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This article is written by Sonia Balhara, from Sushant University, Gurgaon. This article deals with the study of different theories of crime causation.


A crime is an illegal act that is punished by a legal authority. A crime is an act that is harmful to the person who commits the crime as well as to the society, community, or state. Crime is caused due to various reasons that may force an individual to commit it to fulfill its needs. There are some theories of causation of crime that we are going to discuss. First of all, we need to know how crime has been caused and what are the reasons behind it. 

Crime causation

Crime caution is a discouraging and multiplex field. For centuries, philosophers have reviewed the meaning of the conception of cause as it regards human behavior. Growingly, research advises that individuals are unaware of the causes of the other people’s behaviour as well as the causes of much of their performance. Modern crimes cause models to favour an interdisciplinary lens that recognizes how different fields complement, rather than contract with, one another. This approach acknowledges that no single theory can explain all the types of criminality nor the legal and moral issues that convoy them.

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The entries that follow highlight this disciplinary among theories within five different kinds: 

  1. Biological theories 
  2. Economic theories
  3. Psychological theories
  4. Political theories
  5. Sociological theories

Different theories

Biological theories

Criminal manners result from a complicated interaction of biological factors. The term ‘biological’ and genetic are often confused, in part since they represent the overlapping sources of influence. Biological factors are more comprehensive, comprising physiological, biochemical, neurological, and genetic factors. Genetic factors refer to biological, and hereditary factors. Until recently, the bulk of criminological analysis focused only on social contributors, either reducing or negating the significance of genetic and biological upon criminal manner. Within the past fifteen years, however, an oversized body of proof has been collected that the etiology of criminal behavior is also understood when genetic and biological factors are also taken under consideration. Evidence for the role of genetic factors in the etiology of criminal manner carries the belief that biological factors intermediate this relationship. 

Economic theories

The roots of crime are several and a discipline like economics, predicated on rational behavior, is also at something of an obstacle in explaining an irrational occurrence. Describing the worldly trend in crime rates in most industrialized economies is the most difficult task. Many social researchers argued that crime is closely connected with work, education, and penury and that wagging, youth unemployment, and crime are the side-effects or even count of social exclusion.

Blue-collar criminals usually have limited education and limited labor marketplace ability. These features describe the poor employment records and the low real earnings of most criminals. These kinds of issues originally cause economists to analyze the relations between wages and unemployment amount on crime. Most recently economists have also examined the benefits and rates of educational programs to reduce crime. The reasons based on the economic model of crime is a model of decision-making in dangerous situations. Economists analyze how individual attitudes toward risk affect the extent of illegal behavior. A key feature is the idea of convenience; judgments are made of the suitable gain to be noticed from a particular choice of action.

Individuals are supposed to be rational decision-makers who are connected in either legal or illegal activities as per the awaited utility from each activity. An individual’s participation in illegal actions is, therefore, described by the opportunity rate of illegal activity, factors that impact the returns to unlawful activity. Economic models of criminal manner have concentrated on deterrent effects and the connectivity between work and crime. It could be argued that unemployment is the channel through which other factors impact the crime rate. 

Psychological theories

It is very hard to define distinctively psychological theories of crime. The psychological theories especially concentrate on the importance of individual and family factors on offending. Psychological theories are usually developed, trying to describe the evolution of offending from childhood to adulthood, hence based on longitudinal education that follows up every individual overtime. The importance of such theories is on continuity rather than discontinuity from childhood to adulthood. A basic presumption is that the order of individuals on an underlying construct such as illegal potential is relatively constant over time.

Psychologists inspect offending as a kind of behavior that is alike in many regards to unfriendly behavior. Therefore, the theories, systems, and information about other types of unfriendly behavior can be utilized to the study of crime. Lee Robins spread the theory that offending is one of the elements of a giant sign of unfriendly behavior, including heavy drinking, drug-taking, reckless driving, institutional problems, job problems, problems, etc. 

Typically, psychological theories may include motivational, inhabiting, decision-making, and learning processes. The foremost common and motivational thought is that individuals, especially children are naturally self-indulgent, and selfish, seeking pleasure and ignoring pain, and hence that children are naturally offensive. Another classical idea is that every individual is motivated to take care of an optional level of arousal; if the amount falls below the optimum, they are going to attempt to increase it, whereas if it’s above the optimum they will try to decrease it.

