Today, the debate on
the motivations and causation of crime is popular topic discussed across
various academic domains (i.e. Anthropology). These interdisciplinary debates
have incorporated new principles, allowing some of the formation of new
theories building upon the earlier apperceptions. For instance, rational
choice, routine activity as well as control theories builds up upon the
principles of Beccaria (e.g. free will; cost and benefits). Another example
would be Lombroso’s thesis on physical aberration, which is now improvised with
neurobiology and genetics with environmental methodologies (e.g. twin studies)
deployed in observations and research.
Criminology, as an
academic discipline has been endured constant advancement since the18th
century, despite of its origins from the ancient Greek philosophers (i.e.
Aristotle). With the rise of the classical school founded by Beccaria and
Bentham to the establishment of the positivists schools (i.e. biological and
social), criminologists have derived a list of reasons in which why an
individual may engage in criminal behaviour. Of course, the context and
implications of crime and justice (i.e. retributive versus restorative), has
changed as the theoretical paradigm shifts from one to another (Lawerence,
However, most theories
often deduce and explain the causation of criminality of an individual through
a one-sided perspective (Gadd and Jefferson, 2007, p. 2-5). Sociological
positivists often argue that societal factors such as gender and poverty were
crucial factors in understanding criminality. On the other hand, psychologists
tend to look for traits within individuals, identifying aspects and abnormality
to distinguish individuals who may be inclined towards criminality from the
group. Indeed, both viewpoint provides enticing implications in confabulating
one’s desire to engage in criminal behaviour.
With this in mind, Gadd
and Jefferson (ibid) argues that both perspectives mentioned above only focal
point either internal and external conditions of the individual (i.e. social vs
psychological/developmental factors). The impetus which draws one to
criminality could be due to multiple factors which may come from both
psychological and sociological domains. To truly understand the motivation that
stimulates the engagement of crime, Gadd and Jefferson’s (2007) psychosocial
approach amalgamate the spirit of psychology and sociology, providing a deeper
insight of the offender’s inner world.
“The point is that, whenever we propose a
solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our
solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practice this
precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we
fail to supply it ourselves.”
Like Popper describes,
all scientific theories and hypotheses are falsifiable.
Using their book: Psychosocial
Criminology (Gad and Jefferson,
2007) as the main literature reviewed, this paper will provide a critical,
in-depth assessment of the theory in the following order:
implication (1): Restorative Justice
implication (2): Intervention – Therapies
Prior in going
straight to the section of critically analysis, it is vital to outline the key features
of this theory.
When hearing the term
“psychosocial criminology”, one of the thing that may come to a person’s mind
is the study of criminal behaviour via one’s psychological well-being in
relation to sociological factors. In comparison to Gadd and Jefferson’s rendition
of “psychosocial”, the definition resumed above is wrong in spite of being
partially correct to a certain degree.
Though there are
branches in the school of psychology (i.e. social psychology and abnormal
psychology) which outlines the psychological mechanism in the sphere of
criminal behaviour, there is limited literature if not little evidence in
considering the offender as an individual with conflicting, paradoxical
thoughts (Ritchie, 2014). Following the steps of Frosh (2003, p. 183, as cited
in Gadd and Jefferson, 2007), “psychosocial criminology” as an approach
endorses a censorious stance against Psychology while trying to formulate the
“psychological subject”, the human psyche.
Humans, as Frosh emphasised,
(as a psychological subject), are the output compound created by their
cognitive mind (inner psyche) and the shared social dimension (reality). In
simpler terms, the subject (individual) acts as a structural center of action
and thought with external forces exchanging information (i.e. gender, ethnicity,
and social class). More importantly, it is also because of the having
sensations of feeling weak or defenseless that leads one into paths (which may
be considered as discourse by others) that may grant them strength on a
psychological level (i.e. respect in the neighbourhood).
It is also important
to remember that the inner psyche accounts both conscious and unconscious
processes, emotions (i.e. fear and happiness) as well as ability to manifest
imagination/fantasy. In terms of methodology and data gathering, Gadd and
Jefferson deploy interpretative biographies with elements of free association when
Undeniably, Gadd and Jefferson’s
approach in Psychosocial Criminology presents thought-provoking ideas as
synopsized above, but there are points worth questioning (Brown, 2003, 2007; Gelsthrope,
2009; Ritchie, 2014). In their own words, the authors of this theory
acknowledge that their theory is an “ambitious project” that is not detached
when viewed from the wider spectrum of social sciences.
Concept: Methodology – Subjectivity and
The stance in applying
narrative techniques in qualitative research has been an on-going trend for
more than a decade, with various field of disciplines to understand the subject
on an encyclopedic level (Franzosi, 1998; Polkinghorne, 1991; Sandelowski, 1991).
Knowing that their
approach in anatomising criminology through the method of biographical
interpretation may raise opposing criticisms, the two listed several points in
justifying this notion (Gadd and Jefferson’s, 2007, p. 5-8). For instance, the
nature of case studies – being open to interpretation, is considered as the
strength of this approach. Case studies investigates content through an
atypical context, irradiating and canvass unconsidered factors of actual
reality, challenging the mainstream understanding (Fraser, 2004; Mitchell 2000,
p. 170, as cited in Gadd and Jefferson, ibid; Kohler-Riessman,2000).
