Theissue of crime and antisocial behaviors among individuals has beenstudies extensively by psychologists and sociologists. Psychologicaland biosocial theories have been developed to help criminologistslink between characteristics of individuals and criminal behaviors. has been used to explain how mental processesinteract with the social environment to explain criminal behaviors.While sociological theories focus on how the social environmentsinfluence or explain criminal behaviors, psychoanalytic theory ismore concerned about aggressive behaviors or antisocial behavior andtheir association with mental processes, learning and personality(Vito & Maahs, 2012).can be described asa theory of the unconscious mind. The Freudian theory argues that theconscious and unconscious mind has a role to play in criminalbehavior. This is very critical for criminologist in understandingwhy individuals commit crimes and some of the psychological treatmentthat can be used to rehabilitate criminals. For example, if theunconscious thoughts and motivations can be converted into consciousthoughts, the individual will be less likely to commit crimes. Thebasic reason why psychoanalytic theory is significant in criminologyis the fact that it focuses on the offender.
Theproposal by Sigmund Freud that antisocial behaviors are as a resultof the unconscious mind is the foundation of psychoanalytic theory ofcriminology. The forces acting within an individual’s mind resultsinto criminal behaviors. According to Freud, the experiences of anindividual during childhood had a significant role in the developmentof the unconscious and conscious mind in adults. The id, ego andsuperego, how they develop and their influence on decisions made anindividual are the foundation of psychoanalytical theory of crime(Elliott, 2015). While the id is the unconscious and primitive partof the mind, the ego is partly conscious and mediates between theunrealistic demands of the id. The id part of the mind is a naturalinstinct that makes individual aggressive and antisocial. It can bedescribed as the impulsive psyche in an individual that directlyrespond to human instincts. In a new born, the behaviors are directlyinfluenced by the id which demands for immediate gratification ofphysical pleasures. Thus, if the id is in control, an individual willtake actions that result into pleasure irrespective of theconsequence. The immediate gratification of pleasure principle canbe used to explain criminal behaviors (Elliott, 2015).
Onthe other hand, the ego is part of the id that can be influenced bythe social environment. The interactions between the id and thesocial environment lead to the development of ego, which is partiallyconscious. The ego introduces reasoning in the thinking process.Although the mind works towards the gratification of the physicalpleasures, it finds realistic and reasonable ways through which thepleasures can be satisfied. This introduces social norms, values, andrules in the reasoning process. At a young age, the id is thedominant part of the mind because the young child is unaware of thesocial realities. As the individual learns how to live harmoniouslyin the society, the ego develops. This enables the individuals toconsider rules in the society before taking an action (Elliott,2015).
Thesuper ego plays a more important role in explaining criminalbehaviors in the society. The superego incorporates the lessonslearnt from parents and close associates during childhood developmentwith the values and rules learnt in the society. The role of superegoin an individual’s behavior is to balance between the role of theconscious and unconscious mind. This is by controlling the impulsesgenerated by the id and putting into consideration what is forbiddenin the society. Thus, the superego acts by persuading the ego toconsider actions that are morally acceptable rather than aiming atgratification of pleasures (Elliott, 2015).
AlthoughSigmoid Freud did not directly theorize about crime in the society,his thoughts about how mental processes influence behaviors has beenadopted by other psychoanalytic theorists to explain criminalbehaviors. The theory has been the basis of the theory that viewscriminals as individual’s who are unable to control theirimpulsive. It has also been used to explain the relationship betweenchildren upbringing and development of criminal behavior (Vito &Maahs, 2012). For example, individuals who were brought up indysfunctional societies or stressful environment are more likely todevelop criminal behaviors since the circumstances damaged or led topoor development of ego and superego. This makes the individuals lesslikely to put into consideration the social values and morality inmaking decisions. The ego and superego is also responsible for thefeeling of shame and regret when an individual is involved inantisocial behavior. This has been used by criminologist whereextreme cases of poorly developed ego and superego results intoinability of individuals to sympathize with victims of violent crimes(O`Grady, 2011).
Inaddition to understanding criminal behaviors, psychoanalytic theoryplays an important role in the development of interventions andpolicies in criminology. For example, although probation is based onsociological understanding of crime, psychoanalytic theory gives adeeper understanding of how probation works. Probation enables theindividual to learn the social values and morality which enhances theego and superego role in decision making processes. This means thatrehabilitation of an individual aims at making the offender consciousabout his actions and their implications (Vito & Maahs, 2012).
Elliott,A. (2015). Psychoanalytictheory: an introduction.London: Palgrave/Macmillan Education.
O`Grady,W. (2011). Crimein Canadian Context(2nd edition). Don Mills: Oxford University Press.
Vito,G. & Maahs, J. (2012). Criminology:theory, research, and policy.Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning.