Chapter 7: Psychological/Trait Theories of Crime

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Chapter Outline

  • Early Psychological Theorizing Regarding Criminal Behavior

    • Freud’s Model of the Psyche and Implications for Criminal Behavior

      • Freud originated psychoanalysis which is founded on the perception of resistance used by individuals when therapists attempt to make them conscious of their unconscious.

      • The psychoanalytic perspective is both complex and extremely systematized.

        • First, an individual’s behavior is presumed to be due to the three aspects of his or her personality: the id, ego, and superego.

          • The id is the source of instinctual drives; it contains everything that is present at birth.

            • Essentially, there are two types of instinctual drives.

              • There are constructive drives, usually of a sexual nature (the libido).

              • The other type of instinctual drive is destructive.

          • The ego is the moderator between the demands of an instinct (i.e., the id), the superego, and reality.

            • The ego characterizes what is referred to as reason and sanity while the id refers to passions.

            • In the id, there are no conflicts whereas in the ego conflicts between impulses need to be resolved.

          • The superego is also designated as a conscience.

            • This evolves during the course of an individual’s development.

            • Individuals learn the restrictions, mores, and values of society.

        • Second, anxiety, defense mechanisms, and the unconscious are also key principles of the psychoanalytical perspective.

          • In terms of anxiety, this is considered a warning of looming danger and a painful experience.

          • This results in the individual attempting to correct the situation.

          • In most instances, the ego can cope with this anxiety through rational measures.

          • When this does not work, however, the ego uses irrational measures, like rationalization (ego-defense mechanisms).

      • Freud maintained that large portions of the ego and superego can remain unconscious.

        • It takes a great deal of effort for individuals to realize their conscious.

        • The unconscious include disturbing memories, forbidden urges, and other experiences that have been repressed or pushed out of the conscious.

        • Until these unconscious experiences are brought to awareness, the individual could engage in irrational and destructive behavior.

    • Aichhorn

      • Attempted to apply psychoanalysis to uncover unconscious motives of juveniles engaging in delinquent behavior.

      • Distinguished between manifest and latent delinquency.

        • Delinquency is considered manifest when it results in antisocial behavior; latent delinquency is when the same state of mind exists but has not yet expressed itself in such behavior.

    • Erikson

      • Examined adolescents struggling to discover their own ego identity, while negotiating, learning, and understanding social interactions as well as developing a sense of morality and right from wrong.

    • Abrahamsen

      • Maintained that criminal behavior is a symptom of more complex personality distortions, there is a conflict between the ego and superego, as well as the inability to control impulsive and pleasure-seeking drives because these influences are rooted in early childhood and later reinforced through reactions to familial and social stresses.

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