skip navigation

CrimeSolutions.gov

Add your conference to our Justice Events calendar

PUBLICATIONS

Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the NCJRS Abstracts Database. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.

 
  NCJ Number: NCJ 204918     Find in a Library
  Title: Trouble with Psychopathy as a General Theory of Crime
  Author(s): Glenn D. Walters
  Journal: International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology  Volume:48  Issue:2  Dated:April 2004  Pages:133 to 148
  Date Published: 04/2004
  Page Count: 16
  Annotation: This article analyzes whether Robert Hare’s concept of psychopathy provides a general theory of crime.
  Abstract: According to psychologist Robert Hare, psychopathy provides an explanation for most criminal behavior. Hare employs a dimensional approach that divides peoples into two categories, psychopaths and nonpsychopaths. He asserts that the psychopathic minority commit most of the crime in society. Such an assertion requires a thorough review of the evidence, beginning with an examination of the philosophical origins of Hare’s position, which is found in the medical pathology model and personality trait theory. The three components of the medical model (diagnosis, disorder, and taxon) are discussed in regard to the concept of psychopathy and its merits for the criminal justice community. Next, the three key assumptions of personality trait theory are analyzed in light of what they reveal about the concept of psychopathy and its implications for crime. Personality trait theory identifies environmental factors as the cause of human behavior; it holds that traits are reasonably consistent across situations; and it asserts that traits remain stable over time. The author reviews previous research that refutes or supports each assumption in terms of psychopathic personalities. The concluding section analyzes the value of the psychopathy model as a comprehensive theory of crime. According to the analysis, the psychopathy concept is problematic in two ways when applied as a general theory of crime. First, it is questionable whether psychopathy meets its own criteria of a good theory because of the lack of evidence that psychopathy can be diagnosed, studied, and applied in the same fashion as the medical diseases that serve as its standard of comparison. Second, the internality, consistency, and stability of the psychopathy concept are debatable. Psychopathy only did well on two of the six criteria of a good model (parsimony and fruitfulness); it did fair on one criterion (precision), but performed poorly on three other criteria (comprehensiveness, internal consistency, and empirical validity). As such, the author contends that the concept of psychopathy holds only minimal relevance for criminological theory. Although it is lacking as a general theory of crime, the concept of psychopathy may have a role to play in the development of an effective theory of crime. Notes, references
  Main Term(s): Psychopaths ; Criminology theory evaluation
  Index Term(s): Psychological theories ; Psychological influences on crime
  Publisher URL: http://www.sagepub.com 
  Type: Research (Theoretical)
  Country: United States of America
  Language: English
   
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:
https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=204918

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.