从这些基本假设出发，对异常行为的心理解释主要来自三个理论：精神分析理论，认知发展理论和学习理论。根据认知发展理论，犯罪和越轨行为是由个人围绕道德和法律组织思想的方式产生的。发展心理学家劳伦斯科尔伯格（Lawrence Kohlberg）认为道德推理有三个层次。在第一阶段，称为早期传统阶段，在童年中期达到，道德推理是基于服从和避免惩罚。第二级被称为传统级别，并在童年中期结束时达到。在这个阶段，道德推理是基于孩子的家庭和重要的其他人对他或她的期望。第三层次的道德推理，即后传统层面，是在成年早期达到的，此时个人能够超越社会习俗。也就是说，他们重视社会制度的规律。没有在这些阶段取得进步的人可能会陷入他们的道德发展中，从而成为变态或罪犯。学习理论基于行为心理学的原理，它假设一个人的行为是通过其后果或奖励来学习和维持的。因此，个人通过观察其他人并目睹他们的行为所获得的回报或后果来学习离经叛道和犯罪行为。例如，观察朋友购物并且没有被抓住的个人看到该朋友没有因他们的行为而受到惩罚，并且他们通过保留被盗物品而获得奖励。那个人可能更有可能购物，然后，如果他相信他会得到相同的结果奖励。根据这一理论，如果这是异常行为的发展方式，那么剥夺行为的奖励价值可以消除异常行为。偏离的心理方法都有一些共同的关键点。首先，个人是分析的主要单位。这意味着心理学家认为，个人对其犯罪或离经叛道行为负有全部责任。其次，个人的个性是推动个人行为的主要动机因素。第三，犯罪分子和偏见者被视为患有人格缺陷，这意味着犯罪是由个人的个性内的异常，功能失调或不适当的心理过程引起的。最后，这些有缺陷或异常的心理过程可能由多种因素引起，包括患病的心态，不适当的学习，不适当的调节，缺乏适当的榜样或不适当的榜样的强烈存在和影响。由西格蒙德·弗洛伊德（Sigmund Freud）开发的精神分析理论指出，所有人类都具有在无意识中被压抑的自然驱动和冲动。此外，所有人都有犯罪倾向。然而，这些趋势通过社会化进程得到遏制。因此，社交不正常的孩子可能会产生一种人格障碍，导致他或她向内或向外指导反社会冲动。那些指导他们内心的人变得神经质，而那些指导他们的人则成为犯罪。
Deviant behavior is any behavior that is contrary to the dominant norms of society. There are many different theories on what causes a person to perform deviant behavior, including biological explanations, sociological explanations, as well as psychological explanations. While sociological explanations for deviant behavior focus on how social structures, forces, and relationships foster deviance, and biological explanations focus on physical and biological differences and how these might connect to deviance, psychological explanations take a different approach.
Starting from these basic assumptions, psychological explanations of deviant behavior come mainly from three theories: psychoanalytic theory, cognitive development theory, and learning theory. According to the cognitive development theory, criminal and deviant behavior results from the way in which individuals organize their thoughts around morality and the law. Lawrence Kohlberg, a developmental psychologist, theorized that there are three levels of moral reasoning. During the first stage, called the pre-conventional stage, which is reached during middle childhood, moral reasoning is based on obedience and avoiding punishment. The second level is called the conventional level and is reached at the end of middle childhood. During this stage, moral reasoning is based on the expectations that the child’s family and significant others have for him or her. The third level of moral reasoning, the post-conventional level, is reached during early adulthood at which point individuals are able to go beyond social conventions. That is, they value the laws of the social system. People who do not progress through these stages may become stuck in their moral development and as a result become deviants or criminals. Learning theory is based on the principles of behavioral psychology, which hypothesizes that a person’s behavior is learned and maintained by its consequences or rewards. Individuals thus learn deviant and criminal behavior by observing other people and witnessing the rewards or consequences that their behavior receives. For example, an individual who observes a friend shoplift an item and not get caught sees that the friend is not punished for their actions and they are rewarded by getting to keep the stolen item. That individual might be more likely to shoplift, then, if he believes that he will be rewarded with the same outcome. According to this theory, if this is how deviant behavior is developed, then taking away the reward value of the behavior can eliminate deviant behavior. Psychological approaches to deviance all have some key things in common. First, the individual is the primary unit of analysis. This means that psychologists believe that individual human beings are solely responsible for their criminal or deviant acts. Second, an individual’s personality is the major motivational element that drives behavior within individuals. Third, criminals and deviants are seen as suffering from personality deficiencies, which means that crimes result from abnormal, dysfunctional, or inappropriate mental processes within the personality of the individual. Finally, these defective or abnormal mental processes could be caused by a variety of things, including a diseased mind, inappropriate learning, improper conditioning, and the absence of appropriate role models or the strong presence and influence of inappropriate role models. Psychoanalytic theory, which was developed by Sigmund Freud, states that all humans have natural drives and urges that are repressed in the unconscious. Additionally, all humans have criminal tendencies. These tendencies are curbed, however, through the process of socialization. A child that is improperly socialized, then, could develop a personality disturbance that causes him or her to direct antisocial impulses either inward or outward. Those who direct them inward become neurotic while those that direct them outward become criminal.