In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century criminological thought was centred around the work of the classical school and the work of Beccaria and Bentham. Their work mainly focused on the idea of crime being the result of free will and the effectiveness of punishment in reducing crime. In the late nineteenth century the positivist school was founded by Lombroso, and criminology was established as a new science. Lombroso believed that you could distinguish a criminal by their physical features. His work led to the emergence of psychological theories.
(Garland, 1997). The first significant psychological theory that helps us understand the causes of crime is Freud’s psychoanalytic model. Freud (1856-1939) states that the human personality has three sets of interacting forces: the id, the superego and the ego. (Hopkins Burke, 2001). The id contains the basic biological urges. The superego or the conscience is the part of our personality which produces feelings of guilt to punish us when we have done something wrong. (Gross, 1987). And the ego controls the individual by making decisions. (Lilly, Cullen and Ball, 1989).
Freud’s model was criticised as it was untestable. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000). Both Freud and Aichorn (1936) believed that the cause of crime and delinquency was due to the underdevelopment or disturbed development of the superego. This occurred as a result of unloving or cruel parents, or from the absence of parents in childhood. (Akers, 1997). Other sociologists such as Glover (1949) believed that crime was a result of an overdeveloped super-ego. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000:352). Hewitt and Jenkins (1946) studied 500 juveniles and found that they could be divided into three groups.
Firstly there was those who had an underdeveloped super-ego, this group were the most likely to take part in criminal activities; they tended to be aggressive and unsociable. Secondly there was those who had an overdeveloped super-ego, they tended to be shy and reserved, and were not likely to be involved in criminal activities. And Finally the third group had a double super-ego. Those in this group had not been successfully socialized to conform to the morals that society holds, however they had been socialized to conform to the morals of a delinquent gang.
Therefore they believed criminal behaviour to be morally acceptable and were very likely to be involved in criminal activities. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000). Another important psychological theory is John Bowlby’s maternal deprivation. He explained crime in terms of a child’s early socialisation. (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000). In 1944 he studied 44 juvenile thieves who had been referred to a child guidance clinic. He compared these juvenile thieves with a control group of children who had also been referred to the clinic, but had not been reported for theft.
(Coleman and Norris, 2000). The results of the study showed that 17 children in the ‘thieving’ group had been separated from their mothers for a period of 6 months or more in the first five years of their lives, compared to just 2 from the control group. (Hopkins Burke, 2001). From these findings Bowlby stated that an affectionate and constant relationship with a mother or a permanent mother replacement was vital for mental health, and that a separation of this kind was responsible for many of the serious cases of delinquency. (Coleman and Norris, 2000).
However Bowlby’s theory came under fire when a larger study carried out by Bowlby et al (1956) failed to find evidence to prove the theory. It was criticised for having unrepresentative samples, a poorly matched comparison group and observer bias. (Coleman and Norris, 2000). Wooten (1959) and Morgan (1975) had similar criticisms and questioned the effects of separation on methodological and conceptual grounds. (Blackburn, 1993). Morgan (1975) discovered that the control group were not checked appropriately for ‘the presence of criminal elements. ‘ (Hopkins Burke, 2001:80).