Psychological Theories of Criminal Behavior

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Historically there are three broad theoretical models of criminal behavior: A) psychological models; B) sociological models; and C) biological models. All infer different methods of control. It actually difficult to completely separate the three categories completely as it is generally accepted that all three of the factors play a role in the expression of behavior. Moreover, psychological science consists of several disciplines including biological psychology and social psychology, so psychological principles could be applied across all three domains. However, there are some general principles associated with each of the above three paradigms that would be associated with some specific crime control policies. This results in admittedly narrow definition for each of the categories but it does simplify the discussion herein. Psychological Approaches There a many different psychological models of criminal behavior ranging from early Freudian notions to later cognitive and social psychological models. I cannot review them all here. Instead, there are several fundamental assumptions of psychological theories of criminality (and human behavior in general) that I will follow here (Mischel, 1968). These are: 1. The individual is the primary unit of analysis in psychological theories. 2. Personality is the major motivational element that drives behavior within individuals. 3. Normality is generally defined by social consensus. 4. Crimes then would result from abnormal, dysfunctional, or inappropriate mental processes within the personality of the individual. 5. Criminal behavior may be purposeful for the individual insofar as it addresses certain felt needs. 6. Defective, or abnormal, mental processes may have a variety of causes, i.e., a diseased mind, inappropriate learning or improper conditioning, the emulation of inappropriate role

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