Identifying the Psychology of Violent Crime and Crime Homicide

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The crime homicide is explained through psychological, criminological theories of Sigmund Freud, Stephen Porter and Robert Hare, from a theoretical perspective. The crime homicide, specifically the category of murder, has been at the forefront of criminological studies for centuries. Theoretical perspectives included in Lombroso’s biological theory and Akers’s Social learning theory give a clear understanding of how criminological theories translate into criminal practice. Violent crimes such as murder are committed as a result of nature rather than nurture.

The hypothesis for this essay is that the crime of homicide, specifically the category of murder, is elucidated with research into criminological theories. Psychological theories, Biological theories and Social learning theories give a clear understanding from a criminological point of view why criminals have modified behaviour. Psychopathic offenders are not deterred from committing crimes such as homicide due to having anatomical genetic differences. This essay will identify implications for responding to the crime, and why the crime is committed; this will be explained through criminological theories from a theoretical perspective. In order to elucidate the possibilities surrounding the cause of homicide, this essay will describe and critique three criminological theories. The psychological theory – Psychopathy will be covered in-depth regarding Doctor Robert Hare PCL-R score, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and Doctor Stephen Porter psychological theory. Theoretical perspectives will be included in Lombroso’s biological theory and Akers’s Social learning theory concerning how the theories translate into criminal practice.

Homicide is defined as the killing of a person by another. Murder is a homicide killing which is unjustified and committed with malice (Murphy Law Office 2016). In 2013-2014, 38 per cent of homicide victims in Australia died from stab wounds, 24 per cent died from beatings and 15 per cent from other causes, 13 per cent from gun shootings an 8 per cent unknown (AIC 2015). In 2012-2014, 19 per cent of offenders were known to have had a prior history of domestic violence, and of those, 71 per cent ended in a domestic homicide (AIC 2015). Abreu, Barker & Bedford (2017) reported in a systematic review into the method of homicide and the link to severe mental illness. Patterns of crime homicide indicate a mental illness is present. Abreu, Barker & Bedford (2017) reported that up to 96% of offenders experienced psychiatric symptoms at the time of the homicide. Implications felt after a homicide is widespread. The first responders on the scene of homicide are trained but still feel human emotion. The community is affected due to fear and shock that a crime has happened in their community. The family and friends of the victim and even the accused are often traumatised.

The Psychological theory – Psychopathy was referred to as a “suffering soul” in the 1800s (Babiak P 2015). Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory was the basis for future developments in the understanding of psychopathic disorders. Freudian psychoanalytic analysed that abnormality was developed through development stages of emotional development in the Oedipus/Electra stage (Akers, Sellers & Jennings 2016). Freud based his research on pathology and neurology. Freud’s research consisted of his belief that violence was the unconscious force of the mind causing violent criminal behaviour. Freud’s theory in analysing adolescents and adults with behavioural issues was that mental instability was caused by negative early childhood experiences. Freud believed that when an individual experienced conflict at psychosexual stages of development, that the impact would adversely impact the individual’s ability to operate normally as an adult in society (Bartol, 2016).

Doctor Stephen Porter (2019) explains the psychological theory of psychopathy as hard to detect. Rational choice is shown by psychopaths generally living in society, knowing what is right and wrong cognitively. Psychopaths have the absence of human emotion; they learn to act normally and are often employed in highly skilled careers. Psychopaths who commit crimes such a homicide are often overlooked as suspects due to their innocent mannerisms. Rational choice is shown through acting normal, even charismatic. Psychopaths are manipulative, and with no emotion or guilt, they are not easy to read in an interview or detect as criminals. Other traits of psychopaths which can lead to violence and crimes such as homicide are their narcissistic personalities, dominance and sometimes aggressive rages with no empathy or remorse (Babiak P 2015).

Psychological theories are linked to crime because of individual factors and thinking patterns. In 1970 Doctor Robert Hare developed the PCL-R score for assessing and diagnosing psychopathy. Persons interpersonal, affective, lifestyle and antisocial behaviour are all taken into account (Hare 1999). Doctor Robert Hare’s PCL-R score evaluated that psychopathic traits are common in criminals who commit homicide. Documented traits of homicide criminals are, pathological lyres, poor behaviour control, criminal versatility, need for stimulation, lack of remorse, no emotional feeling of guilt, early behavioural problems, impulsivity, poor behaviour control, callous and show no empathy (Hare 1999). Not all psychopaths are criminals, and not all criminals are psychopaths. The violent recidivism prison rate is triple for psychopaths. Psychopaths are responsible for approximately 20 per cent of the jail population, with 50 per cent jailed for severe crimes (Hare 1999). Female Psychopaths are less prevalent in society and have different characteristic. Women show unstable emotion and often are manipulative on social networking sites. There have been psychopathic female killers like Katherine Knight, but statistically, men psychopaths commit more criminal offences and are more violent (Babiak 2015). Database PsychINFO, MedLine, Embase and WebdoScience analysed 52 articles analysing that out of the 52 articles, nine reported mental illness as the method of homicide. 96% of offenders had severe mental illness psychiatric symptoms at the time the homicide was committed (Abreu, Barker & Bedford 2017).