“Narratives do not mirror, they refract the
past … Narratives are useful in research
precisely because storytellers interpret the past rather than reproduce it as
it was. The “truths” of narrative accounts are not in their faithful
representations of a past world, but in the shifting connections they forge
among past, present, and future”
From an evaluative perspective,
narrative analysis accentuates the relationship between individual’s personal
experience and the subject (i.e. life as a comfort woman in wartime periods). It
can be said that the methods used in the psychosocial theory – interpretative
biography is analysed on three dimensions: thematic (depth and width of
content), structural (how the content is expressed), and interactional. Though
the thematic and structural aspect compliments each other in generating a nullified
analysis, the third component – interactional may distort the decoding process
of the evidence recorded.
The point of employing
interactional analysis is to spotlight the conversation process between the
interviewer and interviewee. Micro-behavioural aspects such as pauses in
speech, gesture and display of physical posture are often left unmentioned in
transcripts (Riessman, ibid). As Kreiswrith (2002) vindicates,
it is inexorable to not adjudge the concept of “narration” as a story, even if
the speculation of the knowledge is based on rationalism.
Sternberg’s (1987) analogy:
truth value and truth claim in historiography emits intriguing points when set
side by side with narrative analysis. He adduces that the historical accounts of
events is a discourse that proclaims to be a fact. In narrative analyses, the “truth
value” is placed with given more attention when scaled with the “truth objective”
on the other end. While the truth value is subjective, the objectivity may be ignored.
With this in mind,
Concept: Psyche – Splitting and Projection
With reference to
Fairbairn and Klein’s notion of splitting, the authors of this theory states that
the human psyche (commonly referred as the inner voice/internal thought) is not
only a center of agency but also a primary ego defensive system. This allows
the individual to “splits” information (i.e. societal values: masculinity) from
the social world into – positive and negative emotions. When under severe distress,
the individual may project the emotions that have been repressed internally
towards people around him or her (i.e. shouting at a child). Likewise, if the
individual is capable of “containing” these uncomfortable sensation (i.e. being
bullied by peers), the individual might be able to “detoxify” the negative
thoughts and respond rationally.
Such elaboration of
one’s ego defense mechanism is far too simplistic in comparison to the other
theories of the same/relevant academic field in conjunction to with
criminality. By re-examining the work of
Jung and Vallaint, a more well-rounded explanation is inaugerated while keeping
the in a non-reductive stance between social constructionism of the “social
world” and psychology of the “inner psyche”.
Carl Jung’s (2016)
theory of the unconscious also adopts a humanistic viewpoint in understanding
the psyche. In accordance Jung, the human psyche consists of 3 main layers:
ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious. Focusing solely on the 2nd
and 3rd layer of the psyche, Jung blueprints the darker side of
human nature through the various archetypes he draws upon. The anima/animus
reflects the manifestation of both masculine and feminine archetype, the
“persona” being the mask that one wears to masquerade the real self, whilst the
“shadow” acts as power source for both creative and destructive energy.
In juxtaposition of
the holistic beliefs held by Jung, George Eman Valliant (1992) advocates that the
human psyche can be identified through a four-level classification system.
Though his thesis nucleates from the context of psychiatry, he expands the
dissertate how one may pick up defensive mechanism (i.e. Projection of unwanted
thoughts or emotions) through a developmental vista, which can be observed in
Due to the list of
classification being exhaustive, not all mechanisms will be mentioned.
Level 1: Psychotic
Level 2: Immature
Level 3: Neurotic
Level 4: Mature
In the first level,
mechanisms (i.e. delusional projection or denial) are considered pathological
or anomalous towards others. Interestingly, this can be seen through one’s
The second level:
immature, suggests that the mechanisms associated in this stage is frequently
observed among adults (i.e. schizoid fantasy and projection). Whereas,
delusional projection refers to a belief based on invalid information (e.g.
racist belief learned in childhood) whereas projection links back to Gadd and
Jefferson’s concept of defense- the expulsion of undesired thoughts or emotions
without acknowledging on a conscious level.
In the third level,
mechanisms such as (i.e. repression and displacement) provides short-term
effects in coping with stress. In the last level, mechanisms (i.e. humor) affiliated
with this level allows one to engage conflicting mental states peacefully.
Despite of the
differences between the two viewpoints, both theories elucidates the human
psyche from different levels of perception. If one was to merge the two theories together
and incorporate Frosh’s concept (ibid) as mentioned earlier, one would realise
that the defensive mechanism of the human ego is not just limited to the
concept of “defensive splitting and projection” (Gadd and Jefferson, p. 53).
Certainly, Gadd and
Jefferson’s approach provides a new limelight in illustrating how the inner
mind of the offender interacts with the social realm. Be that as it may, it
would be too simplistic in consider that the human psyche often/tends to only
resolves with projection of thoughts or emotions through the means of verbal or
physical exhibition. On a structural level, it can be congitated that humans
often repress their “shadow” self from engaging criminal behaviour as it does
not match (Costello, 2002 as cited in Brown, 2007).
Policy and implication: Restorative Justice
Embracing a humanist
approach in evaluating deviant behaviour, it instantly resolves and illuminates
the unknown factor(s) in seeking to unravel the thoughts of the (potential)
offender. Instead of pathologizing the individual, this theory suggests that
everyone in society has the potential in becoming a criminal. Having said so, this raises philosophical
confusion when the status of the victim can be argued as an offender, as well
as how should societies or the criminal justice/penal system should manage
complex cases like this.
Policy and implication: Rehabilitation