Psychological Perspectives of Criminal Behaviour
The first perspective I will explain is the biological view point, this suggests that everything that happens whether it’s criminal behaviour or normal day to day behaviour will always relate back to the individual’s genetics. The theory states that crimes carried out by humans are clear causes of genetic, physiological and anatomical. The theory suggests that there will be a link back to genetics if the crimes committed don’t have a connecting link to an environment or the society that the individual is in. This theory is based on the nature approach rather than the nurture approach, the anatomical side of this is Sheldon’s body type theory. William Sheldon came up with his body type theory in 1942 when he suggested that criminal behaviour could possibly correspond with the body type of the individual. He believed that mesomorphs who were characterised by being very muscular, strong and the alpha males were the ones who were destine for crime. This theory could explain criminal behaviour because it shows how people who are built in a certain way are normally characterised by being aggressive and competitive
The next theory I will be detailing is the personality trait theory, which is the idea that criminal behaviour comes down to the individual’s personality. Hans Eysenck, a psychologist born in Germany who lived and worked in Great Britain came up with his own theory on personality trait. Hans’ theory is of a nurture assumption. He believed there were four different personality type traits a person has or could be. They are extravert, introvert, neurotic and stable. He believed that everyone had different levels of extraversion and neuroticism traits and suggested that these traits are related to the function of a person’s central nervous system. Eysenck then created a personality trait questionnaire and studied people through their answers. He realised that the extraversion and neuroticism should to be split into two extremes and people would be placed on the opposite poles. People with high scores of the E trait required a lot of external stimulus whereas
In my distinction task I am going to be answering the six provided questions about theories and perspectives using the provided extract. I will use the four different perspectives and theories and a few of my own that I researched.
1. Reading over person A’s criminal history I’ve come to the decision that Bandura’s social learning theory is the best theory to apply to his behaviour to try and better understand. I chose Bandura’s theory as the most appropriate because the extract highlights throughout show lots of his problems stem back to the environment that he came from. It says that he came “from a poor social background” this point isn’t a definite indication to suggest his criminal history but it states later on in the extract “his father, older brother and a number of his friends have also been convicted for violent behaviour.” which is exactly what Bandura’s theory suggests regarding how people develop into a criminal based lifestyle. The fact that this criminal is from a poor background and lots of family and friends have been in jail for similar violent behaviour suggests that he would have grown up to believe that violence isn’t such a bad thing because so many people he’s close to have committed similar crimes making it seem almost normal to him. When he was becoming more mature his mindset would have been developed in a different way from others where he doesn’t know right from wrong. From a young age when he would’ve been seeing his family and friends committing these crimes he would’ve started to apply the modelling process, firstly paying attention to what they were doing, once learnt he would have retained that information and behaviour. Next he would then have reproduced the actions learnt and retained, finally motivating himself to imitate the actions. He had been successful in observational learning because through his years of crime he built up a criminal record which is a clear indication of negative reinforcement.
2. Using Bandura’s learning theory from task 1 I’ve concluded the criminal’s behaviour is of a nurture approach rather than a nature approach. This decision is a straight forward decision to make because Bandura’s perspective learning trait theory suggests that all behaviours are learnt from what people see around them in a day to day basis or what they have been shown as a young child growing up. I am confident in my decision making because the modelling process of attention, retention, reproduction and motivation goes hand in hand with the evidence in the extract provided when we are told that person A’s father, older brother and friends have all been in jail for similar crimes. A nature approach would suggest that all criminal behaviours originate back to the genetics of the individual whereas the nurture approach suggests that it can be learnt and absorbed to then be regurgitated in the future. Because I stated that I thought Bandura’s learning theory was most appropriate to better understand criminal A’s behaviour it means the best perspective would also be the social learning perspective and this is of a nurture approach. Additionally why I believe criminal A’s behaviour is of a nurture approach rather than a nature approach is because the social learning perspective states that criminality isn’t inherited and that human characteristics are not predetermined but on the other hand all behaviour is learnt through reinforcement and punishment.
3. In task one I talked about Bandura’s social learning theory and the social learning perspective, I believe that they can explain why some people behave in a criminal way because they give clear reasoning into how people learn the knowledge to enable them to then act in a criminal way. This is because in many categories or crimes people have had the opportunity to witness a life of crime. Bandura’s theory can explain nearly all gang related crimes, and the majority of these crimes committed are things that people have seen as a young child and as the result of being raised in a broken environment. Children that are raised in normal civilised homes do normal activities whereas the children raised in these places with gang culture will see drug dealers and possible murders every day without thinking that it’s not a regular upbringing leading them to fulfil that roll as an adult. In many cases theories give a better understanding into why someone may have committed a crime, the criminal will use the modelling process without even knowing that they are applying it to their everyday life.
