Psychiatrist and the Science of Criminology: Sociological, Psychological and Psychiatric Analysis of the Dark Side

By Rao, T. Sathyanarayana | Indian Journal of Psychiatry, January-March 2007 | Go to article overview

Psychiatrist and the Science of Criminology: Sociological, Psychological and Psychiatric Analysis of the Dark Side


Rao, T. Sathyanarayana, Indian Journal of Psychiatry


Byline: T. Sathyanarayana Rao

Humans have dark side that loves crime and violence. We all may deny it but the contrary is true. And it applies regardless of our age, caste, social status, region, religion or education. The television, movies, sports and many happenings reported in news papers and magazines are indicative of our obsession with the fact and fiction of crime and violence. Modern culture is infact can be referred to as the most violent culture in history in the number of crimes and in the nature brutality.[sup] [1]

Recently, Nithari hogged the lime light and the press was full of wild speculations and assumptions.[sup] [2] It was so much everywhere because crime somehow intrigues people. It can attract or repel but it does happen. It can amuse so also frighten us. It can generate anger when it affects near or dear ones in our community. The crime arouses so much of interest or passion, yet its understanding as to why it occurs and what we can do about it has often remained a problem. Public officials, politicians, experts and consultants and anyone who matters often offer simple and incomplete discourses on the events and method of solution for eradicating crime. Solutions offered may be more policing, setting up of closed circuit TVs, increasing street lighting, putting up sturdy locks, karate classes for the people on the one hand and stiff penalties, speedy imprisonment or capital punishment on the other hand for the criminals. 'Experts' dole out abstract interpretations that have any practical value. In short, as in most areas of human behavior, there is no shortage of experts but there are few effective solutions.[sup] [3]

Bartol argues effectively that 'our inability to prevent crime is partly due to our problems in understanding criminal behavior, a complex phenomenon. Since crime is complex, it goes without saying that explanations of crime require complicated, involved answers. Research indicates that most people have a very limited tolerance for complexity and ambiguity. They apparently want simple, straight forward answers for even a very complex issue. As behavioral scientists we need to understand that criminal behavior is a vastly complex, yet poorly understood phenomenon. There is no all encompassing psychological explanation for crime, than there is sociological, anthropological, psychiatric, economic or historic one.[sup][3] Without the help of many disciplines, for sociology or psychology to reach the basic 'truth' is almost impossible. In most, understanding criminal behavior calls for an inter disciplinary approach integrating data, theory and the practical view point of each discipline.

Human nature and crime

Bartol[sup] [3] again reviews underlying assumptions about human nature and identifies 3 major domains:

*'Conformity' perspective: Classical example is the strain theory of Merton R. K. which argues that 'humans are fundamentally good people and conforming beings who are strongly influenced by values and attitudes of the society in which they live. It assumes that humans, as creatures of conformity who want to do the 'right' thing'. 'Right' thing therefore is what the society says is the 'right' thing. For example, the American society advocates 'accumulation of wealth or status is all important and many continue to accept these well advertised goals'. Education, social network, contacts and family influence can help access these to many but not to all. When there is 'perceived discrepancy', between materialist values and goals cherished and the availability of legitimate means, then crime and delinquency occurs. Groups and individuals experience high level of 'strain' are forced to decide whether to accept of violate norms or laws, consequently they conform, withdraw or rebel. *'Non-conformist' perspective: Assumes that human beings are basically undisciplined creatures, given the chance would flout society's convention and commit crime indiscriminately. …

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