Crime Scene Investigator

Understanding Criminology Theories – Figuring Out Crime

Criminal Justice Career Guides Criminal Justice Journal Uncategorized

Understanding Criminology Theories

To understand crime and criminal justice, it is important to understand all the criminology theories first. It makes our knowledge about why people commit crime better.
Although no theory provides us with all types of crimes and their jurisdiction but every single theory covers a greater portion of criminology.


Ever tried to understand why certain crimes happen?  What could be the possible reason or motive behind an individual’s deviant behavior?  Why people commit crimes?
A good theory help us to understand the manifestation of behavior.
No theory covers all the aspects of crime and delinquency. But each theory covers a reasonable portion to make us understand crime and delinquency in that area.
All these theories integrate together under umbrella of one complete theory. These theories cover all the psychological, biological,  social and behavioral aspects of crime and borrow the constructs from each other to combine them in one single theory.
The goal of criminology theories is to make one understand about crime and justice.
Individual theories can be macro or micro.
It is important to know why people commit crimes and how the crimes can be prevented?
With better understanding of criminal behavior we can work on their prevention and fight the possible causes of crime.
So we can say that studying criminology theories provide a benefit to overall society.

Criminal Justice Theories

It is important to know about crime and their jurisdiction. Understanding crime and delinquency and how law works against them is covered in criminal justice theories.
These theories can be divided in four major groups.

Psychological Theories

These theories suggest that low IQ level,  psychopathic behavior,  irresponsible behavior , less empathy towards people and mental illness may contribute to criminal behavior.

Social Theories 

Social theories suggest that social environment of certain area is correlated with criminal acts of individuals regardless of who lives there?
Poverty, high unemployment rate,  high mobility and infant mortality rate contributes in criminal behavior in specific area.

Behavioral Theories

This theory suggests that crime is also learned like any other activity or skill. Our response to environmental stimuli shapes our actions.

Biological Theories

Does crime has something to do with biological factors?  Biological theories suggest ” yes”. Some people are born criminals than others.
Under the umbrella of these four theories, we can further propose some other theories that can explain the above theories well. These  criminology theories are

Rational Choice Theory 

Rational choice theory focuses on individual’s interest in committing crimes.
People commit crimes for their personal interests. And they find reward more attractive than the feeling of doing crime or the risk of getting caught.
This theory tells us that people who commit crimes for personal interests always weigh their possible risks and potential reward.
So it is like, they choose to commit crime. They plan for it and may take time to weigh possible risk factors and work to get rid of them.

Social Disorganization Theory 

Social disorganization theory suggests that a person’s environment is responsible for individual choices sometimes. With a supportive environment,  a person can do crime and hide it well.
For example, a poor area with low employment rate will have comparatively high crime rate.
Or an empty building can provide shelter to many criminal activities.
A rough social structure will support both crime and criminal.

Strain Theory

Strain theory suggests that when people fail to achieve according to society expectations,  they try to achieve short cut success through crime. Delayed success or gratification arouse negative feelings in them and they choose to do crime.
When people do not get opportunity or do not have ability to achieve success,  they try to meet social expectations of success through negative means.

Social Learning Theory

“A man is known by the company he keeps” is quiet a sensible and actually true proverb. Some times people absorb the idea of crime from the people, with whom they associate with.
Social learning theory suggests that social environment plays a vital role in individual’s actions and they can get motivation and skills to do crime from people around them.

Social Control Theory 

Society controls individuals through certain institutions like schools,  churches and work places etc. These institutions provide set of rules to live in a society. But everyone is not willing to handle the pressure these controls put on individual’s life. So they choose to either control or break the rules and end up in committing crime.

Labeling Theory

Labels are far more powerful than what we can expect from them to be. When powerful people in society gets power to label acts as “crime”. Society follows. And the people labeled as “criminal” face a reaction from society.
Society shuts the door of opportunities for these criminals which results in more criminal behavior. People get offended by labels that society put on them and behave in a deviant way to return the pressure back to society.

Genetic theory 

Biological and genetic theory suggests that mental illness or poor diet or weak brain can be the proposed explanation of crime.
In the study between criminal and non criminals,  the theory suggests that some people are born criminal may be due to biological inferiority vs personal choice.
Other biological factors that can contribute in criminal behavior are hormonal imbalances,  vitamin deficiencies,  weak brain functions etc.

Routine Activity Theory

Routine activity theory proposes that daily routine of people in social environment can create an opportunity of crime. For example where they live? where they work? What is a route to their workplace?  Which people they meet or see? What are the places they visit frequently ? All these factors Can create opportunity for crime and can make crime less risky for them.

Self Control Theory 

Self control theory suggests that some people commit crimes due to lack of self control over themselves. This theory also suggests that people who had questionable parenting in younger age have less self control over themselves than those who were raised under better parenting.

1 thought on “Understanding Criminology Theories – Figuring Out Crime

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *