Psychological Approaches to Understanding Crime

Current legal procedures require that the criminal be understood from the psychological point of view.1 Sanity of the criminal is the main criterion for declaring whether the responsibility of the crime rests with person committing the crime.2 Criminal behaviour has also been found to be linked to whether an individual suffered childhood abuse. But there is a distinct difference in the way the criminal nature manifests in boys and girls. In boys the likelihood of carrying out an offense is more likely than girls and is linked to a lesser degree self-control, developing ties with a peer-group that is involved in delinquent behaviour, attachment to an institution of study and whether the individual is close with his mother.3 Questions are regularly asked by legal professionals to psychologists about what triggers a person to a particular crime. Is it more likely that persons with mental illness or personality disorders are more likely to commit crimes? The legal system tries to understand the clinical perspective of a mentally unstable or ill criminal and questions are asked repeatedly whether mental illness should play a role in the legal course that is taken for deciding punishment for an offender.

A Swedish study evaluated a total of 93.642 individuals born between 1958 to 1980. A comparison was made between persistent violent criminals with those who had committed fewer episodes of crime. The variables taken into account included the non-

violent acts of crime, age at which the first crime was committed and whether the offenders had been diagnosed with a mental illness or personality disorder and whether there was a

1 Jozef Gierowski, “[Complex Expertise On The Psychiatric Health Of A Criminal].” (2016) 40Psychiatria Polska.

2 Filip Bolechala, “Mental State And The Criminal Responsibility–Legal Regulations And Medical Criteria In Poland And Other Countries” (2009) 59 Archiwum Medicini Sadowej i Kryminologii.

3 S. J. Watts and T. L. McNulty, “Childhood Abuse And Criminal Behavior: Testing A General Strain Theory Model” (2013) 28 Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 

history of substance abuse. Just 1% of the population sampled was responsible for 63% of the crimes reported. Other findings reported were – persistent criminals were of the male sex, 

many of them had personality disorders, most of them had a history of substance abuse or had suffered from some mental disorder.4

Antisocial behaviour that might result in crime may be committed by individuals with personality disorders that could include lack of remorse or empathy and those who exhibit impulsive behaviour. Such individuals tend to break social norms, are grandiose and egocentric. Psychological analysis can help identify individuals with antisocial personality disorder and assess the risk of violent crime and initiate treatment to reduce risks to the society.5

4  Örjan Falk et al, “The 1 % Of The Population Accountable For 63 % Of All Violent Crime Convictions” (2013) 49 Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

5 R. D. Hare and C. S. Neuman, “Psychopathy: Assessment And Forensic Implications.” (2009) 54Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

References

Bolechala, Filip, “Mental State And The Criminal Responsibility–Legal Regulations And Medical Criteria In Poland And Other Countries” (2009) 59 Archiwum Medicini Sadowej i Kryminologii

Falk, Örjan et al, “The 1 % Of The Population Accountable For 63 % Of All Violent Crime Convictions” (2013) 49 Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

Gierowski, Jozef, “[Complex Expertise On The Psychiatric Health Of A Criminal].” (2016) 40Psychiatria Polska

Hare, R. D. and C. S. Neuman, “Psychopathy: Assessment And Forensic Implications.” (2009) 54Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

Watts, S. J. and T. L. McNulty, “Childhood Abuse And Criminal Behavior: Testing A General Strain Theory Model” (2013) 28 Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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