The criminal justice system is a critical pillar in society that is mandated to protect the common person and maintain law and order. It is also supposed to help improve the behaviour of criminals by correcting them while they are in custody. There are different ways that the criminal justice system uses to understand the issues of an individual and try to correct them so that they become better citizens. Research conducted on some of the frequent criminals arrested for violent crimes indicates that they have undergone trauma once or various times in their lives. It indicates that most young people develop their character from the experiences that they have been through that changed their perspective on life. The Trauma-informed approach explores how traumatic events shapes the life and behaviours of individuals. This can be explained through a different psychological perspective that explains how human behaviour is shaped.
The behavioural approach explains that human behaviour is learned through observation and is not a mental process. Trauma develops from different events that happen in an individual life and affects their behaviours. Trauma can be from abuse, neglect, assault, bullying, accidents, abandonment, victimization, and Violence. They can have short, medium, and long-term effects on an individual, influencing their behaviours negatively. The psychodynamic approach explains that human behaviour is a result of the early experiences that shape the personality and behaviours of an individual. Therefore, the research on the effects of trauma on violent behaviours is identified by the psychological theories of personalities. The paper will explore two theories of psychological perspective and how they influence behaviour, the theories of criminal behaviours and factors that may have caused the individual to engage in a criminal act, and the application of the psychological perspective in public services.
Criminal Justice System
The social learning theory suggests that human behaviour is a result of what they have learned in their environment. Individuals interact with the environment, where they learn through observing, imitating, and modelling what they see others do (Akers and Jennings, 2015 pg. 232). Learning is influenced by motivation, attitudes, emotions, and attention. People learn directly from the consequences of the behaviours of other people or indirectly through media. Children learn from many people around them because they do not know what is right or wrong. They can learn from family, friends, and society, and they do not know whether the actions they learn are appropriate or inappropriate (Akers and Jennings, 2015, p. 232). Children may believe whatever is happening in their environment is the right thing to do, while it might be a criminal offence (Bandura, 2019, p. 145). Therefore, they can learn negative behaviour, which can be a crime according to the law.
The individual pays attention to the new behaviour before imitating it, and then the retention of the behaviour is done when an individual remembers the behaviour. Retention is crucial in development as it shows that the child observed and mastered the behaviour (Akers and Jennings, 2015, p. 235). Then the behaviour is reproduced when an individual tries to perform the same action or imitates the observed behaviour without being limited by our physical abilities. After observations and imitation, individuals find or may be motivated to continue with the behaviour. Mostly lack of negative consequences motivates individuals to continue with the behaviour, which might be a crime or good behaviour.
The psychodynamic theory of human behaviour suggests that human behaviours result from the events that happen during childhood. Adult life behaviours emerge from the influences developed at an early age. Childhood conflicts shape and drive personality and behaviours (Traylor et al., 2022). An individual learns their behaviour at an early age depending on the experiences that they go through. Therefore, if a child grows up in a society with a lot of Violence and abuse, they are likely to grow up being violent and believe that abuse is the only way of life (Caputo and Tomai 2020 pg. 2070). In contrast, a child growing up in a loving and caring family will likely become a loving and caring person in the future.
The social learning theory and psychodynamics have similarities and differences as they explain human behaviour and how it is shaped by internal and external forces at an early age. Both theories acknowledge that individual behaviour is a result of what they learn in their environment because they are unaware of what is right and wrong (Bandura, 2019, pg. 147). Childhood experiences are essential in shaping behaviours and perspectives. Both acknowledge that childhood experiences are vital in shaping individual behaviour and personality. Social learning theory explains that humans learn new behaviours by observing and imitating others that they grow up seeing in society (Akers and Jennings, 2015 pg. 236). It can be family, friends or the community, and they will develop the same behaviours if they are rewarded and not punished. The psychodynamic theory states that desires and unintentional conflicts are responsible for developing an individual’s behaviours.
