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Developmental Psychology: Psychological Approaches to Crime

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On the night of January 19, 2013, a teenager 15-year-old call Nehemiah Griego shot and killed his father, Greg Griego, 51- year-old, his mother, Sarah, 40- year-old his brother Zephania, 9- year-old; and his sisters Jael, 5- year-old, and Angelina, 2- year-old. (Metro UK news)

The first person Nehemiah Grieg killed was his mother. He waited for his mother to fall asleep, and then the child took a 22 caliber rifle and shot her. Next to her sleeping mother was her 9-year-old brother, Zephaniah. Nehemiah woke him up, told him that his mother was dead and caused the boy to see his mother dead and then killed him. After this, the younger sisters of Nehemiah, Jael and Angelina realized that something was wrong and hid in their rooms until the boy killed them too. (Albuquerque Journal).

The teenager waited five hours for his father to return from work, to complete the massacre, waited hidden in the bathroom, and as soon as the father entered the house when passing through the bathroom the young man shoots (Albuquerque newspaper).

The adolescent told the authorities after killing his family, showed no regret and even mentioned, according to the police that he would kill again. He expressed the desire to continue to kill anyone and eventually end up dead afterward.

Initially, in the juvenile court, Griego would suffer a juvenile sentence, and that he would be under custody until he turned 21 years old. But 11 days before his trial, the Court of Appeal ordered a new mechanization hearing. A week after that hearing, Griego was transferred to Hart, who finally pronounced the sentence. Griego now faces 200 years. (Albuquerque Journal).

According to the allegations of lawyers and police, Griego's childhood was marked by abuse at home mainly by his father, so the young man suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of mistreatment and beatings. They also described Griego's church-linked childhood. Griego develops it into a problem of anger that led to mass murder. (APP News).

After that, in recent years Griego has been in hundreds of hours of individual, group and family therapy, according to his lawyer, Taylor. Griego has also obtained a high school diploma and has begun attending community college and vocational classes. 'Nehemiah's latest psychological assessment confirms substantial progress and readiness for reintegration into society,' Taylor said in a statement (APP news). The behaviors of Nehemiah Griego are inserted in psychological science with two perspectives: Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Psychology.

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Developmental Psychology is mainly a scientific approach, which aims to explain how children and adults change over time (Lerner, Lewin-Bizan, & Warren, 2011). Most uniquely, it is a field that looks at change over time and what instigated those changes (Miller, 2011).

The discipline itself has two main goals: to describe the behavior at each point in the person's development and to identify the causal factors involved in producing changes in behavior (Vasta et al. 1998). Developmental psychology as a field has informed many other subfields of psychology as well including educational psychology, child psychopathology, and forensic developmental psychology.

The case of Nehemiah Griego can be analyzed from a perspective of developmental psychology because he lived an aggressive childhood marked by his father's violence. This traumatic fact aroused a revolt and violence within Nehemiah Griego that made him unload by killing his family.

In contrast, cognitive psychology refers to the study of human mental processes and their role in thinking, feeling, and behaving. Perception, memory, acquisition of knowledge and expertise, comprehension and production of language, problem-solving, creativity, decision making, and reasoning are some of the broad categories of such study. Cognitive psychology focused on 'cool' cognition and left the study of 'hot' cognition—thoughts infused with emotion—to other areas such as social, personality, and clinical psychology (Phelps, 2006).

We can link the Nehemiah Griego case to the structure of weapons knowledge. Griego used his father's gun to kill his family, he had seen it before and this may have aroused a feeling of fear because he thought his father could use it against him since he mistreated him. And that fear turned to anger and that could be one of the reasons for the massacre. ' Weapon ' concepts (e.g., gun, sword, club) are linked closely to aggression-and hostility-related concepts in semantic memory because of their similarity in meaning and their close association in common experience.

The connection between these two perspectives is in the fact that he had a difficult childhood marked by mistreatment and for having access to weapons that awaken him aggression concepts of anger, which makes the connection with pain and hurt.

These perspectives fit into Nehemiah Griego's behavior and play a very important role in understanding the case from a broader perspective and in taking a psychological approach.


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  2. A. Anderson, A. J. (s.d.). DOES THE GUN PULL THE TRIGGER? (g. s. e.g., Ed.) University of Missouri, Colombia. In
  3. ELISE KAPLAN / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER. (9th de August de 2019). Nehemiah Griego to be sentenced as an adult. Albuquerque Journal. In
  4. HUDETZ, M. (16 de March de 2018). Man who killed his family as a teen is ordered to adult jail. AP NEWS. In
  5. Jacob Genious. (17 de Oct de 2017). METRO NEWS JOURNAL. In
  6. KATY BARNITZ / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER. (15th de October de 2019 ). Judge delays sentencing for Nehemiah Griego. Albuquerque Journal. In
  7. Lerner, L.-B. &. (2 de Dec de 2014). Developmental Psychology: An Introduction. (B. Research, Ed.) p. 12 Pages. Obtido de
  8. Miller. (2 de Dec de 2014). Developmental Psychology: An Introduction. (B. Research, Ed.) In
  9. Phelps, 2. (2015). Cognitive Psychology. Em S. McLeod (Ed.). Simply Psychology. In
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Developmental Psychology: Psychological Approaches to Crime. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“Developmental Psychology: Psychological Approaches to Crime.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
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Developmental Psychology: Psychological Approaches to Crime [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2023 Dec 10]. Available from:
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