Psychological and Non-Psychological Theories Term Paper

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The purpose of this research is to examine a particular form of crime known as illegal drug use. Illegal drug use has a negative impact on society and is a major factor in many crimes committed. This research looks at two perspectives for illegal drug use. The criminal act of illegal drug use was analyzed with a detailed description and application of the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory. James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein Constitutional-Learning Theory, a non-psychological theory, was described and applied as well. Both theories make strong cases in describing why it is the more practical of the two theories in explaining the crime of illegal drug use; but after an in-depth analysis Wilson and Herrnstein's theory fits better in this specific argument.

Theories of Crime

The idea of crime always has intrigued people of all ages; look at how people flock to the movie theaters in droves to watch his or her favorite super heroes or good guys fight off the bad guys to save society. Society's fascination with crime has helped to create a multi-billion dollar industry in comics, movies, and television shows; everyone enjoys when Batman or Spider-Man come to the rescue and stop the evil doers of society. The fascination over the notion of a hero comes with the distinction that criminals do exist in modern society.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Psychological and Non-Psychological Theories Assignment

To have a better understanding of what a criminal act is, the definition of crime must be explored. According to the website, crime is "an act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it for which punishment is imposed upon conviction" or in laymen's terms a person who knowingly or unknowingly breaks the law (2011, p. 1). Criminal acts or acts of delinquency can include excessive use of police force or brutality, mass murder, police corruption, homicide, shoplifting, computer hacking, burglary, theft, robbery, fraud, drug trafficking, violence, terrorism, gambling, arson, embezzlement, prostitution, assault, and many more.

The criminal act of illegal drug use will be analyzed with a brief history of criminology and its theories, a detailed description and application of the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory. There will also be a description and application of the non-psychological (Constitutional-Learning) theory of James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein Theory. An analysis be included describing the stronger of the two theories in explaining the crime of illegal drug use while discussing the implications of this theory in terms of how it could influence a crime-control policy.

Illegal Drug Use as a Crime

Illegal drug use and its consequences threaten citizens from every socio-economic background, geographic region, educational level, and ethnic group. It has been estimated that more than 12 million Americans over the age of 12 use illegal drugs on a regular basis (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1995). More than 1/3 of all American have experimented with an illicit drug and another 1/3 has admitted to using cocaine or another prescription drug for non-medical purposes (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1995).

Many people believe that illegal drug use is not his or her individual problem but when asked a majority of people stated that drug-use and drug-related crimes are one of the worst social issues facing the global world (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009). Areas where illegal drug markets flourish are plagued by high crime rates and violent behavior.

Drugs relate to crime and criminal behavior in a variety of ways. Laws dictate that it is a criminal act to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute drugs (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics "drugs are related to crime through the effects they have on the user's behavior and by generating violence and other illegal activities (2009, p.1)." Illegal drug use has caused a rise in crime over the last 40 years; the chart below demonstrates the rapidness of crime growth with the amount of drug-related arrests made between the years of 1970-2007 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009).

In 2009 there were almost 14 million arrests made and 1.6 million of them (almost 12%) were for drug-related offenses, the third highest behind property crimes and assaults. The second chart below shows the amount of arrests made in 2009.

Source: FBI, The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)

Estimated Number of Arrests

United States, 2009

Total Number of Arrests


Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter


Forcible rape




Aggravated assault






Motor vehicle theft




Violent crime2


Property crime2


Other assaults


Forgery and counterfeiting






Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing




Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.


Prostitution and commercialized vice


Sex offenses)


Drug abuse violations




Offenses against the family and children


Driving under the influence


Liquor laws




Disorderly conduct


Criminological Theories and History

Criminology was created as one of theoretical fields of social sciences because of this social phenomena and its effect on societies (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). Biological, moral, and psychological factors have been studied with connections to criminology (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). Over the years, a great deal of criminological theories has developed and has led to new scientific fields such as forensic science, criminal psychology, and analysis of criminal statistics (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). According to many psychologists the psychological theory of crime is contrived from the viewpoint that individuals behave differently, and that some individuals are more prone to commit criminal acts. Differences may arise from personality characteristics, biological factors, or social interactions.

Crime is an object studies across cultures and its meaning has changed throughout history. In the 1700s torture, destructions of cities, slaves, child labor, were accepted as norms in society whereas today are considered harsh criminal acts (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). As societies grow and evolve so do the moral standards and laws that become part of the cultural norms. Laws can only be reflective of the values they have obtained in a given historical period and these are ever-changing in a lightning quick globalized society (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). Criminological ideas and theories may be classified according to the time in history in which they occurred.

Some theories center on the psychological traits of criminals whereas others can be developed on the relationship between socio-economic contexts and crime rates, while others delve into legalities surrounding punishment and rehabilitation or preventing crime entirely (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). The major theories behind crime are the classical, positive, and the Chicago school (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006).

The classical idea believed criminality occurred as the result of free will and individual choice and that all humans should be rational beings (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). The classical theory emphasized the social and legal aspects of crime; taking into consideration society's best interests and the role of law and government to protect the citizens (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006).

The positive theory was a philosophy created by August Comte (1798-1857) who was emphatically behind the scientific approach using hypothesis and observation to understand criminology better (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). The positive theory on criminology explained criminality as a human phenomenon that was caused via human nature and social determinants (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). An Italian physician Cesare Lomborso (1835-1909) believed that epilepsy and mental illness were driving forces behind the criminal mind (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006).

The third and final criminology theory is based on society and social conditions causing individuals to commit crimes. This theory is known as the Chicago school of thought and believes that criminology occurs because of immigration, disorganized urban growth, economic struggles, and the industrialization boom (Lerner, Lerner, & Cengage, 2006). Criminologists and sociologist today still point to the same social issues that have created crime in many urban dwellings.

Psychological Theory

Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory argues that the most constant factor contributing to criminal behavior is a child lacking an identity with his or her parents (1961). The psychoanalytical theory states that the child's lack of socialization skills may cause a personality disturbance that triggers antisocial impulses (Freud, 1961). Outward impulses led to a child displaying criminal behavior (Freud, 1961). Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory blends in with both the positive and Chicago theories of criminology. The positive theory fits because of human nature and social skills and the Chicago theory fits with the disorganization of society.

In the case of Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory it is easy to understand why a child's lack of identity with his or her parents, lack of social skills would trigger impulses that may cause criminal type of behavior. In the criminal activity of using illegal drugs the antisocial impulses would aid in triggering an individual to make an ill advised decision. The choices of using an illicit drug may stem for outward impulses, thus leading the person to criminal behavior.

When an individual displays antisocial and outward impulses the criminal… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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