Minnesota Youth Charged With Murder Term Paper

Length: 14 pages Sources: 20 Subject: Psychology Type: Term Paper Paper: #54911430 Related Topics: Murder, Time Warp 3, Youth, Youth Violence
Excerpt from Term Paper :

If his father had been violent with him, Jeremiah would have that experience to draw upon in order to solve problems. He may have seen violence as the only way out of the situation. Moreover, Jeremiah's extreme insecurity led him to be fully engaged in conditioned thinking, which compelled him to assert the validity of his worldview by any means necessary. In this instance, that meant resorting to murder in order to prove that he was right.

Where do these feelings of insecurity originate from? According to POM, insecurities are not a result of circumstances or life events. On the contrary, POM suggests that the source of insecure feelings exists within the mind of the offender and occurs as a function of different mood states (Kelley, 1996). The reason why a certain person may have feelings of insecurity in one instance but not in another, even under identical circumstances, stems from mood. When individuals experience an over-all sense of well-being, insecurities diminish. However, when individuals' moods drop, insecurities creep in and the tendency to resort to reactive, habitual thinking is highly likely.

Furthermore, POM theory suggests that moods combined with insecurities and conditioned thinking spawns a continuous cycle of maladaptive thought that results in maladaptive behavior. This phenomenon is considered to be at the core of all forms of criminal and delinquent behavior (Kelley, 1996). Due to low mood, an offender has feelings of insecurity which results in the reliance on conditioned thinking. This further activates automatic thought patterns and conditioned beliefs, which are generally faulty. This state of mind lends to the experience of a self-created negative perception of reality without the awareness of the psychological processes involved or how it could be remedied. The presence of this condition greatly increases the likelihood of criminal, self-destructive, or delinquent behavior (Kelley, 1996).

According to POM it is necessary to assume that Jeremiah Ratzlaff was experiencing lower mood states when he committed murder. It is possible, and quite likely, that Jeremiah suffered from a mood disorder, like depression or bipolar disorder, which results in extremely low moods. These low mood states caused the experience of insecure feelings, which subsequently led to conditioned thinking and the decision to engage in the criminal behavior of murder. Moodiness would explain why Jeremiah was pushed to murder his father in this instance and not in others, when it is most likely that he and his father had similar altercations in the past that did not result in extreme violence. Jeremiah's exceptionally low mood on this day caused him to have insecurities. These insecurities prompted him to conditionally react to the situation at hand by behaving in the most violent, extreme way possible in order to prove the validity of his worldview - essentially his father was wrong and he was right. Jeremiah was unable to reasonably assess the appropriateness of his reactive behavior due to the fact that he was unaware of the psychological processes underlying his decision making.

POM proposes that all individuals have a natural and innate capacity for healthy psychological functioning (Kelley, 1996). Youth are therefore not inherently predisposed to delinquent behavior by nature, unlike the ideas proposed by social control theory (Kelley, 1996). According to POM, all individuals are born with healthy attributes such as unconditional positive self-worth, common sense, intrinsic desire to learn, and satisfaction in understanding and socially mastering the environment (Kelley, 1996). Furthermore, due to these inherent qualities, self-esteem is considered by POM to be an effortless and automatic condition of being that does not require instruction, strengthening or development. In the natural condition of high self-esteem, thinking is unconditioned and responsive and lends to common sense, insights and peace of mind.

According to POM, the likelihood of deviant and criminal behavior increases in youth when low mood states lead to feelings of insecurity and the reliance on reactive, conditioned modes of thinking and decision making (Kelley, 1996). It is suggested by POM theory that making youth aware of these psychological processes may result in an understanding of the source of certain urges and a reduction in criminal behavior (Kelley, 1996).

POM theory would propose that Jeremiah Ratzlaff was not inherently destined for the criminal behavior he engaged in. The innately healthy psychological attributes Jeremiah possessed at birth were compromised later in life due to the development of conditioned, reactive thought patterns as a result of mood induced insecurities....


This conditioned mode of thinking caused him to lose the high self-esteem he was born with. This lack of high self-esteem resulted in the loss of the ability for unconditioned, responsive thought, which meant a subsequent loss of common sense, loss of insight, and increased psychological disturbance. The ultimate result of this shift away from natural unconditioned thought was Jeremiah's decision to act upon urges and murder his father.

