AC2.2 - Describe Individualistic Theories Of Criminality



  • Behaviourist Approach - born as a blank slate (tabula rasa) and we learn everything from the environment. This assumption believes that all humans, male and female, are born the same and it is the environment and social norms that shape our personality. - Psychological, Biological, and Social 
  • Positive Reinforcement - When a behaviour is followed by a reward. This increases the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again. I.E. Carrying out gang-related criminal activities to receive social approval from other members of the gang 
  • Negative Reinforcement - When a behaviour is carried out to avoid experiencing unpleasant stimuli. This also increases the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again. I.E. Taking drugs to overcome withdrawal symptoms 
  • Punishment - When a behaviour is followed by something. I.E. Prison 
  • Operant Conditioning - type of associative learning process through which the strength of a behaviour is modified by reinforcement or punishment 
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Social Learning Theory - Albert Bandura (1977)

  • Bandura believes that people learn by watching the behaviour of others. If children watch adults gaining pleasure from an activity, or being punished for an activity, they will either repeat or reject those behaviours. Aggression can be learned from watching others behave in an aggressive manner. To prove his ideas, Bandura conducted a series of experiments involving a bobo doll: 
  • Children exposed to the aggressive adults tended to copy such behaviour - they came up with new ways to hurt the doll, i.e. using a toy gun to shoot it or throwing darts at it 
  • Children who watched the less aggressive version demonstrated far less aggression towards the bobo 
  • This explains that criminal behaviour can be learned through observation 
  • Observational learning is where viewers learn behaviours from watching and may imitate them; many behaviours are learned from the media 
  • Observational learning - 3 contexts:                                                                                                1. In the family                                                                                                                                2. In the prevalent sub-culture, e.g. peers                                                                                      3. Through cultural symbols - tv and books 
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John Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (195

  • John Bowlby (1907-1990) was a British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known for his theory on attachment
  • Bowlby's (1953) Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis proposed that a "warm, intimate & continuous relationship with a mother (figure)" is necessary for healthy psychological / emotional development. "Mother-love in infancy / childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins & proteins for physical health" 
  • The underlying assumption of Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis is that continual disruption of the attachment between infant and primary caregiver (i.e., mother) could result in long-term cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties for that infant 
  • Attachment theory emphasises the importance of a secure and trusting mother-infant bond on development and well-being 
  • According to Bowlby, following are the 4 phases of attachment:                                          1. Pre attachment Phase (Birth - 6 Weeks)                                                                                  2. "Attachment in Making" Phase (6 Weeks - 6 to 8 Months)                                                        3. "Clear Cut" Attachment Phase (6-8 Months to 18 Months - 2 Years)                                        4. Formation of Reciprocal Relationships (18 Months - 2 Years and on) 
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Hans Eysenck's Theory Of Criminal Personality

  • Eysenck believed there is a biological basis to personality traits 
  • These are influenced by the nervous system we inherit which can be under/overactive 
  • Eysenck proposed that criminal behaviour could be represented along 2 dimensions:            Introversion / Extraversion                                                                                                      Neuroticism / Stability 
  • He later added a third dimension which he referred to as; psychoticism. According to Eysenck, criminals display high levels of all 3 dimensions - Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Psychoticism 
  • Introversion - These individuals have an overactive nervous system so they tend to avoid stimulating environments                                                                                                                 - Quiet and reserved                                                                                                                       - Plan their actions and control their emotions                                                                               - Serious, reliable, and pessimistic 
  • Extroversion - These individuals have an underactive nervous system so they constantly seek excitement and stimulation                                                                                                               - Social, outgoing, and crave, and excitement seeking                                                                 - Carefree, optimistic, and impulsive                                                                                             - Take risks and thrill-seekers                                                                                                         - Assertive and dominant                                                                                                                 - Don't really learn from their mistakes                                                                                           - Aggressive, short-tempered, and unreliable 
  • Neuroticism - These individuals will have an unstable nervous system. They are;                         - Overly emotional and may be quick to feel anger, fear, or worry                                                 - They find it difficult to calm down once upset                                                                               - Anxious, moody, often depressed, and can overreact 
  • Stability - These individuals will have a stable nervous system. They are;                                     - Less reactive to stressful situations so they remain calm and level headed                                 - Even-tempered                                                                                                                             - Controlled and unworried 
  • Psychoticism - This is the third dimension. These individuals lack empathy, are cruel, solitary misfits, aggressive, troublesome, anti-social, insensitive, impulsive, and egocentric 
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Freud's Psychodynamic Theory Of Personality

  • Freud did not address the issue of criminal behaviour himself, other researchers have attempted to apply some of his key concepts to criminality. Freud believed that humans are inherently anti-social and have pleasure-seeking impulses that can often conflict with what society regards as acceptable. The key assumption of Freud's theory of personality: 
  • Childhood experiences or traumatic experiences stored in the unconscious mind influences conscious thoughts and behaviour 
  • An individual's unresolved psychological conflicts results in abnormal psyche development which may lead to criminal and antisocial behaviour 
  • Id - Devil                                                                                                                                         - Can be aggressive and violent                                                                                                     - Operates on pleasure principle and seeks immediate gratification of desires and needs             - Present from birth and develops first                                                                                             - Does not consider reality or morality because it is the instinctive part of the mind. It is powerful and selfish 
  • Ego - Logical / Rational                                                                                                                   - It is the rational part of your mind                                                                                                 - Negotiates a compromise between the ID's desires and SUPEREGO's guilt through defence mechanisms                                                                                                                                     - Develops around the age of 2                                                                                                       - Operates on the reality principle              
  • Superego - Angel                                                                                                                             - Develops around the age of 5 when a child identifies with their same-sex parent and takes on their parent's morals                                                                                                                       - Operates on the morality principle and can punish you with guilt/anxiety or shame for wrongdoings or when rules are broken                                                                                           - It develops our sense of right or wrong and helps us behave in a civilised way in line with society's norms 
  • Conscious, Pre-Conscious, Unconscious 
  • Weak Superego, Deviant Superego, Overly Harsh Superego 
  • In order to negotiate a compromise between the id and superego's desires... the ego may sometimes use DEFENCE MECHANISMS to protect the conscious mind... 
  • Repression - Keeps disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious by blocking them. This prevents us from experiencing unpleasant emotions. This means we have no conscious recollection of it if we don't want to. For example; someone who has been abused may have difficulties forming relationships 
  • Denial - Refusing to acknowledge some aspect of reality. For example; smokers may refuse to admit that smoking is bad for their health and continue 
  • Displacement - When an unacceptable impulse or drive (usually aggression) is displaced from its primary target to substitute target. For example; feeling frustrated with your GF / BF so you hit the wall / family member. The aggression lies with the partner but has been re-directed at a substitute 
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