Criminal Psychology: Rehabilitating Offenders are There Better Methods to Achieve This? Essay

The author intends to describe token economy programmes as a rehabilitation package, describe anger management as a therapy including CALM as a current model of anger management and finally conclude by comparing both economy and anger management programmes as they are used to treat offenders, in terms of the principles on which they are based, their effectiveness and impact upon recidivism.

Token Economy

The principles of learning have not only been applied in the laboratory but have also been applied in many real-life settings, such as classrooms, mental hospitals and prisons; the use of operant conditioning in such real-world settings is called behavioural modification (Ewan Williams 2010).

Many behaviour modification programmes rely on a technique called the token economy, in which desirable behaviour, such as co-operation and compliance, is reinforced by the use of tokens. These tokens have no intrinsic value but can be changed for primary reinforcers, when used in prisons most of the programmes also involve negative reinforcement, the removal of something unpleasant, and punishment, the implementation of something unpleasant, in order to reduce undesirable behaviour such as non-compliance and aggression. Tokens may be exchanged for privileges such as watching television or going into the exercise yard while a typical punishment would be isolation (Ewan Williams 2010).

Token economy programmes tend to have a direct, short term effect on specific behaviours, for example Hobbs and Holt (1976) recorded the effects of introducing a token economy to young delinquents across three small institutional units while the fourth unit acted as a control. Tokens were given for behaviour such as obeying rules, doing chores properly, co-operative social interactions and appropriate behaviour when queuing for meals; extra positive reinforcers such as soft drinks, sweets, leisure activities, cigarettes and passes home were also used. The programme showed a significant increase in the targeted behaviours compared to the group not involved in the programme. Other studies showed that token reinforcement also works with adult prisoners (Ayllon & Millan, 1979) However Ross and Mackay (1976) reported deterioration in behaviour when such a programme was used with delinquent girls, but such results are unusual (Ewan Williams 2010).

Although these programmes are popular, especially in the US, not many of them have been evaluated in terms of the conduct of the offenders after release. Moyes et al (1985) reported limited success with hospitalised behaviourally disordered males and females with a criminal history, after a year they had had fewer contacts with the police than a control group of similar patients, but after two years there was no difference (Ewan Williams 2010).

Anger Management or CALM

CALM (Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it) is a cognitive-behavioural anger management intervention, the primary aims of the CALM programme are to reduce the intensity, frequency and duration of an offender’s experience of anger and other emotions which can contribute to potential offending behaviour; it has been specifically designed to meet the needs of male offenders in managing emotions associated with the expression of aggressive and anti-social behaviour. The aim of the programme is to assist participants in reducing aggression through management of emotions, understand the factors that trigger anger and aggression, acquire skills to reduce the emotional and physiological levels of arousal, challenge thinking that potentially creates, sustains and escalates arousal, learn skills to resolve conflict effectively and plan how to deal with any potential relapse into former patterns of behaviour (Crown 2004).

The anger management programme module by module:

Module one includes primarily focusing on enhancing a prisoner’s motivation to participate in the programme and to change their behaviour (Crown 2004).

Module two includes group members being introduced to the concept of physiological arousal and the relationship between arousal and performance. They are taught how to identify physiological changes that they experience when becoming angry and are provided with a range of arousal management techniques (Crown 2004).

Module three includes facilitators working with participants to understand how their irrational, hurtful and unhelpful thoughts contribute to their feelings and actions, participants learn to recognise irrational thinking, to argue against it and replace it with a more rational way of thinking (Crown 2004).

Module four includes participants learning a number of skills to enable them to communicate more effectively with others, even in response to any potential provocation (Crown 2004).

Module five includes providing a framework for applying the skills learned so far to other emotions which can lead to problematic or offending behaviour, these include jealousy, depression, anxiety, social threats and fear of losing control, ‘superman feelings’ or feelings of unlimited power (Crown 2004).

Module six requires participants to identify the situations which are the most high risk for them in the future in terms of a possible return to anger and aggression, facilitators then support participants in developing relapse prevention plans which incorporate skills learned on the programme; included in this module is preparation for what happens if they do relapse and exploration of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ ways of coping following a relapse (Crown 2004).


