Psychological explanations


Eyzenck's theory

Personality is innate and has a biological basis - there are criminal personality

Individuals with a criminal personality will score highly on measures of extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. 

seen as difficult to condition +cold and unfeeling = explain their criminality 

Eysenck’s study of 2070 male prisoners and 2422 male controls. The prisoners scored higher than the non-criminal. (biased, his own theory)

Farrington reviewed several studies and only found evidence of prisoners scoring higher on measures of psychoticism. 

Nomothemtic approach: The idea of one personality type explaining all offending behavior. Criminals are not the same

Eysenck’s theory similar to other biological explanations of offending e.g APD.

Eysenck’s theory = psychological theory bc focuses on personality, it could also be accused of biological determinism as it sees personality as innate and unchanging

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Psychodynamic explanation

Blackburn (1993): if the superego is deficient then criminality is inevitable as the Id is not properly controlled - give into our urges and impulses.

Weak Superego develops if the same-sex parent is absent during the phallic stage = fail to internalize the moral values of the same sex parent.

Deviant Superego develops if child internalises the morals of a criminal/deviant same-sex parent.

Over-harsh Superego develops if same-sex parent is overly harsh= individual is crippled by guilt and anxiety, commits crime in order to satisfy the need for punishment.

Bowlby’s maternal deprivation - deprived of a mother figure cause serious and permanent consequences. e.g. mental abnormalities, delinquency, affectionless psychopathology

Freud’s theory is sexist: focuses on the Oedipus Complex and added the Electra complex as an afterthought. In fact Freud argued that females were less moral than males. Males outnumber females in prisons throughout the world.

Little evidence: many children grow up without a same-sex parent and the vast majority do not turn to crime.

family influence undeniably factor; individuals with delinquent parents or siblings = more likely to crime.

Over-harsh superego does not stand up to scrutiny; most criminals not to be caught/punished

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