Psychology is relatively new compared to other majors such as Law, Politics and Science. However, since psychology has been studied at a recognised level, many people have learned many a things about human behaviour. Psychology is a far field that overlooks all aspects of human behaviour, such as social influences, stress, pain and crime. For this essay, the question asked was "discuss explanations of criminal behaviour focussing consideration on their usefulness in the prevention and reduction of criminal behaviour".
The following information looks at the social psychology of criminal behaviour and the biopsychology. The former is more generalised and the latter is specific to a certain disorder that is said to be a cause of criminality. The idea of writing it this way is to obtain a specific and non-specific idea of theories of crime and how they can be applied to criminality. The essay also looks at whether criminals are or should be blamed or whether leniency should come into play due to social factors that the individual has no control of.
At the very end there is a reference page with many useful links to websites and books that give detailed explanations of certain studies mentioned in the text. This should help broaden the understanding of crime psychology and its usefulness in broadening the knowledge in criminality and individual behaviour. Further more, the conclusion is a summary of what has been written and its aim is to condense down what has been said as to try and clear any confusion.
Preventing and Reducing Crime – Insights and Theories Social Psychology Theories Of Crime
Most research on delinquency comes from sociology, in that sociological theories seeks to identify criminality in social structures and cultural factors. A Social Psychology theory looks at whether criminality is a direct result of the individual or the social environment.
For example, if an individual lives in a geographical area where there is large numbers of crime, then it could be argued that this will influence the individual into criminality as a way of making ends meet. Since sociological theories can only be expressed through individual psychological behaviour, there is no firm line between sociological and psychological explanations. (Paraphrased, Blackburn, R.)
There are many psychologists and control theorists in sociology that assume people are naturally 'self-seeking and deviant, hence the concern to explain conformity'. (Blackburn, R.) The socialisation process accounts for this. For example, compliance with social rules especially the moral rules regulating interaction between people. Kurtines, Alvarez et al. , Moral Standards and Behaviour have done studies on this area of interaction.
Due to the lack of the socialisation process, criminal behaviour is lead by many theorists in terms of a more general failure of moral learning. Moral learning varies in their assumptions about moral standards and behaviour, "but commonly postulates the development of the internalised mechanism of self-control or restraint, which promotes resistance to temptation." (Blackburn, R.)
So it could be argued therefore, that criminality is a result from a deficiency or temporary breakdown of this mechanism. Socialisation theories focus on the development of restraints against deviance, social psychological theories assume that people conform to social rules and only deviate when pressured into doing so by social influences.
More research on social influences and other sociological theories can be sought from studies by Hartshorne and May (1928), Epstein and O'Brian (1985), Colvin and Pauly (1983), Taylor, Walton and Young (1973), Kornhauser (1978) and Lilly, Cullen and Ball (1989) and Zimbardo et al. (1963)
Differential Association (DA) theory places the causation of crime to the social conditions rather than the individual. (Behaviour is learned). Early studies identified inner-city areas with high delinquency rates, which correlated with poverty, high population density and turnover and social problems. So it is argued, therefore that crime is due to social disorganisation meaning that normal controls of behaviour by social institutions had broken down. (Paraphrased Blackburn, R.)
What Blackburn is saying is that criminality rises due to the breakdown of social institutions such as the police, law and possibly the breakdown of morals and social 'norms'. Social institutions are in place to deter criminality and deviance, but if there was a breakdown of these or society changed their norms and values, then criminality would rise as a result.