Both token economy programmes and forms of anger management including CALM, can have significant positive effects upon juvenile delinquents and/or adult criminals, however, we as a society label individuals thus shaming and potentially reinforcing such anti social and/or negative behaviour; law, as a concept of man is essentially a sociological and philosophical means by which man as a collective species may co-exist without both chaos and anarchy and/or sociological breakdown. Once a supposed criminal has been labelled as such by the state, such a criminal label can and frequently does have the potential to destroy that individual’s life. Furthermore, we as society are merely mammals, and are therefore products of our individual physiological parents; inadequate parenting, and maternal deprivation, socio-cultural deprivation and/or poverty can potentially seriously impede an individual’s moral reasoning and ability to utilise sound cognitive skills, therefore, many such acts of supposed criminal behaviour are often merely the repercussions of an inadequate, and/or physically, psychologically or sexually abusive childhood or adolescence (Coordination Group Publications, 2009; Richard Gross, 2010).

Many supposed criminals or offenders have had to endure oppressive environments therefore enabling them to deal with what they perceive to be potentially threatening behaviour in a manner most average individuals seldom or never encounter; one might suggest that their fight or flight mechanism has been physiologically and/or psychologically altered allowing potentially swifter, more aggressive responses to a perceived danger or threat. However, such physiological changes might also be heightened to such a degree that the individual perceives a given threat when such a threat either does not exist or is considerably exaggerated within an individual’s cognitive thought processes (Coordination Group Publications, 2009; Richard Gross, 2010).

As a result any given anger management and/or token economy programme must both understand and acknowledge the aggressive behavioural nature such individuals have had to resort to, therefore any such rehabilitation techniques must incorporate an appreciation of, but equally define realistic, positive and healthy alternatives (Coordination Group Publications, 2009; Richard Gross, 2010).

Criminal Psychology: Theories of Criminality – Are Criminals born or made?

The author intends to describe the biological basis for criminality utilising Eysenck’s personality theory including the role of the autonomous nervous system and types of personality, describe the social theory of labelling as an explanation of criminal behaviour including how this might lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy, describe Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis and attachment theory, describe Hoffman’s parenting strategies and how power assertion might contribute to delinquency, describe Baumrind’s parenting styles and how authoritarian type can lead to criminality and finally to conclude by evaluating, including supporting studies, opposing studies, different theories of obedience and the application of such theory in a real world context.

Eysenck’s Personality Theory

According to Eysenck (1977) there are three fundamental types of personality, psychoticism (P), Extroversion (E), and Neuroticism (N) the PEN-model; these dimensions are independent and biologically based, according to Eysenck they are linked to criminality through the working of the central nervous system or (CNS). Delinquents appear to score high on all three dimensions due to the working of the CNS; they are less sensitive to punishment which results in poor conditioning followed by poor conscience development (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

Extraverts can be described as sociable, active, sensation-seeking, carefree, dominant, assertive and venturesome; extraverts are characterised by a low level of cortical arousal compared to introverts, in order to gain an optimum level of arousal they require a greater amount of excitement and stimuli in their environment. Such individuals are less susceptible to pain and punishment and experience less fear and anxiety therefore forming conditioned responses slowly (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

Neurotics are described as anxious, depressed, moody, tense, irrational, low self-esteem and emotional; the biological foundation of N is laid in the sympathic part of the autonomic nervous system which is involved in the fight and flight reactions. In situations in which strong emotions such as anger or anxiety are experienced, this system prepares the organism for an effective reaction, therefore neurotics can have a strong reaction to various forms of stress and/or external stimuli than non-neurotics; according to Eysenck the high N-score combined with the high E-score of delinquents can reinforce anti-social behaviour (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

Individuals with high levels of psychoticism are impulsive, egocentric, aggressive, unemphatic and tongueminded, when put under great stress the probability of developing a functional psychosis increases (S. Eysenck, 1997). According to Eysenck (1998) the P dimension is also based on the cortial arousal level in the central nervous system and is subsequently linked to conditionability and conscience development, therefore impulsivity would be the crucial trait in the link between conditionability and personality; impulsivity belongs to P and conditionability is linked to cortical arousal therefore high P scorers, similarly to high E-scorers have a low level of cortical arousal, thus less likely to condition and more prone to developing antisocial behaviour (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

The Self-fulfilling Prophesy

The social reaction, or labeling theory as it is sometimes known, evolved over time from as early as 1938 (Wellford, 1975). Basically it states that as a person commits a crime, they will receive the label of “criminal”. When a person is labeled as such by society, they are likely to accept this label as a part of them. Because the person now thinks of him/herself as a criminal, he/she is now likely to continue in his/her criminal behaviour (Becker, 1963) (Richard Gross, 2010).

