Basic principles of criminology and penology

 Learning outcomes:

By the end of this module you should be able to:


  • describe the meaning, nature and scope of criminology and penology


  • demonstrate an ability to use and interpret recorded crime statistics and victimisation surveys


  • state the contributions of gender, age, race and nation state to criminal activity


  • outline the key concepts of the major theories of criminology


  • describe how criminal behaviour alters across the lifespan


  • understand and describe the predictive factors for criminal behaviour


  • demonstrate a firm understanding of the association between mental disorder and violent offending


  • describe the pathway of an individual from point of arrest through the criminal justice system, considering the role for psychiatrists at each point.


Module introduction

Criminology is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the scientific study of crime. Penology is the scientific study of the methods and consequences of the punishment of crime. In the exam syllabus for MRCPsych, criminology and penology are items within the social science and socio-cultural psychiatry section.


The relationship between crime and mental illness is well established, but it is also complex and frequently misunderstood, as we shall explore in detail in this module. There is also a disproportionate level of mental illness and psychiatric vulnerability within the prison system, and prisons are familiar working environments for the psychiatrist. It is thus essential that all psychiatrists have a good basic understanding of the principles of criminology and penology. Indeed, psychiatrists have an important role to play in the continuing development of the criminal justice system.


We hope this module will provide an interesting and accessible introduction to the fascinating disciplines of criminology and penology.


Learning notes

We recommend that you make some notes as you work through this module.


The 'TrOn Notebook' facility can be accessed throughout the module (allowing you to make notes on each page), and these notes will be saved in your personal area 'My TrOn', for future reference. However, you will not be able to print these notes as one single document.


If you would prefer to make your notes in a separate document you may wish to download the 'learning notes' below. This downloadable Word document will allow you to keep a personalised record of your learning, which you can then save and/or print for future reference.


Download the learning notes document for this module


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