Forensic - Turning to Crime

Psychology G543 Paper

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Disrupted Famalies

Aim: To track the start, duration and end of offending behaviour from childhood to adulthood in families + Conclude risk factors and protective factors 

Sample: 411 males from 6 schools in London, mostly white and working class

Procedure: Longitudinal study, using self report method including interviews over 24 years

Results: 40% were convicted of a criminal offence, 7% were defined as persisters, accounting for 50% of crimes, convitcing before and after the age of 21. Desisters were only convicted up until the age of 21. Key risk factors: Have a convicted parent, be highly daring and have a young mother.

Conclusions: Offenders tend to be deviant in many ares of their lives + Early intervention programmes for under 10s could significantly reduce criminal behaviour

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Learning from Others - 9 principles

Criminal behaviour is learnt - Behaviours of an individual are shaped by the influence of other individuals that they associate with.

Learning criminal behaviour involves learning the techniques, motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes - Criminals are not inherently deviant, they learn this deviance and are taught to rationalise what they once knew to be unacceptable behaviour to be acceptable. 

The process of learning criminal behaviour involves all the mechanisms involved in any other learning - Criminality is not learnt merely through observations but through other assorted methods too, or could be explained through spontaneity. 

Evaluative points: Uses the theory of behaviourism which is deterministic and often neglects individual differences and assumes general behavioural patterns for everybody. The theory underestimates the influence of the media.

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Wikstrom & Tafel

Poverty & Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods

Aim: To investigate the reasons behind why young people offend.

Sample: 2000 students in year 10, aged 14-15

Procedure: A cross sectional study was carried out, collecting data from official records and using interviews 

Results: 45% of males + 31% of females had commited atleast one crime in the year 2000 and offenders are more likely to abuse drink and drugs

Conclusions: There are 3 types of offenders, Propensity induced, (offending the most, small group) Lifestyle dependent (offend when socialising with delinquent peers + drug/alcahol use) and situationally limited (only offending when they are exposed to high levels of situational risk and are therefore unlikely to reoffend) 

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Yochelson & Samenow

Criminal Thinking Patterns

Aim: To understand the make up of the criminal personality + establish techniques which could be used to alter the personality disorders that produce crime to prevent criminal behaviour. 

Sample: 255 males from various backgrounds - 50% confined to mental hospitals found guilty of crime but pleaded insanity, the other 50% did not plead guilty due to reasons of insanity. 

Procedure: Longitudinal study over 14 years, using self reports such as interviews.

Results: 30/255 participants completed the programme of interviews, and only 9/30 had improved. According to Y&S criminals are restless, dissatisfied and irritable and want to live a life of excitement at any cost. 

Conclusions: 52 thinking patterns were distinguishable, not unique to criminals, just displayed more by criminals.

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Moral Development & Crime

Aim: To find evidence in support of a progression through stages of moral development. 

Sample: 258 working and middle class boys from Chicago (repeated in other states), aged 7, 10, 13 and 16. 

Procedure: Participants were given 2 hours interview with 10 dilemmas to solve, such as the Heinz dilema. Some of the boys were followed up at 3 year intervals (not due to indavidual differences)

Results: 3 levels of moral reasoning.

Level 1 - Preconventional Level - Doing what is right due to fear of punishment

Level 2 - Conventional Level - Doing what is right according to the majority

Level 3 - Post Conventional Level - Doing what is right because of inner conscience 

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GudJohnsson & Bownes

Social Cognition

AIm: Examine the relationship between the type of offence and the attribution offenders often make about their criminal acts. 

Sample: 80 criminals - 40 sex offenders, 20 property and 20 violent. 

Procedure: All criminals filled out a 42-item 'blame attirubtion inventory' 

Results: Sexual offences had the biggest guilt '12.7', mental element '5.7', and the least external attributions 2.4.

The majority of crminals can be considered a rehabilitated as they fully accept responsbility for their crime (internal attribution and accept their guilt) 

Conclusions: The main difference is that violent prisoners had the highest percentage of external attribution, which may be as a result of the violence prevalent at the time of the study.  

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Genes and Serotonin 

Aim: To study a family from the Netherlands where males were affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour.

Sample: 5 males.

Procedure: Analysis of urine samples over 24 hours.

Results: Disturbed monoamine metabolism due to lack of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) which was due to a mutation on the X chromosome of the gene responsible for producing this enzyme.

Conclusions: The MAOA enzyme is involved in the production of serotonin, so the mutation caused less serotonin to be produced which slows down the production of serotonin causing mental retardation and possibly violent behaviour. 

However not all males were affected by the violent behaviour, even when suffering from the mutation

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Daly & Wilson


D&W noticed that young male offenders wanted instant gratification, and thus had short lifespan expectations due to the risky behaviour they engage in. Evolutionary theories suggest that the male role of hunter and protector predisposes them to more risky behaviour than females

Aim: To find if homicide rates would vary as a function of local life expectancy.

Procedure: Conducted a study to create a correltion using survey data from police records, school records and local demographic records. Local area average life expctancies were comapred to homicide rates in those areas. 

Results: Life expectancy - homicide rate -0.88 (negative correlation) 

Conclusions: Young men from disadvantaged neighbourhoods expected to live shorter lives and were therefore more likely to engage in risky behaviour. 

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Brain Dysfunction 

Aim: Make a multifactorial approach to understanding antisocial behaviour in children

Procedure: A meta-analysis of a selection of articles covering neuropsychological, neurological and brain imaging studies as they relate to anti-social behaviour in children. 

Results: A low resting heart rate is a good predictor of an individual who will seek excitement to raise their arousal level, creating a fearless disposition. As females generally have a higher average heart rate, they are less likely to seek excitement to raise their arousal level, thus potentially explaining why females are less  likely to offend. Activity in the pre-frontal lobes is responsible for impulsive behaviour.

Conclusions: Early involvement and prevention may be an effective method of reversing biological deficits that predispose to antisocial and aggressive behaviour. 

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pretty good consice notes

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