Module 2 part 2 - Theories of Criminal Behavior - Lecture Notes

Next, the authors trace the roots of crime to three sources: biological, psychological, and social/environmental. The chapter that surveys the biological origins of crime explores the history of biological theories of criminal behavior from phrenology to recent research on brain structure, neurotransmitters, hormones, and drugs of abuse. Psychological theories and their relationship to crime are also described in this section, which ends with a review of the effects that the media, social factors, and environmental variables and settings have had on crime.

Burgess, Robert L., Akers Robert L.1966.“A Differential Association-Reinforcement Theory of Criminal Behavior.” Social Problems 14:2 128-147.

Robinson, Matthew B., All About the Context: Moving from Causes to the Complexity of Criminal Behavior, American Society of Criminology, November 2012

behavioral theory theories of criminal behavior crime and criminal

Micro theories of criminal behavior focus on a small group of offenders or on Historically there are three broad theoretical models of criminal behavior: A) psychological models; B) sociological models; and C) biological models. All infer different methods of control. It actually difficult to completely separate the three categories completely as it is generally accepted that all three of the factors play a role in the expression of behavior. Moreover, psychological science consists of several disciplines including biological psychology and social psychology, so psychological principles could be applied across all three domains. However, there are some general principles associated with each of the above three paradigms that would be associated with some specific crime control policies. This results in admittedly narrow definition for each of the categories but it does simplify the discussion herein.

showing that Biological Theories of Criminal Behavior study addresses

In the late 1960s the economist Gary Becker questioned positivist approaches to crime, arguing that: "[a] useful theory of criminal behavior can dispense with special theories of anomie, psychological inadequacies, or inheritance of special traits, and simply extend the economist's usual analysis of choice" (repr. 1974, p. 2). Characterizing his approach as an effort of "resurrection, modernizatio…

The Theories of Criminal Behavior


Now that a definition of what is a crime has been set, this study will illustrate theories of criminal behavior, outlining risk factors associated with each of these theories. The types of offenders that one will face when working in the criminal behavior field and then a sample of case studies to illustrate the theories and risk factors associated with each type of criminal. The final outcome of reviewing these case studies will answer the main question and theme of this paper, “Is this person a criminal?” The social disorganization theory of crime focuses on the relationships between neighborhood structure, formal social control, and criminal activities (Kubrin, & Weitzer, 2003), and specifically considers the breakdown in “traditional social control and organization in the society, community, neighborhood, or family” (Akers, & Sellers, 2004, p. 29) and the effect on criminal behavior. Conflict, on the other hand, is a key concept in interpersonal and intergroup relationships, could occur in most situations, and is characterized by resulting patterns and processes of behavior (Fink, 1968). The conflict theory of crime holds the view that society is divided into groups that hold competing beliefs and values, and that groups who does not have formal power, might hold on to their own accepted behavior patterns, which could be deemed inappropriate or criminal in the formal society. It is significant that the conflict theory gives a perspective on the conception of the legal definitions of crime, as well as the cause of criminal behavior of individuals and groups. According to the rational choice theory, an individual will contemplate criminal behavior by weighing expected rewards and penalties associated with the act. The theory assumes at its core that an individual has the ability to make a rational choice to engage in criminal activities, or avoid it. The rational choice theory is contradicted by most other theories of criminal behavior, such as biological and psychological theories, but remains of interest as it implies that the individual is solely responsible for his choices and actions.