Psychology OCR G543 - Forensic - Turning to Crime

Psychology OCR G543 - "Applied Options in Psychology" Revision Cards for forensic psychology; section 1 - turning to crime.


Upbringing - Disrupted Families - Farrington et al

Context: Taking a nurture approach to why people turn to crime, looking at  This includes risk factors such as: Criminality in the family, poverty, poor parenting, etc.

Aim: To test whether problem families produce problem children (considering risk factors.)

Sample: A total of 411 boys from working class backgrounds across 6 state schools in london; predominantly white.

Procedure: Longitudinal survey. Data gathered via self report measures at ages 48 and searches of criminal records of participants and their immediate biological relatives.

Results: Criminals are likely to have a criminal relative(s). Of the individuals searched in the criminal records, many had convictions. The number of offences and offenders peaked at age 17. The boys who started criminal careers at age 10-13 nearly all re-convicted once (91%). Most of the chronic offenders shared common risk factors (i.e. a convicted parent, delinquent simbling, a young mother, a disrupted/large family). 

Conclusion: Offenders tend to be deviant in many areas of their lives. The most important risk factors for criminality in the family are, Poverty, Impulsiveness, Poor upbringing & Poor performance in school.Early intervention programmes for the under 10s could significantly reduce criminal behaviour.

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Upbringing - Learning From Others - Sutherland (19

Sutherland's research looked at how criminals learned behaviour; not why. This looks at how criminals learn and adopt values and morals (such as apathy towards certain laws, risk taking and non-conformity) and techniques (lock-picking is cited as an example) from other criminals. 

Sutherland believes that these values usually occur in, and are reinforced by small intimate groups, such as groups of criminal 'gangs'. 

This is known as Differential Association and is categorised by 9 key points. A common aspect of these 9 principals are that we learn criminal behaviour in the same way that we learn any other behaviour, (social influences, conditioning, etc.) and that criminal behaviour is not innate.

The implication here is that this behaviour is "all that the criminals know." They consider their behaviour to be normative and not deviant. The theory also suggests how to educate potential young offenders (e.g. conditioning) and overlooks any nature and cognitive influences.

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Upbringing - Poverty & Disadvantaged Areas - Wikst

The Peterborough Youth Study

Context: Looks at criminal behaviour in relation to poverty and location within a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Government stats show that those living in the most disadvantaged 5% in society are 100% more likely to turn to crime, have conduct disorders, mood disorders and alcohol/drug abuse.

Aim: To find out to what extent does poverty and social disadvantage contribute to criminal behaviour.

Participants: Approx. 2000 Year 10 pupils (age 14-15) 

Findings: 44% of males & 30% of females have committed at least one of the studied crimes. 10% of males & 4% of females have committed a serious crime.

Explanation: The study identified a wide range of factors that may predispose criminal activity: Family social position; Individual differences; Social situation; Reinforcement due to lifestyle/routine and Disadvantaged neighbourhoods/schools attended.

Conclusion: Gives an insight to the situation surrounding young offenders from a nurture /environmental perspective. Though reductionist, the study may be useful in helping to reduce the growing number of juvenile delinquents.

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Cognitive - Criminal Thinking Patterns - Yochelson

Aim: To help understand whether criminals believe their choices are rational and whether this reflects faulty cognition. To investigate whether or not criminals share faulty thinking patterns.

Sample: 255 male participants for a large cross-section of society. Comparing those who are acquitted on the grounds of diminished responsibility (and confined to hospital) with convicted criminals.

Methodology: A longitudinal (many years) self-report study using interviews taken by 2 doctors (Yochelson & Samenow).

Results: Criminals thought differently than none criminals. The find requests from superiors as impositions; continually set themselves apart from others; want to live a life of excitement at any cost (highly daring); are habitually angry; lack empathy; are poor at responsible decision making and feel no obligation to anyone but themselves. 

Compared these interviews with a small sample of ******** criminals and identified 40 cognitive errors. However they never had a control group of non-criminals to compare with.

They concluded that criminals may differ in their acts and intentions, but all exhibit parallel irrational thought patterns.

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Cognitive - Moral Development and Crime - Kohlberg

Context: Moral development refers to the development of values learned by children during socialisation, mainly from parents/carers/ Moral development is the time when children are learning what is right and wrong. It is said that children have a grasp of morality at age 10 which is the age of criminal responsibility in the UK.

Kohlberg's 6 stages of Moral development: Kohlberg's model consists of 3 Levels (Pre-morality; Conventional morality; Post-conventional morality) which contain 2 stages within each.

Aim: To find evidence for the theory of moral development stages.

Sample: 58 boys from Chicago of working class, aged 7, 10, 13 and 16.

Methodology: Each boy was given a 2 hour interview in which they were asked to solve ten moral dilemmas. Particular attention was paid to their reasoning, rather than their answer. Some of the boys had follow up interviews upto age 30 making this a longitudinal case study. Kohlberg later studied children from a wide variety of cultures.

Results: Younger boys performed at stages 1 & 2 (Level 1) whereas older boys performed at 3 & 4 (Level 2) suggesting moral development through these ages (across cultures). No support was found for stage 6.

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Biology - Biological Differences and Brain Dysfunc

Context: Raine suggests that abnormal activity in different areas of the brain are related to criminal activity. Raine identified a number of early risk factors for violent behaviour: Low levels of physiological arousal; Birth complications; Fearlessness; Increased body size. 

Aim/Method: To create a review article, looking at evidence into the development of anti-social/aggressive behaviour with an emphasis on biology and how it influences offending.

Findings: Raine identified a number of biological risk factors that lead to an increased risk of offending: Low heart rate; Low levels of activity in pre-frontal lobes; Birth complications; Poor parenting (including abuse and malnutrition).

Conclusions: These findings may be a key predictor of anti-social and aggressive behaviour and may help to create techniques to reverse a biological pre-disposition to said behaviour.

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Biology - Genes and Serotonin - Brunner et al (199

Aim: to explain the behaviour of a large family, in the Netherlands, in which the males have borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour.

Method: Case Study

Participants: 5 affected males from the same family.

Procedure: Analysis of urine samples over a 24 hour period.

Findings: The deficiancy of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) affects the metabolism of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In each of them, these abnormalities were linked by the X chromosome of the gene responsible and in turn linked with the retardation/violent behaviour.

Conclusion: MAOA deficiancy associated with recognizable characteristics is responsible for the inability to regulate aggression.

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Biology - Evolutionary Theories and Gender - Daley

Context: Statistics consistently show that males are a lot more involved in crime than females, regardless of culture. Two key factors associated with criminality are impulsiveness and risk taking behaviour; researchers suggest that these are more prevalent in males. They suggest that evolution is the cause for this due to things such as 'winning' the attention of mates may require the aforementioned traits.

Aim: To investigate the link between homicide rates and life expectancy.

Method: Correlation study using survey data from police, school and local demographic records.

Procedure: examined communities that had a below average male life expectancy (varying from 54-77 years) and plotted correlations between collected data.

Findings: a strong negative correlation; the higher the life expectancy, the lower the homicide rate.

Conclusions: Young men in areas with low life expectancy may take more risks to benefit in the short term (instant gratification) but due to this are expected to live for a shorter amount of time. They refered to this as 'short term horizon.'

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