Psychosocial Theories in Criminal Justice

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PSYCHOSOCIAL THEORIES in the APPLICATION
of CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Mark P. Robertson

Deviant Behavior
Instructor Tomasina Cook
EMPIRE STATE COLLEGE
July 30, 2012

There are several Psychosocial Theories pertaining to human behavior. The relation of some of these theories can be directly applied to the Criminal Justice field. Theories focus on why some behavior develops, when and where the development begins, who is affected by it and may be particularly more susceptible, what signs or behaviors to look for, and what may be done to prevent it. Psychologist Terrie Moffitt proposed her Developmental Theory identifying two developmental ‘paths’ or ‘patterns’ in which an individual may exhibit. Moffitt claims that criminal behavior can mainly be classified into one of these categories. Moffitt states that the ‘Life-Course-Persistent (LCP) offender’ continues their antisocial ways and behavior across or throughout all kinds of conditions and situations, and throughout the life course (or life span). This is a developmental path in which the offender shows various psychological and antisocial difficulty, and defiance on a consistent basis at an early age, on through youth and adolescence, and further into adulthood and beyond. It appears as though once LCP’s become involved in a deviant and offensive lifestyle they continue and increase their offending as they grow older. Young children as LCP’s often show evidence of this developmental ‘path’ in ways such as wild temper tantrums and mood swings, to biting and hitting. As adolescents, LCP’s show signs such as truancy, shoplifting and substance abuse. This may seem like rather common or somewhat ‘normal’ behavior for many younger individuals, and in many cases it is. However, when the young person or adolescent does not ‘grow-out’ of this phase or behavioral ‘pattern’, it can progress into adulthood. The adult LCP may often develop such behavior as robbery, rape, child abuse, even murder. Adult LCP’s show high levels of antisocial behavior, and are almost exclusively male in gender. The offending might even escalate, with the offenses and behavior becoming more violent in nature, more erratic, and unpredictable. As stated earlier, some criminal behavior may be seen or viewed as relatively ‘normal’ behavior for younger individuals, especially males. In fact, most young individuals do ‘grow-up and out’ of this, and choose (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) another developmental pathway. They may offend or display some type of criminal or ‘bad’ behavior as children, adolescents, or young adults, but usually stop in their late-teens to early twenties.

Terrie Moffitt states that these ‘youths’ are ‘Adolescent-Limited (AL) offenders’, and these individuals usually do not have or display the early developmental, persistent antisocial, or problem behavioral histories as their LCP counterparts. However the case may be, there is an occasional commonality between LCP and AL youth. Often times, the frequency and severity of offending among LCP and AL youth, is ‘mirrored’. The patterns of offending between them can be almost identical, but with the onset of young adulthood looming near, these patterns then abruptly change. For many reasons, the AL youth realizes that continued offending will not lead to any sort of positive outcome, and he or she then stops. Ultimately, when applied in a criminal justice setting, Moffitt’s developmental theory of the LCP person and the AL person shows that the AL ‘criminals’ or ‘delinquents’ have the ability, or at the very least, are more likely to regain control of their lives. They desist in their malevolent and/or devious behavior when they begin to mature and evolve into a more social, conventional, realistic, and ‘acceptable’ person. The LCP ‘criminal’ or ‘delinquent’ maintains their malevolent behavior, possibly and usually escalating into a more antisocial, unpredictable and dangerous person. LCP’s generally have long histories wrought...
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