Douglas College wordmark
Facebook logo Twitter logo Instagram logo Snapchat logo YouTube logo Wordpress logo

Registration for the Fall 2019 semester begins June 25.  Watch your email for more details.

back to search

Psychological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour

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

This course will involve a detailed study of psychological approaches to explaining recidivist criminal behaviour. Some of the specific theories subject to critical examination will include: psychoanalytic, behaviourism, social cognitive, developmental, and Eysenck’s Theory of Personality and Crime. Theoretical and empirical approaches will be utilized to explain the behaviour of offenders involved in property crimes and /or violent crimes.

Course Content

  1. Introduction and Overview
    • Definitions
    • Free Will vs. Determination
    • Self-Report Studies
    • Limitations
  2. Theory
    • Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Theory
    • Behaviourism
    • Kohlberg/Erikson
    • Social Cognitive Theory
    • Eysenck’s Theory of Personality and Crime
  3. Biological Factors
    • Genetics
  4. Psychopathy
    • Why Include a Personality Disorder?
    • Current Explanations of Psychopathy and Criminal Behaviour
    • Etiology of Psychopathy
    • Role of the Family
    • Neuro-Physiological Concepts
  5. Mentally Disordered Offender
    • Criminal Responsibility
    • Specific Disorders and Their Relationship to Criminal Offending
  6. Violence/Homicide
    • Defining Violence
    • Theoretical Perspectives
    • Physiology
    • Environmental Factors
    • Family Violence
    • Personality
    • Correlate
    • Multicide (Mass, Spree, and Serial)
  7. Sexual Offences
    • Fetishism and Relationship to Crime
    • Exhibitionism and Voyeurism
    • Pedophilia (typologies and crime cycle)
    • Sexual Assault (typologies and crime cycle)
  8. Dangerousness
    • Prediction
  9. Youth Crime
  10. Property Crime
  11. Special Topics

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lectures, audio visual materials including DVD, small group discussions and research papers.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on some of the following:

  1. Short Answer Tests
  2. Exams
  3. Term Papers

An example of one possible evaluation scheme would be:

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

Learning Outcomes

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

The primary objective of this course is to familiarize students with psychologically-based theoretical explanations of criminal behaviour.  Students will learn to critically evaluate and assess psychological theories of crime.  Students will be able to explain from different psychological theoretical approaches how criminal behaviour is acquired and maintained.  Finally, students will learn how to critically evaluate and assess empirical research of criminal behaviour.

course prerequisites

PSYC 1100

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.