This label is usually placed upon an individual during what is known as a ‘degradation ceremony,’ in which the accused or defendant is officially labelled as a ‘criminal’ because we as a society state they are; the focus of this theory is not on the person committing the crime but on the response of the general public, or audience and the perceived consequences of a said response. In layman’s terms, the audience labels the actor, or the law, as a concept of man, labels the defendant and this label can influence their behaviour for the rest of their lives; such is the case of self-fulfilling prophecy (Richard Gross, 2010).

Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis

Bowlby (1951) argued that something like imprinting occurs in humans, he developed several main claims, primarily that we have evolved a biological need to attach to our main caregiver, usually our biological mother; possessing one special attachment is termed monotropy, forming this attachment has inherent survival value as remaining close to our biological mother ensures food and protection. A strong attachment provides a ‘safe base,’ giving us confidence to explore our environment and a ‘template’ for all future relationships, we learn to trust and care for others. The first three years of life are critical for this attachment to develop, otherwise it may never do so; should the necessary attachment not develop, because of separation or death, or if it is broken, it might seriously damage the child’s social and emotional development (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

John Bowlby (1953) studied long-term maternal deprivation, although short-term separation may not necessarily be harmful for a child, Bowlby argued that long-term deprivation from an attachment figure could be harmful, he produced his maternal deprivation hypothesis (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

Bowlby theorised that deprivation from the primary carer during the critical period, the first 3 – 5 years, can have harmful effects on a child’s emotional, social, intellectual and even physical development; long-term effects of deprivation may include separation anxiety, the fear of another separation from the main carer, this may lead to problematic behaviour such as anxiety and avoidance of attending school, future relationships may be affected by this emotional insecurity (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

Hoffman’s Parenting Strategies

Hoffman, (1975) Hoffman has theorised that the adults’s inherent control of personal and physical power in the parent-child interacting process makes adults the critical factor in moral values internalisation; how the adult uses the power not only determines whether or not a child behaves according to the norms and standards set for him but also whether or not the child internalises those standards (Hoffman, 1963). The assertion of large amounts of power, towards the child, without any explanations such as yelling, or sending a child to his or her room, may control behaviour while he/she is in the presence of the adult, but will not cause the child to internalise the desired norms (Hoffman, 1960). In studies analysing demands using power without explanations vs. explained uses of power, unexplained power assertion has been found to correlate positively to child aggressiveness and transgressions when a child is among peers away from adult power (Hoffman, 1960, 1963b) (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

Hoffman’ theory is that adults generally use unexplained power for prohibitions (Hoffman, 1967). The adult forces the child to stop whatever he is doing, the power of the adult will enforce the behavior, but the frustration and anger created by the unexplained use of adult power prevents the child from understanding and internalising the nature of the standards which are the basis of the prohibitions (Hoffman, 1967) (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

There are also non-power techniques as well. Non-power assertion techniques entail less conflict and are thought to be more effective at creating internalisation. Hoffman cites withdrawal of affection and a process he calls induction as the two types of nonpower assertive methods used to control children’s’ behaviours. Of these two, induction creates most internalisation (Hoffman, 1967, 1970). Induction is an educational process. The adult offers the child explanations about the parent-child conflict situations, provides reasons for demanding changes in behaviour and gives explanations of the consequences of transgression (Richard Gross, 2010; CBS Interactive 2010).

Baumrind’s Parenting Styles

An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life; in extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children. Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers (Kendra Cherry 2011).

According to Baumrind, permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behaviour, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (1991). Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school (Kendra Cherry 2011).

Baumrind suggests that these parents “monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative” (1991). Authoritive parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, 1992) (Kendra Cherry 2011).