Some theorists that adhere to social containment theory of criminal behavior explain how delinquency results from certain inner psychological pushes and outer environmental pulls. It is argued that containment is necessary to adequately deal with these forces (Kelley, 1996). Emphasis is also placed by these theorists on a good self-concept, which is considered to be the most important and primary inner containment of behavior. POM theory does not view these pushes and pulls in the same light. According to POM, all of these concepts proposed by containment theory are constructs of personal interpretation that are created by each individual's thought mechanisms (Kelley, 1996).

POM theory would interpret the criminal behavior of Jeremiah Ratzlaff as a product of insecurities that result from conditioned interpretational beliefs. He was conditioned to believe, most likely through maltreatment, that his father was deserving of violence. These maladaptive interpretations and subsequent violent behavior occurred in states of low mood. Unlike containment theory, POM would explain Jeremiah's behavior as the result of habitual negative feelings that are reinforced continually through conditioned thought beliefs, rather than constant psychological drives and impulses. Also, the impact that environmental factors had on Jeremiah's behavior would also be seen as not constant, and as influential only when low mood state left him insecure and vulnerable to the effects of external situations or circumstances. Furthermore, in order for Jeremiah to behave due to internal urges or external influences, he must have believed that they were necessary, justified, and valid.

Prediction and Prevention

It may be argued that certain interventions could have been implemented that would have prevented the horrific crime perpetrated by Jeremiah Ratzlaff. In order for these intervention measures to be taken, predictors in Jeremiah's demeanor or behavior would have had to be identified. Psychology of Mind theory would indicate some directions in regards to prevention strategies, but predictors would need to be identified using a broader scope.

There are several variable social and psychological factors that may contribute to whether or not youth partake in deviant behavior (Winfree & Bernat, 1998). Traits and behaviors predictive of extremely violent behavior need to be identified in order for effective prevention initiatives to be implemented. Some predictive factors include childhood externalizing behavior (Liu, 2004), quality of relationships (Poulin, Dishion, Haas, 1999), negative school environment (Noguera, 2003), association with delinquent peers (Flom, Friedman, Kottiri, Neaigus, Curtic, 2001; Wong, 1999), teacher and peer labeling (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, Ray, 2003), maladaptive family environments (Oxford, Harachi, Catalano, Abbott, 2001) parental suffering from affective disorder (Su, Hofman, Gerstein, Johnson, 1997), social skills deficits (Dishion, Nelson, Bullock, Winter, 2004), and alcohol abuse (Higgins, G.E. & Davis Marcum, C., 2005). The presence of any one or combination of these factors may indicate the necessity for interventions that would prevent the advent of violent, delinquent behavior.

Along with any of these factors, Psychology of Mind theory would suggest that lower mood states and conditioned thinking patterns may also be predictive of future delinquent behavior. If adolescents experiencing chronic low mood states could be identified, appropriate measures could be taken by parents or teachers to ensure that the youths' mental health improves and violent behavior is furthermore prevented.

Prevention initiatives in line with Psychology of Mind theory would focus in on the basic concept of thought recognition (Kelley & Stack, 2000). By making at-risk youth aware of their thought processes and the mood states that dictate them, they are given a sense of control over themselves and their behavior. Most widely known strategies for the prevention of adolescent deviance are based in the belief that there is some key component missing from the lives of these troubled youths and that this component must be provided to them in order for delinquent behavior to be prevented (Kelley & Stack, 2000). Unfortunately, these types of initiatives have not consistently resulted in prevention of problem behavior among youths. POM would argue that this lack of success is due to the fact that youths are not being empowered to use their inherent abilities to recognize their own moods and thought patterns and…

Sources Used in Documents:


Adams, M.S., Robertson, C., Gray-Ray, P., Ray, M. (2003). Labeling and delinquency. Adolescence, 38(149), 171-86.

Dishion, T.J., Nelson, S., Bullock, B., Winter, C. (2004). Adolescent friendship as a dynamic system: entropy and deviance in the etiology and course of male antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(6), 651-63.

Doucette, P.A. (2004). Walk and talk: an intervention for behaviorally challenged youths. Adolescence, 39, 373-88.

Flom, P.L., Friedman, S., Kottiri, B., Neaigus, A., Curtis, R. (2001). Recalled adolescent peer norms towards drug use in young adulthood in a low-income, minority urban neighborhood. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(2), 425-43.

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