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Women Criminals with Mental Disorders

Executive summary

Positivistic approaches argue that criminal behavior is as a result of the interaction between biological, environmental as well as social factors. They propose that individuals are predisposed to crime by factors such as low education level, poverty, and membership to certain subcultures. Biological positivism proposes that caused by biological inferiority. Biological crime theories also argue that hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone determine criminal behaviors with low levels of estrogen in females being shown to reduce their sexual drives hence making them less likely to commit offences related to sex. Psychological theories of crime include: Psychoanalytic theory which argues that all human beings have the natural drives as well as urges for committing crime which are repressed in the unconscious mind. Freud, the proponent of this theory argues that people with unresolved social issues who are referred to as psychopaths in psychology, have absolutely no sense of quilt, no subjective conscience, no sense of right or wrong, and no ability to empathize and therefore are likely to engage in crime due to their compromised conscience. Cognitive development theory as a psychological theory of crime argues that criminal behavior emanates from peoples’ perception of law and morality. Learning theory on the other hand argues that people learn criminal ways by associating those who engage in the vice. Neoclassical theory of crime argues that, factors such as insanity which reduces individual’s free will make the individual more likely to engage in crime. Postpartum psychosis and Postpartum exhaustion affect the mother to the extend that she carries out infanticide.

Introduction

Criminology is a behavioral science that focuses on the study of the nature, extend, causes as well as the control of criminal behavior. This paper discusses criminological theories and how they play in with women criminals. It focuses majorly on mental illnesses in women and how these illnesses predispose them to crime. Previous researchers have not linked such theories with criminal behavior in women and that’s why this subject is of interest to me.

Research methodology

To achieve the research objectives, both primary and secondary sources of information were made use of. Primary sources of data consisted of interviews carried out on professionals such as psychologists well versed with the subject. Secondary sources of information on the other hand consisted of library research targeting books and articles touching on the subject.

Research findings and discussion.

Sociological positivism as a school of thought proposes that people are predisposed to crime by societal factors such as low education level, poverty, and membership to certain subcultures (Seidman, 1996). Other proponents of this school of thought have suggested that overpopulation contributes very highly to increased crime in the society (Seidman, 1996). Theories of crime apply to both males and females. Biological theories of crime causation also popularly referred to as biological positivism are theories which argue that criminals are different from non-criminals and that crime is caused by biological inferiority (Seidman, 1996). According to this theory, the innate psychological make up produces certain physical as well as genetic traits which distinguish criminals from those who are not criminals. Hormonal abnormalities have also been linked with criminal behaviors. Researchers believe that hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone determine criminal behaviors. Low levels of estrogen in women reduce their sexual drives hence make them less likely to commit offences related to sex (Cohn, 2007).

Proponents of Positivistic approaches argue that criminal behavior is as a result of the interaction between biology and environmental as well as social factors (Morse, 1997). They believe that biology or genes can predispose a person to criminal behaviors. What determines if the person commits the criminal behavior or not is the environmental or social conditions the person is subjected to (Marina, 1996).

 Psychological theories of crime argue that human differences make some people more predisposed to committing crime than others. These individual differences in behavior are caused by differences in personal characteristics as well as biological factors and social interactions among individuals. Psychoanalytic theory of crime was proposed by Sigmund Freud (Marina, 1996). This theory proposes that all human beings have the natural drives as well as urges for committing crime which are repressed in the unconscious mind (Marina, 1996). This shows that all human beings have an inherent capacity to commit crime. Human beings however develop inner controls to suppress this urge to commit crime as they get socialized in the society. Freud suggested that, faulty identification of children with their parents causes the development of criminal behavior in them. Freud believed that individuals with unresolved as well as deep – rooted social problems are referred to as psychopaths (Mead, 1934). Such people have absolutely no sense of quilt, no subjective conscience, no sense of right or wrong, and no ability to empathize. These people are also known as sociopaths or antisocial personalities and are more likely to engage in crime due to their compromised conscience (Mead, 1934).

