While extremely violent crimes are a rare occurrence, they frighten and captivate us. The chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime are small and vary depending on age, gender, social class, and relationship status. While some forms of violence such as domestic violence, football hooliganism, and pedophilia transcend these boundaries, crimes like gang violence tend to be more prevalent in certain groups within society.
This course examines psychological and biosocial theories of crime which help explain aggressive and violent behavior. The course searches for the origins of criminal behavior in biological, psychological, learning, and situational factors, and looks at the link between mental illness and crime. Next, the general theories of aggression and those related to specific forms of violent crimes are studied. The study of a particular crime covers the theories, precipitating factors, relationship between victim and offender, and impact upon the victim.
Criminologists, among others, study violent behavior in an attempt to identify biological triggers, risk factors, developmental patterns, or learned cues which may help handle the behavior. These markers and factors are examined, along with the treatment paradigms that have been designed to prevent, control, and treat perpetrators (and victims) of domestic and family violence, sexual offenses, and hate crimes.
After completing this course students are able to:
- describe the general theories of aggression with an understanding of the biosocial and psychological theories used to explain violent crime,
- draw connections between mental illness and character disorders, and violent crime,
- assess specific types of violent crime such as mob violence, hate crimes, and sexual and domestic violent offenses,
- recall the theories, precipitating factors, relationship between victim and offender, and the impact of the crime upon the victim for specific types of violent crime,
- synthesize the strategies used to prevent specific types of criminal behavior and to treat the offenders and victims.
Students complete assigned readings for discussion in class where active student participation is required. There is a mid-term and a final exam. All students write a paper, presented in both written and oral formats, in which they apply criminological theories to certain types of criminal behavior and cite empirical studies to support their arguments.
Assignments are expected to be submitted on time. If a student is running late, he/she must contact the instructor prior to the deadline. A percentage may be deducted from the grade if the assignment is turned in late. Because active class participation is so important, students are expected to attend all classes. A student may miss no more than four class lectures without being penalized.