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Akers’s Social learning theory – is the interaction reciprocal between environmental determinants and cognitively learnt behaviour (Bandura 1977). Akers theory applies to delinquently, deviant behaviour and criminal behaviour. Social learning is the development of values, beliefs and morals, which are taught to us growing up. Personalities are developed through social culture teaching, interaction with those around us and personal cognitive, biological events and environmental situations (Renzetti & Curren 2001). Physiology, mental disorders and social class are not the cause of social learning behavioural issues. If people associate with criminals, they usually engage in criminal activity also.

Akers social behaviouristic approach explains criminality. Differential reinforcement is included in Akers theory and elucidates possibilities of criminality is operant. Central concepts of social learning theory are that criminal behaviour is acquired. Akers developed his theory around four concepts, definitions, imitation, differential reinforcements and differential associations (Akers 1998). Social learning can be an adverse modification of controlling behaviour for an ultimate goal, such as committing murder or violent homicide. Social learning is a sequence by which a person comes to a point and chooses to break the law or commit a deviant act; it is a typical temporal sequence (Cross 2019). Biological theories question are people just born bad? A criminal has different physiologically due to biological inferiority. Biological theories concerning the crime of homicide focus on anatomical genetic and physiological abnormalities. Criminal behaviour can be passed through generations which indicate a heredity biological environment was providing nexus for consideration of the crime causation. Traditional biological theories focus on anatomical and physiological generic abnormalities which differ from law-abiding citizens (Ellwood 2000).

Lombroso’s biological theory of the born criminal focused on physical characteristics and how the criminals were behind in evolution (Rafter 2006). Lombroso theory explained that physical features identify born criminals as an atavism. Lombroso analysed that criminals were genetic throwbacks through evolution with different characteristics to regular law-abiding citizens. Physical makeup, mental capabilities and primitive evolution instincts were different and led to violating social rules and committing crimes. Lombroso biological theory revealed if a male has five or more of the visual different asymmetry physical anomalies was noted that the person was a born criminal, and three abnormalities for a female (Akers, Sellers & Jennings, p. 45, 2016). Visible stigmata of criminals had a different asymmetry of the face, head, ears, longer arms, receding chins, excessive cheekbones, large fingers. Many inmates in prison have a mesomorph muscular body type, concluding that Lombroso’s biological theory has validity (Rafter 2006).

Theories translate to practice thorough understanding of psychological theories. Health-related behaviours and problems which provide insight through exploring can lead to intervention before a crime is committed. The theories covered in this essay have consistencies which explain that recidivism is highly likely for murders. A large percentage of offenders have mental disorders and will re-offend if not put in jail. Preventing homicide would be every police officers dream, but in reality, it is impossible. Psychopathic people live and work among us, seemingly ordinary and in most cases will not ever commit a serious crime; however, some do. If when an offender is arrested for assault, especially domestic violence, more needs to be done to keep the offender off the streets. In 71 per cent of domestic homicide cases, a previous offence of domestic violence occurred (AIC 2015).

An integrated approach recognises crime as a multidimensional, complex phenomenon which has multiple reasons for what causes the offender to commit the crime. Community programs for at-risk youth and community programs may be beneficial in the preventing or at least reduction of homicide rates (Akers, Sellers & Jennings 2016). If offenders who are convicted for minor offences have mental health evaluations and treatment when required, this may help to prevent at-risk offenders not to escalate to more violent serious crimes such as homicide and murder. Future research may examine the presence of specific psychiatric symptoms, when a mentally ill offender commits a homicide and whether these may be more influential in the method of homicide used than the psychiatric diagnosis of the offender (Abreu, Barker & Bedford 2017). The roots of criminality lie in the way people think and make their decisions.

Criminals think and act differently than other people, even from a very young age. Criminals are, by nature, irresponsible, impulsive, self-centred, and driven by fear and often anger — deterministic explanations of crime result from believing the criminal who is seeking sympathy. The cost of homicide cases is a disproportionate amount compared to other crimes. Homicide avidly consumes people through murder cases and murder fiction. The time spent on trying to solve homicide cases consumes human resources (Findley 2016). In concluding, criminals born with inborn abnormalities in their mental makeup can cause one to violate modern society rules and commit crimes such as murder. Social learning for criminals is reciprocal between environmental determinants and cognitively learnt behaviour. Lombroso’s biological theory explains that criminals are born bad and criminal behaviour such as committing murder is a result of nature rather than nurture.

Doctor Robert Hare PCL-R score evaluated that psychopathic traits are common in criminals who commit homicide. Biological theories concerning the crime of homicide indicate that anatomical genetic and physiological abnormalities are present in violent criminals. Criminals with biological, genetic abnormalities have poor behavioural control. We can not put every person in prison with a mental disorder or personality disorder or even a social awkwardness to keep the world safe. However statistically, a lesser crime is often committed before the homicide, so mental health assessment and intervention programs should be implemented for lesser crimes such as domestic assault to assert if the offender has predecessor flags for committing more violent future crimes.

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