Personality Therories of Crime Causation.


Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) argued that personality consists of three structures which work together to create an individual’s personality: the Id, Ego and Superego (Science, L. and Nature, H.2016).

The Id, most primitive of the three is unconscious and seeks personal pleasure. The Ego, is conscious and rational, is driven by instincts of gratification. The Superego, somewhat conscious, strives for perfection and controls morality. Conflict is inevitable and can arise between each structure of the personality (Verywell. (2017). Freud used the term ‘ego strength’, referring to the ego’s ability to function despite conflict (McLeod, S.2017). An individual with a strong ego is able to function effectively, whereas, those with a weak ego can become disruptive. To obtain a healthy personality an individual’s psyche has to be balanced (McLeod, S.2017).

Freud’s theory argued that personality is the pattern of thoughts, emotions and skills that make a person unique (Boundless.2017). His concept of the unconscious mind allowed him to consider the majority of personality being unconscious, hidden parts which are responsible for individuals behaviour in society (McLeod, S.2017).

Freud argued that individuals committing criminal acts resulted from a sense of guilt due to the superego. It makes them feel guilty for no reason, to relieve this, they commit crime (History Learning Site.2017). According to his theory, guilt is present before crime, not a result of a criminal personality, but an ill psyche (McLeod, S.2017). Crime was only partially mentioned in Freud’s theory, but became popular in explaining crime- not predicting behaviour. His theory is unscientific, so cannot be proved or disproved. The unconscious mind can not be measured objectively (Mumic, I. and profile, V. 2017).


Boundless. (2017). Freudian Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

History Learning Site. (2017). Why do people commit crime? – History Learning Site. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

McLeod, S. (2017). Sigmund Freud’s Theories | Simply Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

Mumic, I. and profile, V. (2017). Psychological theories of crime. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].

Science, L. and Nature, H. (2016). Sigmund Freud: Life, Work & Theories. [online] Live Science. Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2016].

Verywell. (2017). Freud and the Id, Ego, and Superego. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].


2 thoughts on “Personality Therories of Crime Causation.

    • Freud’s theory on personality is unfalsifiable as it cannot be proved or disproved, this is due to it being unscientific. By this I mean that factors such as the unconscious mind is difficult to test and cannot be measured. His studies lack empirical support. His studies are mainly bases on observation and experiences rather than theories or logic. Fraud mainly focused on the individuals brain’s rather than learning by socialisation in society which Bandura tested in 1961. He suggested the children are socialised into learning behaviour from others such as their parents by observation. If their parents are to act aggressively, the child will do the same. This shows important implications that the effect of others behaviour may have on children.


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