Psychology G543 Crime

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Turning to Crime - Upbringing

Key Study 1: Juby and Farrington (2009) - Disrupted familes

Reanalysed and computerised the data from the Cambridge Study to find more about the effect of disrupted families.

Results:
Deliquency rates was higher in boys from broken homes than those from an intact one
29% of boys from disrupted families were convicted, opposed to 18% from intact ones
Boys who lost their mothers were more likely to be deliquent than boys who lost fathers
Disruptions caused by parental disharmony were more damaging than disruptions caused by parental death

Evaluation:
Holistic approach taken

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Turning to Crime - Upbringing

Key Study 2: Akers et al (1979) - Learning From Others

Aimed to test Sutherland's theory (differential association from the nine principles of criminal learning)

2,500 male and female adolescents from Midwestern USA answered a questionnaire about drinking and drug taking

Analysed by multiple regression analysis

Results:
Strong support for SLT of adolescent alcohol and drug behaviour
Most effective predictive variable was differential association, specifically peer association
Supports Sutherland's theory
Friends are important - we observe and imitate their behaviour and provide social reinforcement + provide norms by which we define particular behaviours as acceptable/unacceptable

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Evaluation:

Useful in providing reasons why young people use/abuse drugs or alcohol and highlights contribution of both SLT and differential association theory to the problem of why young people become involved in deviant or criminal behaviour

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Turning to Crime - Upbringing

Key Study 3: Wikstrom (2003) - Poverty and Disadvantaged Neighbourhoods

  • Cross-sectional study of all yr10 pupils in 13 state schools in Peterborough - 2,000 boys and girls in the form of a questionnaire
  • Researchers got 83% of questionnaires back (other 17% criminals and trying to hide?)
  • After analysis, they selected a random sample for an in-depth interview study

Results:

  • 33% reported not committing a serious crime
  • 7% reported committing serious theft
  • Strongest predictors of offending were: youths' social situation, personality, individual routines and lifestyles
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Evaluation:

  • Questionnaire - liable to demand characteristics and social desireability
  • Useful - possible to predict the type of person that may turn to crime
  • Reliable - large number of participants
  • Not generaliseable - sample only taken from Peterborough area
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Turning to Crime - Cognition

Background: PICTS
= Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles

PICTS scale comprises the 8 thinking styles measured on a 4-point Likert scale

The 8 Thinking Styles:

  • Mollification - making accusations and externalising blame
  • Cutoff - slight frustration causes them to be over dramatic
  • Entitlement - can't distinguish between wants and needs
  • Power Orientation - need for control and authority over others
  • Sentimentality - they are still a good person depsite committing crimes
  • Cognitive Indolence - turn to crime as its an easy answer
  • Superoptimism - they can avoid the negative consequences of criminal behaviour
  • Discontinuity - disruption of thought and inability to follow through
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Key Study 1: Palmer + Hollin (2004) - Criminal Thinking Patterns

  • To study whether PICTS would reliably identify similar thinking patterns in young offenders
  • Study conducted among more than 500 young males in institutions in England

Results:

  • PICTS was found to be less relaible than used on adult offenders (brain still devloping)
  • As young offenders they would have been repeating offenders - attitudes more fixed than older offenders
  • Only 2 stages found in all young offenders - power orientation and mollification
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Evaluation:

  • Low generaliseability - results only apply to young males in England (who had already committed a crime)
  • Not useful - only tells us what type of criminal young offenders are
  • Low reliability - questionnaires open to demand characteristics and social desireability
  • Has not settled nature/nurture debate
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Turning to Crime - Cognition

Key Point: Moral development and crime (background)

Kholberg's six stags of development:

  • Level 1 - Pre-morality
    Stage 1: Punishment and obedience orientation
    Stage 2: Hedonistic orientation (personal gain)
  • Level 2 - Conventional morality
    Stage 3: Interpersonal concordance orientation (majority see as good)
    Stage 4: Law and order orientation
  • Level 3 - Post-conventional morality
    Stage 5: Social contract or legalistic orientation (morally right even if illegal)
    Stage 6: Universal ethical principles orientation (inner conscience)
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Key Study: Chen + Howitt (2007) - Moral Development and Crime

