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NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Education Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Dated: (Fall 1993) Pages: 252-272
C S Widom; H Toch
Date Published
21 pages
This article addresses psychological theories that have been used to explain criminal behavior and recent studies in the field of psychology that explore the influences on the individual that lead to antisocial behavior.
Criminal justice is a multidisciplinary field. One of the disciplines that has made and continues to make contributions to criminology and criminal justice is psychology. Psychology focuses on the behavior of individual offenders and the forces that motivate individuals to engage in criminal or violent behavior. In this article, five established psychological theories that have been used to explain criminal and delinquent behavior are explored. Recent developments in the field are then addressed. The five theories are behavior theory, social learning theory, cognitive social learning theory, attachment theory, and social control theory. Recent research has pointed to the need for early intervention to prevent delinquency and later criminal behavior. Childhood behavior consistently has been found to be the strongest predictor of adolescent and adult problem behavior. Other studies have recognized the limitations of focusing on the influence parents have on their children without also looking at the reciprocal nature of the relationships and influences. The characteristics of the child may have a stronger influence than those of the parents. Protective factors, i.e., disposition, environmental factors, biological predisposition and positive influences that prevent some children from engaging in antisocial behavior despite destructive upbringing, have been investigated. The influence of temperament, cognition and motivation in predisposing individuals to delinquent and criminal behavior have been explored. The relationship, if any, between mental illness and criminal or violent behavior has also been the subject of study.