

Strenghts - objective/scientific & theoretical

Limitation - over-simplistic; since many crimes are opportunistic in nature this lasts doubts upon observation & imitation; gnores biological factors

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Theories of Offending - Learning Theories 1

Contrast on the psychoanalytic perspective - stems from principles of behaviourism

Social Learing Theory - Bandura proposed the effect of observation, imitaion & vicarous conditioning; individual can learn about criminal behaviour through observations = if accompanied by rewarding - consequences can be powerful - bridge between cogntive & behaviourism/takes emphasis away from free-will

Key terms: operant conditioning = external reinforcement; self-reinforcment = feeding scheme/guilt; vicarious reinforcement = role models

Behaviourism/conditioning - Skinner proposed behaviour was more likley to be repreated if a reward is associated with it (rats - conditioning) - Conditioning can explain crimes - stealing = feeling of competence/admiration of peers/material reward/self-esteem > classical conditioning

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Psychological Effects of Imprisonment 2


  • Symptoms such as hallucinations & delusions
  • Heather (1977) > sample of Scots prisoners tested and found 59% reported significant psychological problems; with 20% reporting psychotic symptoms e.g. hallucinations
  • Evaluation - may be more so to do with the crime rather than imprisonment - post-traumatic stress disorder (Kruppa '91)


  • Follows patterns of anxiety & depressive symptoms - young single men during early periods of coneinment are most at risk
  • Dooley (1990) >suicide rate in the British prison population is around 4 times that in the population at large - those on remand/awaiting trial & those on life sentences are most at risk
  • Evaluation - data is limited & shortage of longitudinal studies
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Evaluation of Custodial Sentencing 1

Prison DOES work - punishment it effective if given the right circumstances

  • Those who offend habituially better off in prison
  • Prison is aversive and works to motivate the offender to alter their behaviour
  • Retribution, deterrence, reform & incapacitation
  • Walker & Farrington (1981) > compared offenders given probation & those sentenced in prison; lower recidivism found in prison group
  • Provides opportunities for rehabilitation
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Therapies & Strategies used in Treament of Offende

  • Based on assupmtion offenders lack these skills & aquiring them will reduce rates of re-offending
  • Goldstein (1986) > data from 30 studies of young offenders; found they yeilded positive outcomes; restricted to duration of programme; 4 out of 5 of those given social skills training didn't generalsie them beyond the environment
  • Evaluation - recidivism rates more long term measure of SST effectiveness (groups reported more commited offences, but lower conviction); short term benefits; cannot be generalised

Anger Management

  • Cognitive behavioural techniques - learning strategies to deal effectively with anger feelings
  • Based on anger being primary cause of violent criminal acts
  • Once offenders learn to control this, bad behaviour in prisons & rates of recidivism will decrease
  • Involve group work; learn to employ self-control etc; increase awareness of anger process
  • 3 stages incorporated in prog.: cognitive preparation = active thinking (experiences) skill aquisition = cognitive/behavioural strategies & application process = role play exercises (practive strategies)
  • Feindler, Mariott + Iawata (1984) > children with behavioural problems on programme; taught various techniques to comabt anger; included ways to solve problems/lower tensions etc; behaviour monitored, improvement recorded; found benefits persisted after programme
  • Evaluation - anti-social behaviour reduced in children; more research for relationship between anger & crime; short term success; Hunter ('93) reported considerable improvements in specific areas - impulsiveness, depression & interpersonal problems
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Evaluation of Custodial Sentencing 2

Prison DOES NOT work - positive reinforcement is more effective then punishment

  • On almost immediate release from prison, many offenders commit further crimes - 70s/80s recidivism rate - 60% (not ALL re-offences are reconvicted)
  • Increases probablility of reoffending -"school of crime"
  • Offenders may see imprisonment as as 'occupational hazard' of their criminal career - it doesn't affect them
  • Unlikely to deter those who offend while under the influence of drugs/alcohol; to support addiction; or those who commit crimes of passion when they have lost emotional control
  • Prisons are 'too soft' & over-crowded - 77,004 people currently in UK prisons est. 90,000 by 2010
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Therapies & Strategies used in Treament of Offende

Behaviour Modification

  • Principles of operant (consequences) & classical (association) conditioning
  • Token economy technique, desirable behaviour e.g. co-operation/compliance is reinforced by tokens - no intrinsic values but can be exchanged for primary reinforcers
  • Prisons use negative reinforcement to reduce aggressive behaviour (removal of privaliges)
  • Hobbs + Holt (1976) > recorded effects of introducing T.E. to young delinquents; tokens given for obeying rules/doing chores/social interacition; programme showed significant increase in targeted behaviours compared to those not involved
  • Evaluation - short term benefits/less effective long term;economical & easily evaluated; high degree of commitment from everyone involved; difficult to generalise from institutions to real world; concern about violation of civil rights (negative reinforcement)

