Dependence and Victimization in the Criminal Mind

This article discusses the approach of Samuel Yokelson and Stanton E. Samenow in correcting the thinking error common in the criminal mind that allows the criminal to avoid interdependent and cooperative planning.

Dependence is common in human experience. Children are dependent on their parents. Employees are dependent on a boss. Patients are dependent on doctors. In some regard we are all dependent on other people for assistance, instruction, support, or help. In some situations we are required to be independent and take charge. Most jobs require us to make some decisions and assume responsibility for our actions. When we are a member of a team or work to achieve a common goal, we must engage in interdependence.

In the work of Samuel Yokelson and Stanton E. Samenow with criminals, they found their subjects did not know how to be cooperative and share interdependent roles in an appropriate, productive relationship. The criminal personality they describe views dependence as weak and limiting. Most of life requires interdependent cooperation, but the criminal personality is unable to achieve this level of skill in living. Interdependence requires both the capacity to be dependent and independent, the give and take of ordinary situations. Criminals described by Yokelson and Samenow seem to exist at one or the other end of this dichotomy. They feel smarter, superior, and more knowledgeable than the boss or the teacher, and, therefore, should not be subject to him. On the other hand, they are distant and non-disclosing to friends or family. They may be quite gregarious and put up a good front, but their relationships are shallow. In criminal behavior, he has had collaborators or confederates, but never a real friend. They often enlist other people to do things for them because they want to avoid taking initiative. This tactic avoids responsibility for failure. If the criminal can get his parole officer to get the job for him, then he can blame the parole officer when he doesn’t like the job.

The criminal may appear to get along with boss at the job where he works, but this is often a cover for his clandestine activities. He may be stealing from the company or brown-nosing the boss for special treatment. When he does something that appears to be responsible, it may be just to look good for the boss, and not indicate any change or insight into his attitude or behavior. The criminal is very active in pursuing criminal activities and planning how to carry them out, but in choosing responsible actions, he may wait to be directed so he can be the accuser when it doesn’t work out.

In the program Yokelson and Samenow formulated, the criminal was confronted in group counseling with the thoughts that preceded his action. Even if he wants to avoid criminal behavior, he may not know how to do things in a responsible way. His thought patterns are skewed in that direction, and it takes a lot of exploring and asking questions for him to understand that his methods and thinking are taking him in the wrong direction. Reordering the process takes a long time.

The following links also discuss Yokelson and Samenow's work with crimial thinking.

Three Thinking Errors and the Phenomenological Approach

Three Thinking Errors in the Criminal Mind and How They Can Be Changed

Source:  Yokelson, Samuel, Ph.D., M.D. and Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D. The Criminal Personality.  Jason Aronson: Northvale, New Jersey: 1985.  ISBn 0-87668--771-0


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