Table of Contents
This is a big question. It has no simple and easy answer. First of all, we need to ask what do we mean by a criminal? If we mean someone who breaks the law, then there are so many reasons for breaking the law, not all of them are due to psychological abnormality.
There are so many psychologically adjusted persons who break the law for whatever reason, from opportunism is to carelessness. We are interested in that group of people who repeatedly break the law, that is called recidivists. More specifically, we focus our attention on some individuals of this group who are known to have antisocial or dyssocial personality disorders.
Many others break the law for some other psychiatric reasons, including some types of personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, or impulsive personalities. Even people with mental illness, depression, or learning disability may be involved in criminal activities.
Antisocial personality disorder, or what is sometimes called dyssocial type of personality disorder is characterized by persistant anti-social behaviour. In general, the typical psychopath or sociopath is a young man who is attractive and deceptive
He is usually a chronic liar.
He doesn't easily show evidence of anxiety or regret and doesn't feel guilt or remorse for his actions.
This law breaking behavior is evident from adolescence. 50% of all indictable crimes are committed by persons under 21 year of age and 50% of adolescent offenders do reoffend.
In studies of twins, it was established that identical twins who share 100% of genes are more likely to share criminal activities. If someone has history of criminal activity, it is more likely that his identical twin would be also involved in crimes and in offending. This is clearly the case with identical rather than with non-identical twins, who are born from two separate fertilized ova. Genetic factors were also confirmed in adoptive studies were identical twins were adopted away from each others and grew up to show similar antisocial behaviour.
Another factor in criminality is actual brain injury or brain disease. Individuals with lower IQ are more likely to repeat offending or become recidivist.
Brain injury is known to be associated with criminal behavior, since the famous case of Phineas Cage in 1848.
This man was known to have good manners and low abiding behaviors. After brain injury, which damaged his frontal cortex,
his personality changed. He became verbally aggressive and impulsive. He was not the same conscientious person known to others.
There is also evidence of increased criminality in people with one extra male chromosome, the XYY type of personality.
It is also known that men in general are known to show greater aggression and greater involvement in criminality than women. This link between the male sex and criminality is either related to the sex hormone or to the brain structure of men.
Temperament, the pattern of reactions and behavior of an individual has been suggested to be governed by genetics. In a famous study by Thomas and Chess in 1984, they studied 133 persons who were followed from their infancy to adulthood to check if their behavior have changed. They studied their behavior on the basis of their abilities, their motivation, and temperament. Temperament was defined on the basis of nine categories including biological diversity, the regularity of their biological functions (such as eating, sleeping), activity level mode, withdrawal and adaptability, among other things.
They found that individuals can be divided into three types of temperaments. The easy child group, which are regular, positive and adaptable children which represents 40% of the research group. The difficult child group, which are negative and non-adaptable children that represents 10% of the group. While the slow to warm up children were mildly negative and slow to adapt that constituted 15% of the research population.
Researchers reported evidence of continuity of temperament over time from infancy to adulthood given stability of environment. The difficult child group were most likely to develop behavioral problems and behavioral disorders. This study is similar to another one by Robbins in 1966. in which she followed up children referred to Child Guidance clinics for 30 years.
She found out that those who suffered from conduct disorders as children were more likely to become sociopathic adults with more criminality, marital problems and occupational failure.
It was also clear that severity and variety of conduct disorder were predictive of the severity and type of criminality in adulthood.
Psychodynamic theory is based on the concepts of psychoanalysis, although many post Freud psychoanalysts contributed to the theory. Psychodynamics explains development of criminal behavior by defective super-ego development.
It also suggests that early interference with bonding experience with the mother may result in defective socialization and emotional as well as moral immaturity.
The early environment may be disruptive and this leads to maladaptive personality pattern.
The ego functions are responsible for resolving conflicts between the impulse and the urges of the Id, which is a primitive structure that seek satisfaction, and the super ego, which embodies prohibitions, sanctions, rules and taboos.
The ego tries to balance the forces of the psychic mechanism with the requirements of environment or external reality. Defective, and immature ego functions, mainly poor impulse control, defective relations with reality and intolerance of affect and poorly developed, super ego.
Reality testing is also distorted minds that intense internal needs and conflicts which lead to habitual distortion of thought judgment and perceptions, which are obvious to others but not to the individual himself. A poor self image combined with infantile feelings of entitlement, and aggressive impulsiveness when poorly integrated result in persistently disturbed relationship with others.
Psychodynamics highlight the importance of early childhood experiences on the development of abnormal personality and personality traits.
This early childhood relationship are related to other personality patterns, and a particular disturbance in a bringing may lead to criminal behavior in early adulthood.
On the other hand, the psychodynamic developments may be arrested at a particular at a particular stage of psychosexual development. Due to environmental factors in childhood, the individual may regress to that particular stage when faced with stress or a pattern of relationship reminiscent of his childhood experiences later in adult life.
Behavioral school considers behavior as a set of reactions, learned through our life through mechanism of conditioning and reinforcement.
The individual learns to react to his environment on the basis of repertoire of behavioral patterns, which were shaped and maintained by consequences such as rewards, punishment, and reinforcement.
In this way, that School of Psychology sees criminality as a consequence of maladaptive personality, which is governed by environmental forces.
Antisocial behavior is a stereotyped learned behavior, which comes to the surface under stress.
Failure to learn socially acceptable behavior at critical learning periods, due to poor parenting, dysfunctional family, harsh aggressive parent or effect of subculture which reinforce low breaking and antisocial behavior can lead to criminality.
Such persons are also known to lack appropriate level of anxiety, which works to reinforce morality in humans. They may actually have excessive anxiety under any stress which makes them learn to ignore earlier warning signs coming from an anxiety.
\ Psychopaths are born rather than made. Genetics play an important role, and physical constitution including the hormonal balance, intelligence, level of anxiety , or dysfunctional brain. Good parenting, positive early childhood experiences, healthy relationship with important figures during the formative years are important factors in making a law abiding citizen. Reinforcement of socially appropriate behavior and non-reward of antisocial behavior helps the individual to grow up as a good citizen.
However, most likely those who are disturbed as children, and who show evidence of antisocial behavior in earlu years will grow up to be involved in criminal activity.