Psychological Perspective On Criminality

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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The role of a criminal psychologist is to try to understand, explain and predict criminal behaviour. This is accomplished through the development of personality and learning theories. Psychologists believe that criminal behaviour is the outcome of various psychological and social factors (Cox, Roesch & Zapf, 2000). There are five psychological theories of crime that I will be discussing in this essay: Psychoanalytic Theory, Moral Development Theory, Eysenck¡¦s Theory of Crime and Personality, Social Learning Theory and Operant Conditioning Theory.

Unfortunately, psychological theories make assumptions about human nature that cannot be tested (Shoham & Seis, 1993). Nevertheless, psychologists do presume that there is something psychologically wrong with criminals. There are high levels of mental disturbance among inmates and many offenders who are caught and arrested have a lower IQ than non-offenders (Pallone & Hennessy, 1992). However, there are many criminals who have very high IQ¡¦s and do not get caught.

Although every criminal is unique, many offenders do share similar histories. Often they grew up in homes lacking parental affection and discipline, in families that were poor and large. As young children, they were often dishonest, irresponsible and felt little guilt or remorse. As a result of this, by the time these children turn 18 many of them have already been convicted of minor crimes, and have drinking or drug problems (Pallone & Hennessy, 1992).

Freud¡¦s psychoanalytic theory proposes that criminal behaviour occurs when our moral controls are unable to curtail our basic instincts (Cox et al., 2000). Our internal structure consists of the id (the pleasure seeking, aggressive portion), the ego (the reality check), and the superego (the morality principle). Freud believed that in order to understand any one situation, one must understand how the ego manages the external circumstance, with the demands of the id and the superego...