Social Skills Training

  • Cognitive behavioural treatment - teaches social skills for positive interaction
  • Skills such as making eye contact, standing distance; & turn taking during conversation (involves role play activities) - attitudes/thoughts affect behaviour
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Measuring Crime 1


  • Once an offence is reported it should appear in the official statistics
  • Only two thirds of serious crime actually reported is recorded in police files
  • Amount of unknown crime is known as the dark figure and can be explained by a number of reasons - unreliability of the victim e.g. they could forget certain events have happened; methods used to record them are unreliable; ceratin amount of discretion as to what the police choose to report; people may choose not to press charges following initial ocmplaint e.g. domestic violence



  • Self-report studies > individuals asked in confidence to give details of crimes they've committed - detected and undetected
  • Advantages - useful way to uncover criminal acts that have occured - ask responsible individuals; reveal considerable gaps between O.S and those by alternative methods
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Crime Statistics

  • Provide data to advise local and government policy
  • Measure the type of crime being committed
  • Detect changes in crime trends (amount & type)
  • Measure the amount of crime being committed
  • Measure effectiveness of any preventative measures put in place
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Measuring Crime 2

  • Disadvantages - individuals may have exaggerated replies- especially young people; mainly juvenile acts - less on extent of adult crime; type of interview (phone/person) & interviewer characterisitcs - may affect reponse; method slightly flawed


  • Using interviews & questionnaires, estimates made of extent of household & personal crime, then compared with official statistics
  • Advantages - reveal considerable gaps between O.S and those by alternative methods; in depth details of incident - extent of 'trivial' crimes; allow us to calculate 'dark figure'
  • Disadvantages - under represent full extent of crime - some excluded from surveys e.g. fraud etc; memory issues affect measurement e.g. forgetting details; type of interview (phone/person) & interviewer characterisitcs - may affect reponse; method slightly flawed
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Deterence - punishment is considered a deterrent in all societies/cultures - aims to deter the offending in the first place & prevent re-offending

Reform - aims to reform the offender in order to change their behaviour and as to not re-offend

Retribution - the punishment should fit the crime - results in society exacting 'revenge' on offender, the more serious the crime, the more severe the punishment

Incapacitation - offender is removed from society - prevents further offecnes & also serves to protect the public from more serious offenders e.g. rapists/murderers

Custodial e.g. prison sentence -> period of time served by offender in secured confinement - length of sentences depends on severeity of crime - AD. protect society; justice for victims; prevents re-offending/threat reduces initial offences DISAD. puts strain on resources; can lead to severe overcrowding; reinforce criminal lifestyle = "school of crime"

Non-custodial e.g. probation ->main type of community penalty & involves the suspension of a sentence, purpose is to keep offenders under control/surveillance whilst providing help for them - "decent, caring face of criminal justice system" - AD. offender is not exposed to criminalising influence of prison; reduces prison over-crowding; less expensive than custodial sentences DISAD. possible chance of re-offending-still in society; difficult to assess; only as good as porbation programme/officers

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Psychological Effects of Imprisonment 1

The removal of an indiviual's liberty is likely to involve immediate psychological effects due to separaion from partner, friends & families - individual differences in the way people adjust

A type of socialisation calledPRISONISATION can occur - eating/sleeping habits change/prison slang adopted/norms are accepted to reinforce and us/them mentality


  • Symptoms such as sleeplessness/anxiety/restlessness occur around the beginning of a sentence
  • Many offenders soon adjust, it is the inital concern about how they will cope after sentence which may be the cause of the on bringing of these symptoms
  • Zamble & Porpino (1988) > indicated that early into sentences prisoners show high levels of depression, which steadily decline over time
  • Evaluation - suggests that depression/anxiety etc represent psychological effects/responses to confinement; data is limited & shortage of longitudinal studies
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Offender Profiling 1

"an attempt to produce a description or profile of an offender by analyisng the characteristics of the offence and other background information"

Goals of profiling - Holmes & Holmes (1996)

  • Social & psychological assessments - basic information about offender
  • Psychological evaluation of belongings - scene souvenirs or photos
  • Interviewing suggestions & strategies - best way to get response
  • Aim = move from data to inference (conclusion/interpretation); construct behavioural composite; assist police in evaluating suspects by matching info
  • Limitations = only used in arson/serial ****/murder cases; usually last resort following serious crime with few clues & no obvious evidence; cannot be considered evidential in targeting particular suspect; may result in weak prosecution case

There are 5 main catergories used to develop an offender profile:

  • Nature of the assault = murder is top of scale - a complex crime usually imvolves an intelligent offender which suggests there may be interrogation issues
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Offender Profiling 2

  • Timing of the offences = does time period have significance e.g. absence of offending while in prison/abroad/hosptial - is the time of offending period changing due to caution/appetite?
  • Location = isolated/stocked with items they might need, may be precise targeting e.g. alone victims - majority of offenders offend in small radius to their home MORE
  • Choice of victim = was victim known? history of victim needed e.g. age/gender/race etc - provide clues relating to offender, may inform future victim selection/effective interrogation strategies MORE
  • Interaction style =time offender & victim know each other before hand/social pattern/attitude to sexes/clues about employment & lifestyle - evidence only available if victims survive MORE
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Theories of Offending - Biological 1

