Psychology and Crime Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 26 September 2017

Psychology and Crime

There are a number of other theories developed by researchers including Bandura (1986), Beck (1982), Ellis (1976) and Ross and Fabiano (1985) describing cognitive structures or thinking frameworks that lead to troubled or criminal behaviour. These theories suggest that how an individual thinks about an external event, not the event itself, can trigger feelings that lead to criminal behaviour. Cognitive restructuring enables offenders to change their anti-social attitudes and beliefs through a process that focuses on the individuals thinking patterns.

Kohlberg (1978) in the theory of moral development was concerned with the cognitive processes behind moral judgement. He used the work of Piaget (1932) and suggested that moral reasoning advances with age. Offending occurs when there is a delay in moral development and the offender does not have the reasoning to resist temptation from offending. (Hollin as citied in Maguire 2002) This could explain why some criminals are seen to ‘grow out’ of criminality. This theory has been criticised on the basis that Kohlberg was explaining moral reasoning not moral behaviour.

In conclusion psychoanalytical accounts do not offer a satisfactory explanation of crime but neither do any of the other theories on their own. Psychoanalytic theories concentrate on the unconscious, which is a contributing factor in the explanation of crime but the theory cannot explain all types of crime. Learning theories look at the values and beliefs that are learnt through the environment however they do not take into account internal or cognitive factors. Cognitive approaches help us to understand crime but do not explain the causes of crime. Cognitive theories focus on the individual and how the individual can be treated to change.

This is why they are in favour with criminal justice at the moment. The theories assume that all offenders are the same however it is only crime itself that can be described in such a uniform way. In order to explain crime all the available theories including sociological theories need to be taken into account. As for psychoanalytical theories “Psychoanalytical theories stress the inner processes and conflicts as determinants of behaviour. However they do not ignore or neglect the environmental or social factors, but they favour the dynamic processes as playing a major role in the development of criminal behaviour”. (Hollin 1989)


Ainsworth.P (2000) Psychology and Crime: Myths and reality. (Essex: Pearson)

Hollin.C (1989) Psychology and crime. (London: Routledge)

Maguire.M etal (2002) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 3rd Edition)

McLaughlin.E & Muncie.J (2001) The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (Sage Publications ltd. London)

Putwain.D & Sammons.A (2002) Psychology and Crime (East Sussex: Routledge)

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