Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Psychological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour
Academic Year
Semester 1
Only available to those studying on a Law and Criminology Single Honours; Major; Joint Honours; or Minor Honours degree scheme
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 hours total
Seminars / Tutorials 6 hours. 3 x 2 hour seminars.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  3000 words to be submitted in appropriate semester  100%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  3000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Identify the main sub-disciplines of psychology and explain how these relate to an explanation of different offending behaviours;

2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the complexities of using specific psychological theories, solely or in combination, to explain criminality;

3. Critically apply their knowledge of the various psychological explanations of criminal behaviour to specific offences and offence types;

4. Demonstrate an appreciation of, and an ability to analyse, the reasons for the limitations of psychology in explaining criminal behaviour;

5. Critically analyse and evaluate the literature on psychological explanations of criminal behaviour.

Brief description

This module will build upon the principles introduced in Elements of/Introduction to Criminology and provide an in-depth consideration of past, current, and future developments in the examination of offending behaviours from a psychological perspective. The module will permit students to choose to study the more complex elements of psychological explanations of criminality and thus build on the basic principles introduced in the first year and assimilate them into a broader explanation of criminal behaviour.

The module will cover the main branches of psychology (such as developmental, social, cognitive, environmental, and biological) and elaborate upon how they further our understanding of criminal behaviour. Students will be introduced to the leading research in each area and the current developments in the field. Each branch of psychology will be illustrated by reference to a range of specific crime types to allow the application of basic knowledge to various sub-types of offender.

1. History of psychology sub-disciplines and forensic/criminal psychology;
2. Developmental issues and criminal behaviour;
3. Mental health and psychopathology;
4. Social psychological explanations of criminal behaviour;
5. Personality and individual differences associated with offending;
6. Cognitive psychology and offending;
7. Biological explanations of criminal behaviour;
8. Environmental/evolutionary explanations;
9. Explanations of specific crime `types' i.e. sexual offending, violence, gangs, arson.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through the critical analysis of research findings students will develop an appreciation of the role that measurement of psychological concepts plays in the development of theory.
Communication Oral communication will be encouraged during interactive seminar discussions on various key aspects of the module - not assessed. Written skills will be developed through coursework task.
Improving own Learning and Performance Interactive lectures and seminars will encourage the critical and lateral thinking of students with exercises planned to deliver a range of opportunities to facilitate the learning of abstract concepts, and will allow students to reflect on their own learning.
Information Technology Searches of on-line electronic databases and journals will provide practice in IT skills.
Personal Development and Career planning Preparation for seminars and the assessed assignment will develop time management skills; collation of sources for assessment will nurture research skills; appreciation of complex theoretical issues will develop critical thinking skills.
Problem solving The assimilation of a range of complex theories will develop students problem-solving abilities and a range of interactive exercises in lectures, seminars and the assignment will encourage lateral thinking.
Research skills Research skills will be developed by accessing and critically analysing literature on the psychological explanations of criminal behaviour.
Subject Specific Skills This module provides students with the opportunity to identify, analyse, evaluate and practice a series of skills with respect to the psychological explanations of criminal behaviour
Team work Small group work within seminars will foster team working

Reading List

Essential Reading
Adler, J.R. (2004 (various p) Forensic psychology :concepts, debates, and practice /edited by Joanna R. Adler. Willan Primo search Ainsworth, Peter B. (2000) Psychology and crime : myths and reality Harlow : Longman, 2000. Primo search Blackburn, Ronald (Sept. 1998) The Psychology of Criminal Conduct:Theory, Research and Practice John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated Primo search Denno, Deborah W. (1990.) Biology and violence :from birth to adulthood /Deborah W. Denno. Cambridge University Press Primo search Hall, Nathan. (2005.) Hate crime /Nathan Hall. Willan Howitt, Dennis. (2009.) Introduction to forensic and criminal psychology /Dennis Howitt. 3rd ed. Pearson Education Primo search Jones, David W. (2008 (various p) Understanding criminal behaviour :psychosocial approaches to criminality /David Jones. Willan Primo search Pakes, Francis J. (2007.) Psychology and crime :understanding and tackling offending behaviour /Francis Pakes and Jane Winstone. Willan Publishing Primo search Towl, Graham J. (March 2010) Forensic Psychology Wiley-Blackwell [Imprint] Primo search Webber, Craig. (2010.) Psychology and crime /Craig Webber. SAGE Primo search
Recommended Text
(1995.) Gender and crime /edited by R. Emerson Dobash, Russell P. Dobash and Lesley Noaks. University of Wales Press Primo search (2009.) Public opinion and criminal justice /edited by Jane Wood and Theresa Gannon. Willan Primo search (c2003 (various) Terrorists, victims, and society :psychological perspectives on terrorism and its consequences /edited by Andrew Silke. Wiley Primo search (2007.) The Oxford handbook of criminology /edited by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner. 4th ed. Oxford University Press Primo search (2007.) Victims, crime and society /edited by Pamela M. Davies, Peter Francis, Chris Greer. SAGE Primo search Bartol, Curt R. (c2008.) Criminal behavior :a psychosocial approach /Curt R. Bartol, Anne M. Bartol. 8th ed. Pearson Prentice Hall Primo search Chesney-Lind, Meda. (c2004.) The female offender :girls, women, and crime /Meda Chesney-Lind, Lisa Pasko. 2nd ed. Sage Publications Goodey, Jo. (2005.) Victims and victimology :research, policy and practice /Jo Goodey. Longman Primo search Harrower, Julie. (1998.) Applying psychology to crime /Julie Harrower. Hodder & Stoughton Educational Primo search Hollin, Clive R. (1989.) Psychology and crime :an introduction to criminological psychology /Clive R. Hollin. Routledge Primo search Jones, Stephen (2000.) Understanding violent crime /Stephen Jones. Open University Primo search Martin, Gus. (c2010.) Understanding terrorism :challenges, perspectives, and issues /Gus Martin. 3rd ed. Sage Primo search McGuire, James (2004 (various p) Understanding psychology and crime :perspectives on theory and action /James McGuire. Open University Press Primo search Putwain, David. (2002.) Psychology and crime Routledge Primo search Soothill, Keith. (2009.) Understanding criminal careers /Keith Soothill, Claire Fitzpatrick and Brian Francis. Willan Publishing Primo search Stephenson, G. M. (1992.) The psychology of criminal justice /Geoffrey M. Stephenson. Blackwell Primo search Walklate, Sandra. (2004.) Gender, crime, and criminal justice /Sandra Walklate. 2nd ed. Willan Publishing Primo search Walklate, Sandra. (2007.) Understanding criminology :current theoretical debates /Sandra Walklate. 3rd ed. McGraw-Hill/Open University Press Primo search Websdale, Neil. (1999.) Understanding domestic homicide /Neil Websdale. Northeastern University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6