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Theories of Crime in Forensic Psychology

The phenomenon of forensic psychology has always been an ambivalent notion in terms of its interpretation. According to the researchers, the primary idea behind this branch of criminology was to investigate the insane behavior of offenders, which concerns some severe cases of mental disorders and psychopathy (McLaughlin & Muncie, 2019). However, over the years, such a definition has gradually shifted towards a generic anthropological approach that emphasized the investigation of any crime through the lens of the offenders’ psychology and behavioral patterns. For this reason, forensic psychology as a discipline has become closely correlated with the broad theories of crime that aim at defining the reasons behind the offender’s decision to act in an unlawful manner.

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The first theory of crime is known as psychodynamic theory, and it states that offenders tend to act in accordance with their subconscious mental processes that form as early as in their childhood. The acknowledgment of such a theory may help forensic psychologists to look into the mental patterns of the offenders’ behavior with the help of psychodynamic therapy (Griffith et al., 2017). Another approach, called behavioral theory, suggests that people learn violent behavior in the process of observing and conforming to their environment. By acknowledging this theory, forensic psychologists have the ability to perceive offenders’ behavior in combination with their immediate environment and make causal links concerning the collected data.

Cognitive theory, in its turn, states that criminal behavior derives from one’s perception of the world that forms at the stages of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Forensic psychologists are prone to use the so-called “cognitive interviews” that consist of questions that evoke one’s long-term memory and link these memories to direct criminal behavior (Abdullahi, 2020). Thus, having considered some of the major theories of crime and criminal behavior, one may conclude that forensic psychology, while aiming at observing all possible precedents to unlawful behavior, cannot exist in isolation from any of the theories, as they are designed to investigate one’s behavioral patterns from three different perspectives.


Abdullahi, A. A. (2020). Contemporary issues in sociology and social work: An Africanist perspective.

Griffith, E. E. H., Norko, M. A., Buchanan, A., Baranoski, M. V., & Zonana, H. V. (Eds.). (2017). Bearing witness to change: Forensic psychiatry and psychology practice. Routledge.

McLaughlin, E., & Muncie, J. (Eds.). (2019). The SAGE dictionary of criminology (4th ed.). Sage.

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