Theories & Perspectives on Development of Offending


Theories & Perspectives on Development of Offendin

  • social learning theory
  • individuals learn about consequences of behaviour from observing others
  • vicarious / observational learning
  • "reinforcers" = consequences that heighten likelihood of a behaviour i.e. social approval, money, sex, social inclusion
  • social learning theory is key as it can begin to explain the process of learning behaviours
  • however when we look at criminality we see that sometimes it is learned but other times it is not, why is that...
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Cognitive Theories of Crime

  • hypothesis = low levels of intelligence can lead to weak learning ability, leaving a negative impact on marketable skills that are key to  earning a living and a poor ability to avoid risky circumstances leading to being caught easily
  • controversial hypothesis = Cullen et Al 1997 provides weak support by concluding that criminality is very weakly correlated with levels of intelligence and there are more relevant factors that explain criminal behaviour
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Self Regulation & Risky Behaviours

  • ability to have control over own actions / behaviours in different situations is important
  • research by Baumeister et Al 1996 suggested that a lack of ability to control impulses can lead to a variety of behavioural problems, including aggression and violence
  • self regulation is a psychological resource 
  • behaviours that require self control can use a large amount of self regulation, leaving an individual vulnerable if using a lot
  • the less able an individual is to control their behaviour the more likely they are to commit inappropriate / criminal behaviour
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DeWall, Baumeister, Stillman & Gaillot 2007

  • Participants engaged in a task that is said to use self regulatory behaviours e.g. stopping oneself from eating a doughnut 
  • The participants were then provoked
  • Those who had previously used self regulating behaviours were more aggressive during this than the other participants 
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Finkel, DeWall, Slotter, Oaten & Foshee 2009

  • looked at self regulatory failure and intimate partner violence perpetration
  • discovered that individuals differ in terms of self regulation ability, which can predict intimate partner violence
  • situational factors can also have an impact on self control, which can also lead to violent behaviour 
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Free Will as a Mental Resource

  • Raine 2002 looked at prefrontal deficits, low autonomic arousal, early health factors as well as how aggressive and antisocial behaviour develops, and whether it may be related to psychopathy
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Biological Explanations

  • can have an impact on intelligence, self regulation and aggression
  • caused / influenced by hormones, neurotransmitters and temperament
  • can be the leading cause of some criminal behaviours 
  • evidence for this is shown in Forsman and Langstorm 2012 study on how hormones impact aggression 
  • The twin study suggested that genetics may play a role in connecting adult violence through generations
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Biosocial Theory of Crime

  • Hans Eysenck
  • personality and environment can influence criminal behaviours
  • suggests that if the biology of the individual is affected, this leads to the psychology of the individual becoming affected, then being influenced by social factors can lead to criminal behaviour if the opportunity arises
  • seen as very controversial
  • genetics = XYY chromosome is linked to violence
  • physical traits can be related to crime 
  • environment can lead people to commit crimes
  • a mixed amount of evidence has derived from this theory, it is said to be too broad with little explanation for a large amount of crimes
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Child Offenders

factors that influence childhood offending:

  • the parents (lack of supervision, affection, schooling) leads to child acting up for attention
  • disruption within the family, not a 'normal' family (missing members)
  • criminal parents
  • low levels of self control
  • what's happening in surrounding area (socially influenced)
  • media violence and violence modelling (seeing crime a lot on TV, playing violent video games)
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Violence in the Media

  • Anderson and Dill 2000 carried out a study in which they looked at university students completing a measure of trait aggressiveness
  • additionally reported video game habits
  • Students who stated they played more violent video games in junior and high school now engage in more aggressive behaviour 
  • Englehardt, Bartholow, Kerr and Bushman  2011 carried out a study on video games and aggression and discovered that those individuals who play violent video games show diminished brain responses when shown images of real life violence - aka being desensitised to violence 
  • This showed a positive correlation to aggression
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Aggression within the Media

APA's task force on television reporting in early 1992 noted that:

  • average child sees 100,000 acts of violence and 8000 murders before the end of elementary school
  • rate of violence on prime-time TV is 5-6 incidents per hour, and saturday mornings goes up to 20-25 per hour
  • minorities are mostly absent and when they are shown, the majority of the time they are victims or criminals
  • TV shows no effect on academic achievements or skills
  • girls who watch more TV often have negative attitudes towards women
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Video Games affect on Aggression


1. practice behaviour, repeat over and over again

2. reinforcement, games are entertaining and distracting from outside world, therefore make individuals feel good

3. enables the individual playing the game to create a script for acting aggressively

4. leads the individual to then become desensitised to violence and aggression, studies have shown that it physically affects the individuals playing as they show lower heart rates and lower skin response measures as well as lower arousal

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