According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (1991); authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem (Kendra Cherry 2011).

Evaluation of Theories

Bowlby (1944) The 44 Juvenile Thieves

Case studies were implemented on the backgrounds of 44 adolescents who were referred to the clinic where Bowlby worked because they had been stealing; there was a control group of 44 ’emotionally disturbed’ adolescents who didn’t steal (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

Results indicated that 17 of the thieves had experienced frequent separations from their mothers before the age of two, compared with 2 in the control group, 14 of the thieves were diagnosed as ‘affectionless psychopath,’ they didn’t care about how their actions affected others, 12 of these 14 had experienced separation from their mothers (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

It was concluded that deprivation of the child from its main carer early in life can have very harmful long-term consequences; the results indicate a link between deprivation and criminal behaviour, however it can’t be said that one causes the other. There may be other factors that caused the criminal behaviour, although case studies provide detailed information, the study relied on retrospective data which may be unreliable (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

Bowlby’s study of the 44 juvenile thieves, and others on institutionalisation and hospitalisation suggested that long-term effects of separation included affectionless psychopathology, as seen in the 44 juvenile thieves’ study, anaclitic depression, involving appetite loss, insomnia and impaired social and intellectual development and deprivation dwarfism, whereby infants are physically underdeveloped due to emotional deprivation (Coordination Group Publications, 2009).

The potential impact of parenting styles on child development is considerable, one could argue why all parents simply don’t utilize an authoritative parenting style. After all, this parenting style is the most likely to produce happy, confident and capable children. Some potential causes of these differences include culture, personality, family size, parental background, socio-economic status, educational level and religion (Kendra Cherry 2011).

The parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each and every family, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favors a more permissive approach; in order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles (Kendra Cherry 2011).

Ultimately we as individuals all possess the the inherent survival mechanisms to both protect and fight for our family, tribe or given socio-cultural unit, whereas the modern age invariably requires that such physiological and emotional survival instincts are suppressed thus contributing to the supposed civilised culture in which we reside; although such obedience and conformity is in some ways necessary to contribute to a civilised society our psychological, meta-physical and philosophical attainment can be restricted, depending on the individual, expressing ones own individual beliefs within such a densely populated and restrictive environment can be extremely frustrating, potentially impairing an individuals ability to function coherently (Coordination Group Publications, 2009; Richard Gross, 2010).

Therefore given the above, should individuals be unfortunate enough to lack the necessary, parental and social support during childhood and/or adolescence, and/or suffer some form of social, physical and/or psychological degradation and/or trauma it is not particularly surprising that such individuals may gain negative cognitive and/or psychological thought processes potentially leading to criminal acts. The criminal act is therefore a result of the individual’s conditioning, which though criminal in definition, is simply a repercussion of a less than satisfactory childhood; therefore we as a society are at least partially to blame for allowing the individual to suffer, therefore, do we have the right to label that individual as a criminal or as an offender? (Coordination Group Publications, 2009; Richard Gross, 2010).

A person does something or acts a certain way so that they are deemed ‘criminal’ or likely to commit crime, we as a society then label them as criminal, and they then go on to lead criminal lifestyles as a direct result of our labelling them. Their crimes and adherence to the labels that they are fitted with are referred to as ‘secondary deviance,’ these crimes are considered a direct result of us calling the supposed criminal, a criminal (Richard Gross, 2010).

Reference List:

Richard Gross, 2010 Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour, Sixth Edition

Coordination Group Publications, 2009 AS & A2 Psychology Exam Board AQA A

CBS Interactive 2010 Personality, delinquency and criminal recidivism accessed on the 10th May 2011 at 19:45 hrs

CBS Interactive 2010 Research foundations of moral and ethical education accessed on the 10th May 2011 at 23:05 hrs

Kendra Cherry 2011 Parenting Styles: The four styles of parenting accessed on the 10th May 2011 at

23:34 hrs

Crown 2004 Calm after the storm accessed on the 11th May 2011 at 11:39 hrs

Ewan Williams 2010 Violence, addiction and the adult offender: a token economy approach to treatment accessed on the 11th May 2011 at 11:42 hrs