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Psychological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour

Course Code: CRIM 2251
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Hybrid
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will examine psychological approaches to explaining recidivist criminal behaviour. The principal objective for this course is to critically examine some of the historical and contemporary theories that relate to the understanding of deviant and/or criminal acts. The relationship between theory, research, and practice will be explored using theoretical and empirical approaches to examine offending behaviours such as property and/or violent crimes.

Course Content

The following outline guides the design and delivery of this course:

  • Introduction to psychological perspectives that explain deviant and criminal behaviour. 
    • Definitions, Research Trends, and Critiques 
  • Identification, explanation, and critical examination of psychological theory including:
    • Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Theory
    • Behaviourism
    • Developmental Factors
    • Biological Factors (i.e. genetics, psychophysiological factors, neurophysiological concepts)
    • Learning and Situational Factors
    • Social Cognitive Theory
  • Identification, explanation, and critical examination using psychological theory of topics including:
    • Psychopathy
    • Mental Health (the relationship between mental disorder and criminality)
    • Human Aggression/Violence (including homicide and multicide)
    • Sexual Offences (i.e. paraphilias, pedophilia, sexual assault)
    • Dangerousness (predicton of / risk assessment)
    • Youth Crime
    • Other Current Topics

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, which may include:

  • Lectures
  • Group discussions and exercises
  • Student presentations
  • Audio-visual materials
  • Use of Blackboard

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Evaluation Policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. 

Typical means of evaluation will include a combination of:  

  1. Written Assignments
  2. Class Presentations
  3. Examinations
  4. Term Paper
  5. Classroom Contribution (Participation) 

An example of one possible evaluation scheme would be:

Two Mid-Semester Exams (25% each)  50%
Final Exam  25%
Research Paper  25%
Total 100%

Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Identify and discuss various psychologically based theoretical explanations of criminal behaviour.
  2. Critically examine psychological theories of crime.
  3. Explain, from different psychological theoretical approaches, how criminal behaviour is acquired and maintained.
  4. Critically evaluate and assess empirical research of criminal behaviour.

course prerequisites

PSYC 1100 or PSYC 1200

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.