Chapter 7: Psychological/Trait Theories of Crime

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Schram, Introduction to Criminology 2e

SAGE Publishing, 2018

Chapter Outlines

Chapter 7: Psychological/Trait Theories of Crime

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the general principles of psychoanalysis and how psychoanalysis applies to criminal behavior

  • Describe the three dimensions associated with Hans Eysenck’s theory of crime and personality

  • Identify some of the key distinctions of the various stages of moral development

  • Describe some of the essential features of attachment theory

  • Referring to James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein, describe the three factors associated with street crime and human nature

  • List and describe the key features that distinguish a psychopath from other criminal offenders

  • Distinguish the M’Naghten rule, irresistible impulse test, Durham test, and American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code

The chapter begins with the examination of Freud’s model of the psyche. This psychoanalytic perspective assumes two things: (1) an individual’s behavior is presumed to be due to the three aspects of his or her personality: the id, ego, and superego and (2) anxiety, defense mechanisms, and the unconscious all play key roles. In addition, Eysenck’s Theory of Crime and Personality is examined. The chapter continues with the discussion of Kohlberg’s theory of Moral Development. According to Kohlberg, moral judgment evolves in a three-level progression and each level consists of two stages. Next, attachment theory is discussed. The development of Attachment Theory is the combined work of Bowlby and Ainsworth. Bowlby maintained there are seven essential features of this theoretical perspective: specificity, duration, engagement of emotion, course of development, learning, organization, and biological function. Next, the chapter examines Wilson and Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature. The two attempted to explain street crime by demonstrating how human nature develops and evolves from the interaction of three factors: social environment, family relationships, and biological makeup. Wilson and Herrnstein continue with their assessment and contend that at any time, a person can choose between committing a crime and not committing a crime. The consequences of committing a crime consist of rewards and punishments; the greater the reward ratio to crime, the greater the tendency to commit the crime. The chapter concludes with discussions relating to psychopathy and crime and how the insanity defense has been defined over time. Lykken makes the distinction between the term sociopath and psychopath. During the 1980s, Hare developed the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Finally, the insanity defense is discussed. The general rationale to an insanity defense is that a person should not be punished for engaging in a criminal act if he or she cannot refrain from doing so. The standards for establishing an insanity defense varies extensively from state to state.

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