What Are the Theories of Crime Causation?

Prominent theories of crime causation are strain theory, in which people commit crimes to get relief from strain or stress, and control theory, which claims that others force people to do crimes. The social learning theory is the idea that people learn to do crimes through their association with others.

There are also theories of biological causation of crimes. Causation theories are further divided into psychological, economic and political theories.

Labeling theory holds that the acts of arresting and prosecuting people contribute to crime because people become labeled as criminals. Non-criminals may not want to associate with them, so they associate with other criminals, which may lead to more criminal behavior.

Another social theory is social disorganization theory, which studies how family, friends, associates and society in general contribute to a person’s propensity to commit crimes. This theory studies why some societies have more crime than others.

A major area of study is economic theories of crime causation. Social scientists look at what the criminal expects to gain from crime as opposed to what he can earn from legal work, whether he can get gainful legal employment and what he perceives as the risk of being caught when committing crimes along with the severity of punishment.

Genetic and biological factors may influence criminal behavior. Studies involving adoption and alcoholism in Iowa, Denmark and Sweden found a strong link between genetics and criminality. Studies of twins and adoptees have analyzed whether there is a genetic propensity for violence have had mixed results.