Cognitive development theory is a theory that argues that criminal behavior emanates from peoples’ perception of law and morality (Mead, 1934). The proponent of this school of thought is Kohlberg, a developmental psychologist (Siegel, 2003). He proposed three levels of moral development. According to him, there are basically three levels of moral reasoning with each level having two stages. The first level of moral development occurs during middle childhood. This level is called the preconventional level. At this level, children stick to moral principles in an effort to avoid punishment by remaining obedient (Morse, 1997). The second level is termed as the conventional level and it occurs at the end of middle childhood (Cohn, 2007). At this stage, individual’s moral reasoning is pegged on the expectations that their family as well as significant others have for them (Siegel, 2003). The third stage of moral development occurs during early adulthood. At this stage, moral reasoning is no longer based on social conventions. At this stage, individuals act as change agents and strive to advance the existing social laws and order (McLennan, 1980). Failure by individuals to transit successfully from one level of moral development to another leads to moral fixation, a situation whereby, individual’s moral development is arrested. Such individuals end up engaging in criminal behaviors. This is true for men as it is for women (McLennan, 1980).

Learning theory on the other hand is based on behavioral psychology principles. Behavioral psychology proponents argue that behavior is learned while its maintenance is ensured by factors such as rewards and consequences (McLennan, 1980). According to this theory therefore, people learn criminal ways by associating with people who engage in the vice. Neoclassical theory of crime argues that, though human beings exercise free will, factors such as insanity may reduce an individual’s capacity to exercise the same (Cohn, 2007).

Postpartum psychosis, also referred to as postpartum blues, is simply a psychological depression that occurs to a large number of mothers after delivery (Moyer, 2001). Its estimated to occur in about 50% of all mothers after giving birth. This condition has been termed by mental health experts as a leading precipitator of infanticide. This condition attacks women some few months after pregnancy and may linker for over a year (Moyer, 2001). Its characterized by: sadness, fatigue, disturbed sleeping pattern, reduced libido, loss of appetite, anxiety, episodes of crying and irritability. Hormonal changes in women is known to be the leading cause of the condition. Postpartum exhaustion is slightly different from postpartum depression and its is caused by fatigue, sleep deprivation as well as hormonal changes in the bodes of women immediately after giving birth (Moyer, 2001). Prevalence of this condition is higher in women who give birth to children with severe colic as well as other conditions which result to abnormal sleep schedules (Moyer, 2001).

Baby or maternity blues is a condition that affects about 80% of women after giving birth. Its characterized by mild and transitory moodiness, tearfulness, irritability, hypochondriasis, sleeplessness, concentration impairment, feelings of isolation, and headache. This condition leads to inconsistence of mothers with childcare (Deflem, 2006). Such mothers focus on the negative aspects of childcare leading to poor coping strategies. This worsens the mother-infant relationship and in most cases leads to infanticide (Deflem, 2006).

Conclusion

This paper has discussed Positivistic approaches to criminal behavior which argue that the tendency to engage in crime is as a result of the interaction between biological, environmental as well as social factors. Factors which predispose people to crime according to this theory have been discussed and they have included: low education level, poverty, and membership to certain subcultures. Biological crime theories have also been discussed. They argue that hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone determine criminal behaviors with low levels of estrogen in females being shown to reduce their sexual drives hence making them less likely to commit offences related to sex. Psychological theories of crime have included: Psychoanalytic theory, Cognitive development theory, and Learning theory. Finally, Postpartum psychosis and Postpartum exhaustion have been seen to affect the mother to the extend that she carries out infanticide.

References

Cheng, E. (2007). “Independent Judicial Research in the Daubert Age”. Duke Law Journal, Vol. 56,

Cohn,E. (2007). “ changes in Scholarly Influence in Major International Criminology Journals”. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 40,

Deflem, M. (2006). Sociological Theory and Criminological Research: Views from Europe and the United States. New York: Elsevier

Marina, A. (1996). “ criminal law and women: Giving the abused woman who kills a jury of her peers who appreciate trifles”. American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 33

McLennan, G. (1980). Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory. New York: Routledge.

Mead, H. (1934). Mind Self and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Morse, S. (1997). “Immaturity and Irresponsibility”. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 88

Moyer, L. (2001). Criminological Theories: Traditional and Nontraditional Voices and Themes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Seidman, D. (1996). “Juror Reactions to Attorneys at Trial”. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 87

Siegel, J. (2003). Criminology, 8th ed. London: Thomson-Wadsworth.

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