4. I believe that the perspectives and theory’s do work in real life when trying to understand crime and we understand why some children can be singled out as being troubled because of there worrying behaviour shown. I have decided to write about strain theories as they suggest that certain strains or stresses will increase the likelihood of crime. The strains that can have this affect are grief of losing a loved one or depression through losing your job or splitting up with a partner in a long term relationship, or mental, verbal and physical abuse. People who are affected by these stresses and strains may turn to a life of crime to support themselves mentally and financially. Merton developed his theory in 1938 and was clear that most people don’t cope with stress through crime but some people turn to it for comfort and support. I believe that individual people who don’t have enough love and support around them may get in difficult situations like if they become depressed and anxious about how they’re going to survive in the legal life. As a result of this they may turn to a life of crime because they may already have a good understanding of how to sell drugs or rob people. A life of crime can also appeal to certain people if they are wanting or need to make money quickly by the drug dealing route. Furthermore they may join a gang because of the status and a sense of family and pride that comes with the life of crime. A real life example to support my opinion and the theory that I used is a case against a London drugs gang who were identified in connection with a county line drug ring supplying crack cocaine and heroin to the local people in Swindon. Anthony Simister, 26 was sentenced to nine years in prison on the 9th of June 2018 for his individual involvement in the supply and distribution of class a drugs and the exploitation of children in the county line known as “Buck”. This example shows how Anthony who grew up in a poor background was raised with not many opportunity’s in life turned to a life of crime. There’s no exact way for us to know his own reasoning but this theory helps to provide guidelines to try and help us better understand.
5. There are many strengths and weaknesses to using theories and perspectives to understand crime because every individual person is unique and has a different way of processing thoughts and data. A strength of using them is that it enables us to look much deeper into the back stories of the criminals to try and grasp a more meaningful reason into why they committed the act they choose to. The recourses available make it easier to dig deeper into the criminal’s pasts and start linking things together to try and piece together a picture into what motivated them to carry it out.
The social learning theory would help us understand that behaviour can be learnt from the environment someone is raised in, the Bowbly attachment theory tells us that people have been pre-programmed to other individuals to help them in life, this could be a father and a child. It could then indicate that the father had been a passionate racist, rubbing off on his child who has just committed the racial crime we are trying to understand the reasoning of. A second strength of using them is that they provide guidelines when treating people who suffer from mental illness and commit a serious crime. Where a normal person would handle a situation a certain way someone who suffers from mental illness may believe that they have been provoked leading them to do something which for a normal person wouldn’t even come into mind when thinking of a normal approach. For this certain strength of theories and perspectives, Crick and Dodge’s social information processing theory would best help us understand crime. A limitation into using the theories and perspectives when trying to understand crime is they are only another human’s hypothesis; the theories can’t always exactly explain the reasoning behind why someone acts in a certain way. For example, if a normal teenaged male with no mental health issues or physical health issues decides to go and rob a television then they can suggest guidelines into what could possibly have motivated them to do it, but the teen may have different reasoning. Instead of the scientific background plots the teen may have just robbed the television because he wanted a new one. A second limitation of using them is that lots of the theories can provide an explanation into events dating back to the childhood of a criminal, in the case of manslaughter the technical theories may not always be needed.
6. For this question I have a split viewpoint. I believe the behaviour of individuals who commit petty crimes can be explained by a single perspective or theory, however criminal’s who commit cynical crimes like murders, serial killings, terrorist attacks and rapes can only be explained through multi-dimensional perspectives. In recent months London crime rates have risen to a point where the stats of reported crimes overtook New York City in America. A new trend of crime has emerged of criminal’s robbing people whilst riding scooters. Whether it be grabbing their phone while casually walking along or holding someone at knife point and seizing their bike moped robberies have become a very easy way for individual’s to commit a crime and get away quickly with minimal risk of being caught. Examples of criminal behaviours like these can be explained using the social learning theory, for the individuals who commit cynical crimes there’s more theories that make up the full picture to explain why they may have acted in this way. Using the example of a rapist I believe their confused behaviour can be explained using a variety of different theories and perspectives. Most people who end up committing sexual crimes like rape or sexual assault have psychological reasoning into why their brains see the crimes in a different light compared to normal people. They may have been sexually assaulted or raped as a young child themselves leading to years of mental depression which could have possibly lead to self-harming and suicidal thoughts. Due to the abuse they suffered and the environment they were raised in the individual may have felt that no one would have believed a word they said if they had spoken out because of the severity of the crime. There’s a possibility that the abuser could be a family member e.g., an uncle or close family friend, the child may feel scared in speaking up resulting in no justice and the abuser being free to continue to sexually assault the child. Growing up with memories of being abused for years it may distort the thinking of the victim leading them then think that it was normal because there was no punishment for the offender. This could have led to a mental gateway into thinking that what they suffered was normal, pushing them to then go and commit the same crime they were originally on the victim’s end of. This is the theory of social learning, whereas a young child what happened to the person was then copied through the modelling process and then motivated in the child’s adult life. So they themselves felt as if they should go and commit the crimes to emulate what they remember from their childhood. A second theory that can help explain a rapist’s motive is John Bowbly’s attachment theory. A rapist may have had a very complicated childhood where the parents weren’t always caring and looking out for the child, it’s possible that the mother left home at a very early stage in the young child’s life leading to the child suffering from the attachment theory where they had a huge part of their life missing from a young age and they haven’t been able to get over a mother leaving resulting in confusion and wondering why the mother didn’t love her child. All of these factors could influence the final decisions of a rapist who has mental health issues possibly going out searching for that love that was always missing and forcing himself upon a woman to try and fill the gap they suffer from.