Psychological Trait Theory Research Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #91327853

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Psychological Trait Theory in Criminology:

The field of criminology can basically be described as the scientific study of criminals and criminal behavior since professionals in this field try to develop theories that explain the reason for the occurrence of crimes and test the theories through observation of criminal behavior. The criminological theories in turn help in shaping the response of the society to crime in relation to preventing criminal behavior and reacting to such behaviors after they occur. Generally, the field of criminology has evolved in three different phases since the inception of this discipline in the 18th Century. While crime and criminals have existed for as long as societies have existed, the systematic study of these incidents began in the late 1700s. Prior to this period, crime and criminal behavior were mainly equated to sin i.e. The infringement of a sacred obligation.

Evolution of the Discipline of Criminology:

As previously mentioned, the development or evolution of the discipline of criminology occurred in three distinct phases that shaped the discipline to what it is in the modern society. Notably, each of these phases or stages was characterized by unique attempts by criminologists to explain crime and criminal behavior based on the events that were taking place in the society. The first phase of the evolution of the discipline of criminology was when scholars first differentiated crime from sin, which was the original explanation for crime and criminal behaviors. The second phase, which is commonly known as modern criminology, began in the 19th Century where criminology was distinguished as a sub-specialty in emerging disciplines of sociology, psychology, and economics. The third phase that began in the second half of the 20th Century is known as independent criminology since the discipline started to assert its independence from the conventional disciplines that initiated it.

Theories of Crime:

One of the most notable features of the evolution of the field of criminology is that criminologists have usually developed different theories in attempts to explain the reason for the occurrence of crimes and evaluate these theories through observing criminal behaviors. The established theories have constantly been used as the basis for understanding criminal behavior and the development of the discipline of criminology. Actually, these theories have proven to be important elements in this field since they have been helpful in shaping the society's response to crime with regards to understanding, preventing, and responding to crime and criminal behavior when they occur.

Throughout the history of criminology, there are various theories that have been developed and used to explain why people commit crimes. These theories of crime have mainly been divided into the biological, social, and psychological categories to help understand crime and criminal behavior. As criminologists developed the theories of crime to explain the occurrence of these incidents, they no longer relied strongly on the explanations of criminal offenses based on the rational choice of the offender. On the contrary, these professionals attributed criminal behavior and activities to the motivation to commit the offenses and the social context that permit people to pursue criminal inclinations (Lynch, n.d.).

Notably, modern scholars believe that criminal motivation is the product of at least one or more complex set of factors. The complex set of factors are not only numerous but they are also varied to an extent that no system of classification can define the existence theories of crime causation with total accuracy. The theories of crime are classified into three major categories because many criminologists have proposed a wide range of theories of multiple causation involving factors from different categories. Generally, the biological theories attribute criminal behavior to the congenital or inherited defects of the criminal while the sociological theories attribute crime to social or environmental factors that facilitate criminal behavior. On the contrary, the psychological theories attribute crime to the mental disorders or psychological factors of the offender.

Psychological Theories of Crime:

The psychological trait theory basically focuses on all the mental aspects of the reason an individual commits a crime and relates it to the personality, intelligence, criminal behavior, and learning of the individual. The psychological theories of crime and criminal behavior were stylish before sociology was embraced. These theories were mainly interested in the individual differences in the inclination to commit offenses rather than environmental or social conditions assumed to have facilitated criminal behavior.

The psychological trait theory examines how certain personality traits are conducive to crime and criminal behavior with a huge emphasis placed on temperament and intelligence. The main assumption behind the psychological theories of crime is that low intelligence hinders the ability to accurately calculate or develop the pleasures and pain involved in carrying out criminal activity. Moreover, these theories are based on the assumption that certain types of temperaments tend to make the individual impulsive and challenging to socialize (Walsh, 2006). In addition to individual characteristics, low intelligence quotient should be regarded as a single risk factor and neither a necessary nor sufficient reason for criminal behavior.

The psychological trait theory is generally based on the belief by psychoanalytic theorists that criminal behavior is caused by mental disturbance. For instance, based on a Freudian perspective, criminal behavior may be caused by a conflict between the ego, id, and superego or it may be the product of an inaccurate fixation during one of the stages of the individual's emotional development. The theory is also associated with the beliefs of personality theorists that criminal behavior is caused by an improper or defective personality or personality traits. Rather than building a conforming suitable-social personality, the offender has developed a personality that is dependent on conflict, aggression, and impulsiveness. Consequently, the criminal does not have the ability to feel remorse, guilt, or empathy for his/her actions since he/she has not developed a sense of right or wrong.

Based on the psychoanalytic and personality approaches to the psychological theories of crime, the criminal activity is not significant since its only one of the many indications of the underlying personality or psychological disorder. Moreover, each of these approaches proposes various kinds of therapy and treatment to address the disorders. Since the approaches do not consider the criminal act as important, the criminal behavior can be stopped through addressing the personality or psychological disorders effectively (See, 2004).

Human Intellectual and Emotional Development:

In order to account for criminal motivation of individuals, criminologists have utilized various psychological theories to explain the intellectual and emotional development of an individual. The psychological theories used by these criminologists are classified into three major categories include & #8230;

Moral Development Theories:

The moral development theories describe a series of developmental stages that individuals undergo when acquiring the ability to make moral judgments. Based on the moral development theorists, the process may or may not be completed. Consequently, individuals who are unable to differentiate right from wrong are more likely to engage in deviant, unsuitable, or even criminal behavior. Generally, the criminologists who use moral development theories develop on the pioneering initiatives carried out by Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist. These criminologists build on Piaget's work through relating the stages of cognitive development to moral development stages.

Based on the findings of various studies under the moral development theories, moral development is generally sequential since it's characterized by the move from external to internal control. While criminologists have not truly discovered strong indications of the impact of moral development on criminal activity, individuals who remain unable to distinguish between right or wrong are more likely to develop criminal behavior. This is turn proves to be the link between the moral development theories and the psychological theories of crime.

Social Learning Theories:

The second category of theories used by criminologists to demonstrate the psychological trait theory in criminology is the social learning theories. These theories suggest that individuals internalize moral codes mainly through a process of socialization. In this case, people learn behaviors through interactions with other instead of a stage-by-stage development process. Notably, the social learning theorists emphasize that a young individual learns how to behave depending on how elders or parent figures react to his/her compliance with or violations of rules.

Unlike the moral development theories, the social learning theories of criminal inclination and behavior have obtained significant empirical support. Based on the findings of various studies, delinquents reported of different treatment by their parents as compared to young people with no criminal or delinquent record. As a result, the socialization of delinquents is characterized by erratic or negligent discipline or through unduly harsh discipline like physical punishment. Social learning theories are promising approaches to understanding the motivation behind crime and criminal behavior.

Personality Theories:

The third category of psychological trait theory in criminology is personality theories, which are important approaches to the psychological theories of crime and criminal behavior. These theories basically try to explain how people obtain pre-dispositions towards particular behaviors. The pre-dispositions are sometimes explained on the basis of personality traits like stubbornness and impulsiveness, or personality types like introvert and extrovert. When all other factors remain the same,…

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