Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

In This Article Personality and Trait Theories of Crime

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Criticisms of Personality and Trait-Based Theories of Crime

Criminology Personality and Trait Theories of Crime
by
John Paul Wright, Kristan Moore

Introduction

Personality reflects the totality of a human being’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and ways of interacting with the social world (see Walsh and Ellis 2007 under Introductory Works). Personality is the sum total of all human characteristics that make the individual unique among individuals. Human personality is composed of an array of traits, or discrete human characteristics. These traits can vary across human beings and will coalesce within some humans to form recognizable behavioral and cognitive orientations or patterns. These orientations, what we call “personality,” can be highly stable over time. Owing to the overlap between traits and the broader constellation of personality, it is sometimes difficult to clearly identify a criminological theory as either a trait or personality theory. Because of this, trait and personality perspectives have been brought under an even larger theoretical umbrella of individual differences. Human beings vary on almost every measureable characteristic. Some individuals seek out and engage in risky behaviors, while others are shy and withdrawn; some are caring and nurturing, while others are hostile and aggressive.

Introductory Works

Scholars have realized that some, but not all, individual differences are overrepresented in criminal populations (Andrews and Bonta 2010). For example, individuals who are impulsive, daring, and aggressive are found more frequently in criminal populations than are individuals who delay gratification, are cautious, and are sensitive to the needs and wants of others (Walsh and Ellis 2007).

  • Andrews, Don A., and James Bonta. 2010. Antisocial personality pattern. In The psychology of criminal conduct. By Don A. Andrews and James Bonta, 193–223. New Providence, NJ: Matthew Bender.

    E-mail Citation »

    Covers both personality models as well as a number of the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s (DSM’s) criteria for Personality Disorders related to criminal behavior. Best for those readers who already have an understanding of psychology.

  • Walsh, Anthony, and Lee Ellis. 2007. Psychosocial theories: Individual traits and criminal behavior. In Criminology: An interdisciplinary approach. By Anthony Walsh and Lee Ellis, 169–198. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    E-mail Citation »

    An introductory text that provides a thorough overview of the psychology of crime. In addition to covering material relating to personality and temperament, also discusses the role of intelligence and biology. Ideal for both undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of their current level of knowledge of the material.

LAST MODIFIED: 06/26/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0100

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down