Causes of Crime,its effects and ways to curb


Crime and criminal behavior is a rather complex phenomenon that has no single cause. Many factors have been identified as contributing to criminal conduct. Biological theories are based on the belief that a few people are born criminals and that they are physiologically different from non-criminals. The godfather of criminology,Cesare Lombroso,argued that criminality is genetic. Modern theories explaining criminal behavior take into consideration both the social and psychological elements. Understanding the causes of crime is extremely important because of its policy implications in that it would help in dealing with the offenders and preventing future cases of crime.

Several biological factors have been identified to cause or at least contribute to crime. Some of the biological factors include faulty brain development, mental health issues, XYY chromosomal syndrome, alcohol or drug abuse by the mother during pregnancy, brain plasticity, hormonal imbalance, low intelligence, genetic inheritance of abnormalities, minor physical anomalies, birth complications, and poor nutrition(Fuller, 2013). In his theory of atavism, Cesare Lombroso argued that criminals are not as evolved as non-criminals. Genetic explanations of criminal behavior have become a recurring trend in modern psychology (Walker, 2017). To establish the genetic link, researchers on the rates of crime in families found that sons whose fathers have past criminal records are more likely to engage in crime compared to those whose parents have never been arrested.

There is also some evidence to suggest that there exists a criminal personality that is biological in nature.The personality of an individual is based on how well the inherited nervous system is able to learn. A criminal personality is described as neurotic, extraverted, and showing signs of psychoticism.Neuroticism means that they show signs of emotional instability and anxiety. Extroverts tend to be very sociable, outgoing, and thrill seekers. Signs of psychoticism include excessive coldness, aggressiveness, and hostility. Recent studies have also shown that individuals with higher testosterone levels are prone to criminality because they are generally more muscular.

The effect of the social environment cannot be ignored in explaining the causes of crime. A shared environment is a major contributor to criminal behavior. Crime is a result of the experiences within peer groups, neighborhoods, and households. There are higher chances of children engaging in criminal behavior if the immediate relatives, such as uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents, are criminals. Studies have also shown that people from low-income neighborhoods have a higher likelihood of becoming criminals. Neighborhood dynamics, such as poor housing, poor health, and transient populations contribute to higher delinquency rates.

Both biological and environmental theories partially explain the causes of criminal behavior. However, crime remains a function of free will. Based on the neoclassical approach, criminal behavior is individually determined and situational. The neoclassical school of thought is different from the positivist approach, which uses scientific techniques to explain criminal behavior. The positivist approach includes biological, sociological, psychological, and critical sociological theories(Fuller, 2013). The policy implication of biological theories is putting measures in place to prevent at-risk individuals from engaging in crime. For instance, extra lessons in social interaction and emotion management would help a child who has a gene for criminality.

However, it is important to exercise caution while advocating for biological theories because they can raise ethical queries where an individual is pre-emptively prosecuted because of having/inheriting a gene for criminal behavior. Biological explanations of crime may also lead to an increase in insanity pleas where a defendant argues that they are not morally responsible for their actions. Current law regarding insanity pleas is the burden of proving unsoundness of mind by the accused. Courts usually engage the services of a psychiatrist who does amental status examination on the accused.

Attachment theory is a component of social control theory that focuses on how social and familial bonds influence criminal behavior. Based on this theory, young people who hold stronger attachments to their parents are less likely to engage in violent behavior. Self-control theory emphasizes the importance of self-control and free will. Based on this theory, low self-control is a major cause of criminal behavior. The hypothesis calls on parents to instill self-control in their children from a tender age (Walker, 2017). In view of the attachment and self-control theories, the early developmental process of a child is very crucial as it sets the stage for their adult life.

According to the social disorganization theory proposed by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay, crime is a function of neighborhood dynamics as opposed to the individual. Based on this supposition, improving neighborhood dynamics would help in addressing crime. Robert Merton’s strain hypothesis argues that there is a strain between people’s social goals and the means of achieving those goals. This strain leads some individuals to engage in criminal activity to achieve material success. The major point of learning theory is that deviant behavior is learned(Fuller, 2013). This theory proves that criminality is a function of the environment and an individual response to the environment. Non-delinquent individuals learn criminal behaviors from other people in their environment who have criminal values and attitudes.




Fuller, J. R. (2013). Juvenile delinquency: Mainstream and crosscurrents. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Walker, J. (2017). Social, ecological and environmental theories of crime. Routledge.

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