Both theories explain human behaviour as a product of an unintentional process. The psychodynamic theory relies on the desires and unintentional conflicts that humans develop at an early age. Human behaviour is developed while an individual tries to resolve conflicts and desires (Pitman and Knauss, 2020, pg.453). Social learning theory explains that humans can learn behaviours unconsciously or unintentionally without acknowledging or being aware that they are in the learning process (Akers and Jennings, 2015, pg. 235). Also, they believe that learning is the only way humans develop their behaviours. The psychodynamic theory explains that human behaviour is developed as a resolution of unconscious desires and conflicts developed at an early age. Social learning theory suggests that humans develop their behaviours by observing, reinforcing, and acknowledging the rewarded and not punished behaviours.
The difference between the social learning theory and psychodynamic theory is based on the role of internal and external factors, behaviour agency, and their focus on past and present behaviour. Psychodynamic theory suggests that human behaviour is developed due to uncontrolled desires and conflicts developed when an individual is unconscious (Traylor et al., 2022). The effort placed trying to resolve the conflicts and meeting the desires developed at an early age shape the behaviours of an individual. On the other hand, in social learning theory, humans have control of the behaviours that they want to acquire. They learn the behaviours through observation and imitate them. If the behaviours they observe are reinforced, encouraged, and rewarded, they will repeat the same habits, which become behaviours. Punished behaviours are not repeated as an individual observes undesirable consequences of certain behaviours. Emphasis is on the role of environment, social interactions, and models of behaviours available.
Social learning and Psychodynamic theory are relevant in explaining the influences of behaviours. Since they explain the source of human behaviour, which is learning from their environment and resolving already created conflicts and desires (Bandura, 2019, pg. 147), they can be used to explain why people from a certain area engage in criminal activities more than others. Youths growing up in ghettos and areas where there is high crime prevalence are more likely to engage in criminal activities than youths that have grown up in peaceful communities. Youths who observe that the criminal in the area live better lives and are not punished by law will like to be like them, which can lead to the development of criminal behaviour despite the youth being innocent at the early stages of life. If they observe that more people in the community who engage in criminal activities are punished, they may refrain from criminal behaviour to become good people in society.
Psychodynamic theory can be used in the criminal justice system to understand why many youths commit crimes. Some youths may commit crimes because of trauma they developed after watching people who committed a crime not punished (Pitman and Knauss, 2020 pg.457). As a way of revenge, they can consider committing a crime because they do not believe they will be punished. The desire to revenge for criminal activity may force an innocent individual born without motivation to engage in crime to turn to crime as a survival method to overcome trauma. It can be used in the criminal justice system to understand the psychological issues that motivate individuals to engage in criminal activities and how they can be resolved. It will be used to develop coping behaviours and determine how they can improve their overall being. A trauma-informed intervention can be applied to help resolve psychological issues that contributed to maladaptive habits, such as therapy sessions addressing emotional and psychological issues.
Moreover, social learning theory can be used in the criminal justice system to explain how trauma resulted in engaging in criminal activities as a way of coping (Bandura, 2019, pg. 148). It can be the use of substances or aggression toward others. Social learning will be employed in the trauma-informed approach to resolving the impact of the trauma on certain behaviour and overall being. A trauma-informed approach can be used in the criminal justice system to provide a supportive environment for healing and recovery from negative behaviours (Akers and Jennings, 2015, pg. 239). Individuals can unlearn their criminal behaviours and learn new adaptive behaviours in therapy sessions, where they can learn better coping skills from each other through modelling and observation. Social learning theory can be applied in the correction areas to motivate criminals to participate in good behaviours that are rewarding and avoid maladaptive activities.
Theories of Criminal Behavior and Casual Factors
There are a lot of mass shooting cases in America that can be associated with trauma as a causal effect. This is because most mass shooters have observed shootings in movies and films, meaning they take shooting as a way to resolve conflict (Caffrey, 2013). Also, they may have experienced cases where people turned to gun violence as a way to resolve conflict. Trauma rises from different events and can motivate individuals to hurt themselves or others as a coping method. Mass shooters believe that humans ate the source of their problems, and if they have a specific group of people whom they believe are the problem, they will turn to them and try to hurt them.
