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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 74620 Find in a Library
Title: Clinical Criminology and Social Psychology
Journal: Revue Internationale de Criminologie et de Police Technique  Volume:33  Issue:3  Dated:(July-September 1980)  Pages:231-242
Author(s): J Pinatel
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 12
Format: Article
Language: French
Country: Switzerland
Annotation: The views of C. Debuyst on the situational interdisciplinary approach to criminology are explored with emphasis on his critique of clinical criminology.
Abstract: Basing his theories on recent works of psychology, Debuyst proposes that studies on situational determinants of behavior will replace personality studies. In his view, criminal law is a construction created and used by a small segment of the population. Emphasis is placed on offenses which arouse a strong public reaction; a high degree of manipulation thus becomes possible. Debuyst views the problem of clinical criminology as an epistemological one. Focusing on obvious personality traits which lead to the commission of crimes makes it possible for clinicians to avoid and even to minimize other aspects of the problem on the level of the offender's interrelational system. Devaluation of the personality approach has resulted from a lack of conceptual consistency, from the constructed character of the psychological facts covered by the concept, from the unidimensional nature of the personality traits which are elements of the concept, and from the limitations of the psychopathological model underlying the concept. In contrast, the situational approach is integrative. In studying situations leading to crimes, research must investigate planning, surveillance of the projected crime target, preparation, and acquisition of tools and accomplices. In the case of nonspecific situations, the formation and stage of development of the offender's personality must also be considered; even in specific situations, the crime appears to be the response of a personality to a situation. The object of the situational approach is the environment of the offense. The objective is to understand how the offender perceives the law and to comprehend the meaning of his behavior on the levels of the offender himself, the interrelational context of the offense, and the psychological mechanisms which the behavior expresses. The method for the situational approach is logical analysis of the facts. While the situational approach championed by Debuyst has its weaknesses, it is the natural outgrowth of a succession of studies in clinical criminology, providing new stimulus for progress in the field. Notes are supplied.
Index Term(s): Behavior; Crime Causes; Criminology; Offenders; Personality; Situational theory; Social psychology
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