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Psychological Theory of Crime

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Criminology is the study of crime and why people commit crime. While conducting research, psychologists are able to analyze the ways in which behaviors are learned, why people commit crime, and the factors that prevent others from committing crimes. Criminology also focuses on what crimes are being committed, the consequences of those crimes, and are the crime being repeated by offenders. Psychological theories focus on the personality traits of a person which may drive them to become deviant or commit criminal behavior. Inadequate socialization is usually the cause of crime according to the psychological theories, as social factors may very well contribute to deviant behavior. Psychological theories are in place to help explain emotional and intellectual growth in humans.

The personality theory is a psychologist's way of explaining how a person's criminal behavior can be based on their individual personalities. Personality and criminal behavior as it relates to the psychological theory begins in younger years when socialization first begins as a child. Every person will develop their own tendencies or perceptions which will begin the formation of their personality. There are certain personality traits that are that are formed which are known for contributing to criminal behavior or may have some tendencies towards criminal behavior. Extroverts, stubborn, or impulsive people are more prone to commit crime. Also, people who fail to distinguish the concept of right from wrong will most likely participate in criminal behavior.

The psychological theory is based on the work of Sigmund Freud who introduced the human personality as a divide between the id, ego, and superego. Freud believed that there was an imbalance between the functioning of the three which would later result in criminal behavior. Therefore, achieving a balance would allow room for emotional development. Freud believed that there was always constant conflict between the id and the superego, and the result of the conflict was guilt. Because of this theoretical analysis, it was assumed that personality conflict could be a root cause of crime, and the failure of the superego explains criminality. The id can be described as the instinctual drives that cause a person to behave in a certain manner. The id is usually based on those things that will bring about pleasure when doing them. The ego is the part of ones personality that rationalizes and mediates between the drives and the present restraints of the superego. The ego is a representation of what someone thinks about themselves and is in touch with reality. The superego is the restraints of ones conscience behavior that is developed in younger years with children by developing strong, healthy bonds with their parents. It is assumed that a child who has this type of healthy relationship with their parents will internalize the experiences of their rewards when having done something right. The superego will make a child think about their behaviors, the judgments that will follow their behaviors, values, and morals. The unconscious that is the voice of conscience describes the superego.

Another psychological theory was the behavioral theory by B. F. Skinner. Skinner believed that rewards and punishments were the basis of the behavior of humans. Skinner believed that if a person obtained some type of reward when committing crime that they would continue to do so, and if a person has to suffer consequences because of their actions that they would leave the negative behaviors behind. The social learning theory includes the reactions of family members and peers when a person commits a crime. For example, when a child is young they pick up on the way that their elders respond to the things that they are doing and if their behavior is acceptable or disapproved. Over time, after so many various instances, the child will have become familiar with the responses received and will be able to abide by the rules and act accordingly even when no one is around. The social learning theory also includes the ways that criminal behavior may be learned by others through



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