One real-world crime associated with trauma is the case of Mr Flanagan, who shot his former colleagues live on camera. The news reporter was associated with different cases of rage and conflicts at the workplace (Shear et al., 2015). He was stoked with racial grievances and connected his actions to the discrimination he faced at the workplace because of his sexual orientation and race. Vester Lee Flanagan II was targeting the individual to attack because he waited for Alison Parker and Adam Young to get into their session on air at WDBJ, and he attacked them. Flanagan shot the video of him shooting the news anchor and the cameraman and posted the video on Facebook. He aimed to ensure that everyone saw his actions while shooting Ms Parker, 24 and Ward, 27, the cameraman.
Mr Flanagan claimed that there was a cover-up of the mass shooters in America as most of the mass shooters were not arrested. He documented that one of the Mass shootings that happened to the church choir had the initials of criminals on the bullets used (Shear et al., 2015). He claimed he was on edge and felt God had asked him to act. He also highlighted issues at a workplace that he faced. Bullying, discrimination, and harassment on his Twitter account. He complained lack of equal employment opportunities to the commission, which seemed to be an issue that affected him. Even after filing a case in court claiming to be discriminated against, the case was dismissed.
Clearly, his actions were an act of revenge for what he went through at WDBJ station. He felt sidelined, and considering that the company had sued in court and was found to be innocent, he increased his anger and went after the staff at the station to revenge (Akers and Silverman, 2014 pg. 28). He was furious because the people he thought were criminals were going free without facing any consequences for their actions. Therefore he believed that his actions should not also be criminalized (Bayrakdar and King, 2023 pg. 43). He was influenced by the society that individuals must face the consequences of their actions and watch the people who harassed and discriminated against them. He treated him differently; walking free was not okay with it.
According to reports by The New York Times, Flanagan was a good person, and many people in their village, including lecturers, stated that he was a good person growing up; the idea that he had murdered his colleagues was shocking to many, considering his personality. The behaviour might have resulted from social learning that he can use shootings as a way to revenge his actions (Akers and Silverman, 2014 pg. 30). Social learning states that human behaviour is learned through observation, and actions that are not punishment can be easily imitated. Flanagan may have observed in the environment that use of if the government was not ready to listen to his plea about the discrimination and harassment he went through at work, he believed that Violence was the only means to use as a conflict resolution and deal with his grievances.
Additionally, it can be explained in the context of psychodynamics that Flanagan used to feel discriminated against because he grew up in a society where black and gay people were discriminated against. Therefore, he wanted to show the people he was not powerless by using his unresolved conflicts as rage and desire for revenge (Boccaccini et al., 2008, pg. 490). Mr Flanagan claimed that he heard God asking him to take revenge for the mass shooting that happened in a church, and it can be associated with psychotic episodes related to the trauma or unresolved conflicts from the past. According to Shear et al. (2015), The story in The New York Times states that Flanagan was always hostile and created a hostile working environment by provoking people, which could result from attitude and behaviour from unresolved trauma at an early age.
Application of Psychological Perspectives in Public Services
Psychological perspectives are essential tools in different public services applied to reduce criminal behaviour and promote the well-being of individuals impacted by trauma. The psychological perspectives can be used to research trauma’s effects on criminal activities. They describe why people engage in criminal activities if they went through traumatic events in their childhood (Wyrick and Atkinson, 2021). Research on the effects of trauma on an individual life can assist in developing ways to assist young people and children not to react negatively to traumatic events. Psychological perspectives may explain the source of certain behaviour, which makes it easier for different organizations to solve the problem. It gives the correctional centres a point to start while guiding young people on ways to avoid getting into crime again.