Genetic Factors -Lomboroso > criminals are born rather than made - criminal types vary (physical characteristics); differentiate criminals by prescence of certain features e.g. murderers - thin lips /robbers - beak like noses

Physiology - Sheldon > 3 main body types (somatotypes) ectomorph = thin/wiry frame - introverted; endomorph = heavy & rounded - sociable; mesomorph = solid & muscular - aggressive/adventurous (likely hitman) people make assumptions on appearance - encourages crime

Chromosomal Evidence - men with extra Y gene typically aggressive due to aytypical chromosome pattern - difficulty identifying criminal gene - minimal difference with those who didn't have the chromosome

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Theories of Offending - Biological 2

Lange > difference in twins & criminal behaviour; 13 pairs of MZ twins studied with regard to variety of criminal indicators e.g. criminal record; compared with 17 pairs of DZ twins; resulting analysis of concordance rates revealed figure for MZ twins - 12% three quarters of MZ twins had criminal behaviour

Strengths - easily tested in scientific manner (stereotyping); Lomboroso gave criminology a scientific basis

Limitations - ignores environmental factors/free will; Lomboroso had no conclusive evidence; twin studies evidence - small sample so hard to generalise

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Offender Profiling - Approaches 1


Classification system developed by the FBI based on - in depth interviews with convicted offenders (36 serial); collection of detailed information from members of Behavioural Science Unit; combination of this information with evidence fromcrime secne, victim & forensics - offenders then classified as organised or disorganised

Organised - intelligent; skilled occupation; socially & sexually competent; married or co-habiting

Disorganised - socially inadequate; unskilled occupation; first/last born child; sexual problems relating to their mother; live alone; familiar with crime scene


British method was developed from the work of David Canter who was interested in aspects of criminal behaviour - more scientific appraoch was used based on psychological thoeries & methodologies; attempts to demonstrate consistencies within the actions of offenders & identifiable differences between them e.g. what is the same & what is different - interpersonal coherence/significance of time & place/forensic awareness

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Offender Profiling - Approaches 2

John Duffy Case Study > serial ****** & murderer - Canter provided profile that assisted his arrest; by gathering information from crime scene he produced a detailed description; included things such as his age/living arrangments/sort of area most likely to live in

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Evaluation of Offender Profiling

There are a number of criticisms regarding the FBI approach:

  • Developed using a small sample of serious offenders
  • The crime classifications are crude
  • Details of the development & efficiency of the method have never been published

General evaluation includes:

  • Only useful for certain crimes
  • Police may be selective over what they choose to attend to from the profile
  • Too much importance may be attatched to it and a lack of convincing evidence overlooked
  • Problematic to estimate the success of offender profiling
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Theories of Offending - Psychoanalytic

Emphasis on inner forces causing criminal behaviour, more than environmental factors

Bowlby (1994) > maternal deprivation hypothesis; group of delinquent children with a history of offences were found to have more difficulties with parents and had greater emotional difficulty than non-delinquents - there is also a theory that delincquency can result from over-persmissive parenting, over-permissive parents the superego within an individual meaning they may not properly develop and anti-social behaviours may be poorly controlled leading to criminal behaviour

Freud & Deviant Behaviour - emphasis on childhood experiences in shaping adult personality

Strengths - ideas behind psychoanalysis are appealing and it is now being seriously considered; has many applications; flaws in scinetific research - lack of control groups and basings findings on retro-spective ancedtoal evidence

Limitations - findings have supportive bias - important evidence is selected, other findings ignored; theory doesn't stand up to rigourous scientific approach since it is difficult to test

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The Criminal Personality 1

Criminals are different from non-criminals based on their personality

Eysenck (1970) > proposed that criminal individuals inherit a type of nervouse system which affects their ability to learn from/condition their environment; 2 distinct personality types - extraversion/introversion & neuroticism/stability -

  • Extraversion - sociable & outgoing, inherit cortically under-aroused N.S encourages them to seek stimulation to restore normal health
  • Introversion - quiet & solitary, suffer from over-aroused N.S and show extra stimulation
  • Neuroticism - anxiety & emotional instability
  • Psychoticism - cold, aggressive & hostile, new addition
  • Stability - calm & even tempered

combination of these features found in criminal population - all measured using standard questionnaires - links between personality & crime become clear when considering individuas ability to adapt to environment & learn rules of society - according to this theory individuals with high score on extraversion & neuroticism may be more common in criminal populations

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The Criminal Personality 2

Strengths - research seems to confirm theory

Limitations - little support for E/N/P combination; criticism of the authority with which this idea has been presented & accepted as it lacks the evidence for it's theoretical foundation; questionnaire method

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