The Psychopath Concept in Criminology

The concept of a psychopath is one of the most distorted in the public mind. The situation is also complicated because, in the early version, psychopaths were considered people with abnormal psychology, which includes a considerable number of different diseases. However, there is a series of well-articulated characteristics of psychopathy at the moment. First of all, it is not a mental disorder, contrary to popular belief (Dr. Todd Grande, 2018). Most often, among psychopaths, there is a tendency to lie, strong charisma and attractiveness, and a lack of emotional connections with actions (The Infographics Show, 2018). In addition, psychopathy is not an official diagnosis, so experts often resort to the terms specified for antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) (Lindberg, 2019). In this context, the association of ASPD with psychopathy is that the latter is a variant of the disorder (Schmalleger, 2015). Experts are considering many reasons that can lead to the development of this condition. First of all, somatogenic causes associated with disorders in the central nervous system disorders are being investigated. In addition, psychogenic reasons are also distinguished, such as an inability to rely on any charismatic figure.

Looking at the city where my university is located, I can note that there are several areas with pronounced low and high levels of crime. First of all, crime is minimal in the center, where most office buildings and government institutions are located. From the point of view of special theories, this fact can be explained by the fact that this area is a more defensible space. A sufficient number of mechanisms have been introduced there to complicate the commission of crimes: from high-tech tracking devices to architectural changes that delimit the space (Schmalleger, 2015). On the other hand, the greatest crime is observed in the city’s outlying areas: industrial, transport stations, and poorly organized residential areas. According to the theory of Thomas and Znaniecki, such social disorganization is a consequence of the mismatch between the cultures of indigenous people and immigrants (Schmalleger, 2015). Since city control in these places is weaker, there are more neglected buildings that are contrary to the principles of defensible space and thereby increase the risk of crime.

Labeling theory describes the forms of social control most often used by law enforcement agencies. Through labeling, people are stigmatized as deviants based on their behavior that does not conform to certain norms (desoriente0, 2013). In the justice system context, this technique can lead to tragic consequences. First of all, primary deviance is considered, during which a person is assigned a label for the first time. This association is not always deserved since a person’s actions may not violate any strict social norms (desoriente0, 2013). For example, a student may be branded as a bully for minor accidental misconduct, attributing them to the appropriate group.

Nevertheless, such a label is imposed on a person and further determines their behavior. Often, there is little opportunity left for the individual to associate with other communities (Schmalleger, 2015). Alienation from other strata of society leads to a forced association with a stigmatized group. It forms the appropriate behavior and pushes a person to new offenses, which manifests secondary deviance. A student labeled as a bully will most likely be ignored by their peers, which will force them to join the same bullies and participate in joint illegal activities. The stigmatization of the individual and the difficulty of changing the label make the manifestation of such behavior stable and chronic (Bernburg, 2019). Thus, when the justice system manifests labeling, a future potential criminal is formed who cannot change their behavior due to the constructed expectations from society.


Bernburg, J. G. (2019). Labeling theory. In M. D. Krohn, N. Hendrix, G. P. Hall, A. J. Lizotte (Eds.), Handbook on crime and deviance (pp. 179-196). Springer.

desoriente0. (2013). Labeling theory [Video]. Web.

Dr. Todd Grande. (2018). Psychopathy vs. antisocial personality disorder (sociopath, sociopathic traits, & sociopathy) [Video]. Web.

Lindberg, S. (2019). Psychopath. Healthline. Web.

Schmalleger, F. (2015). Criminology today: An integrative introduction (7th ed.). Pearson.

The Infographics Show. (2018). Sociopath vs psychopath – What’s the difference? [Video]. Web.

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1. LawBirdie. "The Psychopath Concept in Criminology." April 8, 2023.


LawBirdie. "The Psychopath Concept in Criminology." April 8, 2023.