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PSYCHOLOGY AND CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR. Concepts and Definitions. Defining the Subject Matter. Crime Delinquency Deviance

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psychology and criminal behaviour


Concepts and Definitions

defining the subject matter
Defining the Subject Matter
  • Crime
  • Delinquency
  • Deviance

‘Although often lay people feel they can easily identify crime and criminals, deviants and deviance, there are in fact unclear boundaries bordering legality and illegality, normality and deviance’ (Holdaway 1988:8).

variability of deviance and crime
Variability of Deviance and Crime
  • Definitions of deviance and crime are historically and culturally variable
    • They are socially defined and constructed
    • They are not inherent in actions or the characteristics of individuals
  • Deviance: the recognized violation of cultural norms.
  • Crime:the violation of norms a society formally enacts into criminal law.
  • Deviance: range of acts of nonconformity, from variations in hair styles to murder.
  • Non conformity to a given norm, or set of norms, which are accepted by a significant number of people


  • Prescriptive (Sanctioned or authorized by long-standing custom or usage).
  • Proscriptive (prohibition)

Sources of norms

  • Social consensus
  • Social conflict
  • Folkways and mores (group habits that are common to a society or culture and the accepted traditional customs and usages of a particular social group).
john hagan s 3 dimensions
John Hagan’s 3 Dimensions
  • Evaluation of social harm
  • Severity of social response
  • Agreement about the norm
types of deviance and crime
Types of Deviance and Crime

Consensus crime: wearing samurai hair style in medieval Japan

Conflict crime: growing a long beard in early 17th century Russia

Social deviation: wearing long hair in John Lie’s high school

Social diversion: dyeing your hair purple in the U.S.A. today

High agreement Confusion, apathy

Relatively harmless Very harmful

Severe Mild


about the norm

Evaluation of Severity of

Social Harm Social Response

Source: Hagan (1994).

social control
Social Control
  • Deviant people are subject to social control: how members of a society try to influence each other's behavior.
    • Informal Social Control: mild, raised eyebrows, gossip, ostracism…
    • Formal Social Control: breaking laws
crime and delinquence
Crime and delinquence
  • Crime - defined by Criminal Law.
  • A Juvenile delinquent is a young person (in Lithuania, under the age of 14) who has engaged in criminal behaviour.
seriousness of deviance and crime
Seriousness of Deviance and Crime
  • Social diversions: mild acts of deviance
  • Social deviations: more serious, institutional sanctions and large portion of pop. agree they are bad
  • Conflict Crimes: state defines as illegal, but the definition is controversial in the wider society
  • Consensus Crimes: widely recognized to be bad in themselves
  • The legal definition: The criminal is the person who breaks the law.
  • The role definition: The criminal is the individual who sustains a pattern of delinquency over a long period of time and whose life and identity are organised around a pattern of deviant behaviour (commitment to deviant role and lifestyle)
  • The societal response definition:According to this definition in order for an act and/or an actor to be defined as deviant or criminal, an audience must perceive and judge the behaviour in question
  • Crime and the criminals who engage in it make up a rich bundle of activities and persons
  • Theoretically meaningful taxonomies of crime forms and offender types
  • Two different lines of classification activity:
    • Crime centered – attempt to identify distinct forms of crime, along with correlates
    • Criminal centered – distinct patterns or types into which real life offenders can be sorted
  • Our interest lies with the latter
chaiken and chaiken 1982
Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982
  • Behavioural versatility rather than specialization in particular crimes is most common among repeat offenders
  • Attempt to distinguish classes of criminal acts or criminal actors
  • Typing may entail negative and stigmatising labelling
  • Denies individual uniqueness
  • Focus on commonalities serve good value – communication; decision making; prediction
  • Classes are identified by a few prototypical features shared by most but not all offenders
crime centered classification
  • McKinney (1966) – based on: criminal career of the offender, group support of criminal behaviour, correspondence between criminal behaviour and legitimate behaviour patterns and societal reactions
  • Violent personal crime – murder, assault and forcible rape
  • Occasional property crime – auto theft, shop lifting, check forgery and vandalism
  • Occupational – crime from workplace
  • Political crime
  • Public order – drunkenness, vagrancy, disorderly conduct, prostitution, traffic violations, drug addiction
  • Conventional crime – robbery, burglary and gang theft
  • Organized crime – organised prostitution, organized gambling, control of narcotics
  • Professional crime – confidence games, forgery, counterfeiting
farr and gibbon s classification 1992
Farr and Gibbon’s Classification (1992)

7 crime categories

Property harms

  • Property predatory crime- burglary, robbery, auto theft
  • Property fraudulent crime – embezzlement, forgery, fraud and bribery

Personal harm

  • Interpersonal violence general – homicide and assault
  • Interpersonal violence – sexual – rape, sexual abuse and other crimes of sexual violence

Harms against the social order or social values

  • Transactional –offences involving a willing exchange of goods or services, such as prostitution, gambling and drug sales
  • Order disruption – escape, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct
  • Folk mundane crime – violations of technical rules
    • Distinguish between criminal activities carried on by formal or complex organizations, by offender networks and by individuals acting alone
classification of crime
Classification of Crime
  • The Criminal Code distinguishes between crimes and contraventions, the former being of a more serious nature.
  • Crimes include willful homicide, bodily harm, theft, receiving stolen property, misappropriation, assault and resistance against police officers, bribery, abuse of power, rape, prostitution, indecent assault, defilement of minors, forgery, fraud, perjury and many others.
  • Contraventions include disturbance of public peace, swearing, unlawful betting, various traffic offenses, dumping of garbage, failure to pay maintenance, drunkenness, vagrancy, minor assault, and threatening.
criminal centered classification
  • The development of offender typologies
  • When we sort offenders into behavioural types, we invent conceptual schemes that allow us to see common threads or characteristics that identify groups of similar offenders
  • Classifications are needed for three main purposes
  • management decisions in the penal system
  • to facilitate treatment decisions
  • theoretical understanding
gibbon s role career typology
Gibbon’s role-career typology

distinguishes criminal roles according to the

  • offence behaviour,
  • its interactional setting – alone, organised criminal network, subculture
  • The self concept of the offender
  • role related attitudes e.g. towards conventional life, work, police, social control agencies, gents of socialisation
  • Role career – development in terms of criminality
a theoretically derived
A: theoretically derived

Stage theories inspired by social psychological theories on social perspective taking

Development in terms of increasing involvement with people and social institutions

Progressively more differentiated perceptions of the world, the self and others

interpersonal maturity level warren 1983 palmer 1974
Interpersonal maturity level (Warren, 1983) Palmer (1974)
  • 7 stages of integration
  • Fixation at a particular level determines relative consistency in goals and expectations and a working philosophy of life
  • Those progressing beyond the 1-4 level are assumed to be less likely to be in conflict with society and most criminals fall in 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 levels
  • B. Empirical classifications:

Eg MMPI based classifications

  • C. Psychiatric classification

Eg - paraphilias

- personality disorders

criticism of typologies
Criticism of typologies
  • Loose fit between typologies and the real world
  • Studies of inmates E.g. Garabedian (1964): social types exist but there is less regularity in inmate behaviour than is implied by typologies
  • McKenna (1962) many real life offenders cannot be assigned to the categories of role career schemes with much precision
what is criminal psychology
What is criminal psychology?
  • To study the psychological factor of the criminal. Mainly based on study on the motivation of crime, thus to examine the character, environment of the criminal and the process of the criminal behavior.
  • Using psychological method to explain crime itself and then bring evidence of a crime to light in order to help investigation, justice, and correction.; a psychology in order to hold back crimes.