The psychological perspectives can be applied in the criminal justice system by law enforcement to examine the criminals and recognize chances of trauma as a causal factor to their behaviours and protect the criminal by reducing the chances of traumatizing them again, which can worsen the case instead of correcting the offenders (Wyrick, and Atkinson, 2021). Police may be careful while arresting people who acted out of trauma and avoid using excessive force, which threatens the criminal. They can offer moral support and referrals to mental health services, where they will get cognitive support.
They can be applied to the detained individuals in prisons in the rehabilitation centres to provide therapy and counselling to prisoners who have undergone traumatic events in their lives that motivated them to engage in criminal activity as a result of coping with their situation. Prisons can also avoid creating traumatic situations for the inmates, such as secluding them in single cells, which can re-traumatize the individual. The authorities will have less time to deal with prisoners since they know the cause of their behaviour and can help them recover from such negative behaviours.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a psychological perspective that involves talking therapy that can be used to handle problems by controlling how people think and behave. It can be used to treat anxiety and traumatic events that have happened in an individual’s life and alter how they behave. It can be used on individuals who have committed drug and substance abuse crimes to cope with depression and other traumatic events to help them become sober.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) works with different researchers to understand the dynamics of childhood exposure to Violence. The research was mostly conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) are supported to understand of how children exposed to childhood trauma and Violence respond to chances of conducting criminal activities. The government has developed programs and policies designed to reduce Violence and eliminate the impacts of Violence on children and youth. The government conducts research to explore the factors that can be used to reduce delinquency and other negative consequences of trauma and determine interventions for individuals affected by trauma.
The government is making progress in adopting psychological perspectives that can be used in restoring the justice system where prisoners are corrected and become important figures in society. The Beyond youth custody program is s program initiated to help youths who engage in crimes due to traumatic events in their lives have a positive life (Petrillo and Bradley, 2022). The government acknowledges that some youths act out of the life that they have lived, and they are ready to provide solutions through counselling and therapies to avoid forcing them into custody, where they can be more traumatized. Also, The government works by helping individuals on probation not to go back to crime life by offering them a trauma-informed approach to counsel and helping them mentally to avoid criminal activities (Liddle et al., 2016 pg 8 ). Counseling services offer them a chance to transform and be better people not living or acting out of the experiences that they have faced in life.
Moreover, psychological perspectives have assisted the government in reducing the rate of reoffending. It declined from between 23.1% and 31.7% for juveniles and adults (Ministry of Justice, 2023). Overall the rate was at 24.3% in 2021, which was a decline of 0.4 % from 2020 statistics. Overall, government intervention to monitor the behaviours of criminals has proved to decrease crime rates and reoffending rates. The government is focused on reducing crime rates by rehabilitating offenders and cutting crimes in prisons. The government will introduce rehabilitation centres for criminals with addiction issues and provide education and skills to the criminals while offering chances for them to look for jobs after they are released from prison (Ministry of Justice UK & Raab, 2021 pg. 1). It ensures that prisoners released have access to counselling services and therapies where they can receive guidance to avoid getting back in trouble.
In conclusion, psychological perspectives define human behaviour, which can be addressed using the theories of behaviour. The social learning theory emphasizes that human behaviour is learned from internal and external environments. The interaction with the environment dictates the kind of behaviours and personalities that an individual will have in the future. The psychodynamic theory states that human behaviour and perspective result from unresolved conflicts and desires created in childhood. Both approaches indicate that human behaviour is modelled by learning from the environment. This is in relation to the idea that people may learn or act in criminal behaviour based on the trauma they faced while growing up in their environment. Trauma affects actions and perceptions about life, and it may force people to act in a criminal way. Therefore, the government of the United Kingdom, through research, has realized the effects of trauma on criminal behaviour and wants to develop psychological perspectives that can be used together with a Trauma-informed approach to resolving criminal activities that results from traumas. The psychological perspectives can be applied in the criminal justice system to help criminals from reoffending. The government of the United Kingdom has assisted in research on how to lower criminal activities through rehabilitation programs and restorative justice.
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