  • Administered a short form of the Social Reflection Measure (SRM-SF)
  • SRM-SF based on Kholberg's theory however did not involve dilemma's - based on 5 moral values instead: contract and truth, affiliation, life, property and law and legal justice
  • Participants: 330 male adolescent offenders (12-18yrs) from Taiwan were classed into 3 groups according to offence type: drug related, theft, violence
  • 114 non-offenders all aged matched took part as a control

Results:

  • Violent people have less morals than the other two types of criminals
  • Moral cognitive-developmental stage is less advanced in offender groups than non-offender groups
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Evaluation:

  • Low genrealiseability - participants only from Taiwan
  • Useful - there are individual differences in the development of moral reasoning ability
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Turning to Crime - Cognition

Key Study: Gujonsson and Sigurdsson (2007) - Social Cognition

  • Tested vailidity of Offending Motivation Questionnaire (OMQ) by comparing it with other measures and range of other psychological measures
  • Participants: 128 male youths (15-21yrs) from Iceland - all been given conditional discharge and all committed a range of crimes, mostly property but also car crimes, assault and criminal damage

Results:

  • Highest mean scores were excitement (links to Farrington) and financial motive
  • Next to excitement came peer pressure as motivation
  • 38% said they did not think of consequences and 36% were very confident they would get away with it
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Evaluation:

  • Low generaliseability - participants only from Iceland and laws are different or more/less strict with crimes
  • Low reliability - small number of participants and first time they did a study like this so had no results to compare it to
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Turning to Crime - Biology

(background)

Classic case on how our biology is known to cause changes in behaviour:

Phineas Gage (1848)
Suffered damage to brain when a bolt was accidently shot through his cheek, eye and brain. Personality underwent a radical change from a quiet sober man to being a violent drunk.

Osborne and West (1979)
Showed 40% of boys with criminal fathers had criminal convictions, 13% of boys with non-criminal fathers had criminal convictions

Mednick, Gabrielli + Hutchings (1987)
Boys whose biological parent had a criminal conviction were more likely to have been convicted than boys whose adopted parent had a criminal conviction (supports nature)

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Key Study: Raine, Buchsbaum and LaCasse (1997) - Brain Dysfunction

  • Used a PET scanner on murderes who pleaded not guilty for reason of insanity
  • Data was compared to a control who were age and gender matched

 Results:

  • Murderers had reduced activity in prefrontal cortex (controls behaviour, emotion and impulse control) and corpus callosum
  • Had reduced activity in the left amygdala, hippocampus and thalamus but increased activity on the right of the same region
  • Shows there are brain differences in criminals but only correlational, NOT CAUSATIONAL

Evaluation:
Ethics - small amount of radiation may have effect over time
Reliable - scientific equipment used
Not very useful - can't bring about a change from the findings

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Turning to Crime - Biology

Key Point: Genes and Serotonin (background)

Brunner et al (1993)
Studied large family in Holland where many of the males were affected by syndrome of severe learning difficulties and abnormal violent behaviour.
Had deficit in the enzyme MAOA (involved in seretonin metabolism).
Brunner switched off gene in mice to see whether lack of MAOA causes them act criminal-like.
Results: mice showed fearless, impulsive behaviour - had 9 times normal seretonin levels in brains.
Evaluation: reductionist

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Key Study: Caspi et al (2002) - Genes and Seretonin

  • Investigated a group from New Zealand who had been abused as children
  • Examined medical records and group were studied for MAOA abnormalities

Results:

  • Those who suffered abuse and had impaired MAOA functions were responsible for a disproportion number of criminal offences
  • 

Evaluation:

  • Non-reductionist - saying its not just MAOA deficiency causing criminal behaviour
  • Low generalisability - pps experienced one type of traumatic past experiences (child abuse)
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Turning to Crime - Biology

Key Study: Wilson and Daly (1985) - Gender

  • Reviewed homocidal conflicts in Detroit in 1972
  • Detroit = working class city

Results:

  • Homocide was overwhelmingly a male affair
  • Victim and offender populations almost identical - unemployed, unmarried, young (men haven't got any sort of status)
  • Found most homocides concern status competition
  • Also found other sorts of risk-taking such as daredavilry and gambling

Evaluation:

  • Deterministic - evolutionary psychology discounts role of free will
  • Low generaliseability - only reviewed conflicts from Detroit
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