8. Personality and Crime
Personality can be defined as something that makes us what we are and also that which makes us different from others (Clark, Boccaccini, Caillouet, & Chaplin, 2007). Ideally, personality is stable over time. Examinations of the relationship between personality and crime have often yielded inconsistent results. One of the most well-known theories of personality used to examine this relationship is the Big Five model of personality. This model provides a vigorous structure into which most personality characteristics can be categorized. This model suggests that five domains account for individual differences in personality: (1) Neuroticism, (2) Extraversion, (3) Openness, (4) Agreeableness, and (5) Conscientiousness (Clark et al., 2007). Neuroticism involves emotional stability. Individuals who score high on this domain often demonstrate anger and sadness and have irrational ideas, uncontrollable impulses, and anxiety. In contrast, persons who score low on Neuroticism are often described by others as even tempered, calm, and relaxed.
The second domain, Extraversion, is characterized by sociability, excitement, and stimulation. Individuals who score high on Extraversion (extraverts) are often very active, talkative, and assertive. They also are more optimistic toward the future. In contrast, introverts are often characterized by being reserved, independent, and shy (Clark et al., 2007).
The third domain is Openness, referring to individuals who have an active imagination, find pleasure in beauty, are attentive to their inner feelings, have a preference for variety, and are intellectually curious. Individuals who score high on Openness are willing to entertain unique or novel ideas, maintain unconventional values, and experience positive and negative emotions more so than individuals who are closed-minded. In contrast, persons who score low in Openness often prefer the familiar, behave in conventional manners, and have a conservative viewpoint (Clark et al., 2007).
The fourth domain is Agreeableness. This domain is related to interpersonal tendencies. Individuals who score high on this domain are considered warm, altruistic, softhearted, forgiving, sympathetic, and trusting. In contrast, those who are not agreeable are described as hard-hearted, intolerant, impatient, and argumentative.
Conscientiousness, the fifth domain, focuses on a person’s ability to control impulses and exercise self-control. Individuals who score high on Conscientiousness are described as organized, thorough, efficient, determined, and strong willed. In addition, those who are conscientious are more likely to achieve high academic and occupational desires. In contrast, people who score low on this domain are thought to be careless, lazy, and more likely assign fault to others than to accept blame themselves (Clark et al., 2007).
One personality study discovered that the personality traits of hostility, impulsivity, and narcissism are correlated with delinquent and criminal behavior. Furthermore, research conducted by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck during the 1930s and 1940s identified a number of personality traits that were characteristic of antisocial youth (Schmalleger, 2008). Another important figure who examined the criminal personality is Hans Eysenck (1916–1997). Eysenck identified two antisocial personality traits: (1) extraversion and (2) neuroticism. Eysenck suggested that individuals who score at the ends of either domain of extraversion and neuroticism are more likely to be self-destructive and criminal (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). Moreover, neuroticism is associated with self-destructive behavior (e.g., abusing drugs and alcohol and committing crimes).
9. Psychopathic Personality
Antisocial personality, psychopathy, or sociopath are terms used interchangeably (Siegal, 2009). Sociopaths are often a product of a destructive home environment. Psychopaths are a product of a defect or aberration within themselves. The antisocial personality is characterized by low levels of guilt, superficial charm, above-average intelligence, persistent violations of the rights of others, an incapacity to form enduring relationships, impulsivity, risk taking, egocentricity, manipulativeness, forcefulness and cold-heartedness, and shallow emotions (Jacoby, 2004). The origin may include traumatic socialization, neurological disorder, and brain abnormality (Siegal, 2008). Interestingly, if an individual suffers from low levels of arousal as measured by a neurological examination, he or she may engage in thrill seeking or high-risk behaviors such as crime to offset their low arousal level. Other dynamics that may contribute to the psychopathic personality is a parent with pathologic tendencies, childhood traumatic events, or inconsistent discipline. It is important to note that many chronic offenders are sociopaths. Thus, if personality traits can predict crime and violence, then one could assume that the root cause of crime is found in the forces that influence human development at an early stage of life (Siegal, 2008).