Generally, psychologists are committed to the scientific study of human behavior, with its emphasis on theories that can be tested and falsified using empirical, quantitative data, collected experiments, systematic observation, valid and reliable measures, etc. The following parts discuss the most important categories of risk factors that influence crime:

  • Family impacts, like broken homes, poor child-rearing methods, and criminal parents.
  • Individual impacts such as personality. The foremost important personality thinking about relevance crime is abandoned, while the most influential theory of the link between personality and crime is recommended by Hans Eysenck

Political theories 

It is given that any method of crime may be given to have an agreement with some political philosophy, it reflects that any theory may be used for political objectives. During this general sense, therefore, any orientation of crime is a political theory. And any type of crime may be of political consequence. Certainly, radical criminologists have sometimes disputed that every crime is political. And some theorists have offered explanations of crime that support conservative or liberal political perspectives and agendas. An alternative conception of political theories of crime caution is that which are identified by their accent on the social dispute and government relations.

Although theories, which we have seen, might be utilized to form any of a crime, they didn’t focus historically on solving individual criminal behavior, but rather have concentrated on explanation variations in crime rates, and particularly on the different risks of being labeled as a criminal. In so far because the criminal law policy is seen as a tool of political power or repression, the politicization of all sins is intended. It has been infrequently held that political sins are uniquely agreeable to display by labeling and dispute theories, but the counter-argument is that any theory with an attachment to political philosophy is often invoked to account for political criminality.

Given harmony between political beliefs and crime causation theories, it is going to be suspected that the more explicitly political philosophy, the more likely it is to allocate political significance to criminality. Theories having sympathy with conservation and radicalism appear to be more reasonable than theories with sympathy to liberalism to clarify the crime and criminals in political words, whether as threats to political resistance to the political violation. Consequently, conservatives will find the diagnostics of political offenders, liberals will find that political offenders are often normal but they misguided people who are responding to the strains inflicted on them by weak social organizations, and extremists will find that political offenders are reasoning people who recognize and maintain the suffocating and exploitative nature of abundant democratic capitalist society.

Sociological theories

There are three important sociological theories: strain, social learning, and control theories.

Strain theory

According to the strain theory people get engaged in crime because they experience a lot of stress or strain, they become upset and feel negativity around them, and they sometimes get involved or connect with some crime as a result. They may be involved in crime to reduce their stain which they are experiencing. For instance, for reducing their financial problems they may steal, end harassment from others they may involve in violence, escape from abusive parents they may run away from home or may commit injury to themselves. They may be also involved in crime to take revenge against those who have done wrong to them. To make himself/themselves feel better they may start using illicit drugs. 

Social learning theory

According to social learning theory, people engage in crime because they learn to involve in crime through their friends, and others. They learn that they are favorable to crime and get exposed to criminal models. According to this theory, juveniles learn to involve in crime in the same way as they learn through association with others. Primary groups like the family, friends, and peer group have a large impact on what they learn. However, one does not have to be directly linked with others to learn from them. 

Most social learning theory involves the three mechanisms by which every individual learns to involve in crime: differential reinforcement, modeling, and beliefs.

  • Differential pillars of crime: People may guide others to get involved in crime through the support and punishments they provide for behaviour. More probably, crime occurs when there is: 
    • Frequently reinforced and infrequently punished,
    • Reinforcement in large amount (for instance, a lot of money or social approval),
    • More likely to be reinforced as the alternative behavior.
  • Beliefs favorable to crime: Other people not only reinforce our crime, in fact, they also teach us beliefs favorable to crime. Most individuals are taught that crime is bad or wrong. They, at last, accept this belief, and they are less predicted to be captured in crime as a result.
  • The copying of criminal models: Behavior or manner is not a part of reinforcements and punishments, and beliefs, and individuals receive, but also of the behaviour of those who are around them. Particularly, every individual often models the behaviour of others- especially when they like or respect others and have reason to believe that copying thor behaviour or manner will result in reinforcement.

Control theory

Unlike the theorists of strain and social learning, control theorists take crime for granted. They argued that every person has some needs and desires that can be easily fulfilled through the crime as compared to legal channels. For instance, it is much easier to steal money instead of doing work for it. Therefore, according to the control theorists, a special explanation is not needed for crime; it is often the most convenient way to get whatever one wants. 


In the above discussion, we study about crime causation, its various theories which tell us about how crimes are caused in our society that cause damages to every person in society. These theories help to know how every individual is engaged in crime and how they respond to the social environment. The biological theory concentrates on the genetic, neurological, psychological, and biochemical factors that influence a criminal manner. On the surface of economic theory, crime appears unusual, predicated on the model of rational behaviour. The economic model of crime that every individual chooses between criminal and legal manner based on various factors. The psychological theory study in particular two factors one is family influences, and another is individual influences. The political theory recognizes that any crime may be connected with some political ideology and therefore may be used for some political purpose. Similarly, sociological theory study about the three main theories- strain, social learning, and control theory all these explain crime in terms of social environmental factors or primary factors such as family, friends, community, etc.


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