2 minute read

Crime Causation: Sociological Theories

The Future Of Crime Theories

Sociologists continue to refine existing theories and develop new theories of crime, including integrated theories of crime (e.g., Charles Tittle's control balance theory). Sociologists, however, are coming to recognize that it is not possible to explain crime solely in terms of the immediate social environment. As a consequence, they are devoting more attention to the larger social environment, which affects the immediate social environment. And they are devoting more attention to the situations in which people find themselves, which affect whether predisposed individuals will engage in crime. Further, sociologists are coming to recognize that they need to take account of the factors considered in biological, psychological, and other theories of crime. Most notably, they must take account of individual traits like intelligence, impulsivity, and irritability. These traits influence how individuals respond to their social environment. An irritable individual, for example, is more likely to respond to strain with crime. These traits also shape the individual's social environment. Irritable individuals, for example, are more likely to elicit hostile reactions from others and select themselves into social environments that are conducive to crime, like bad jobs and marriages. (At the same time, the social environment influences the development of individual traits and the ways in which individuals with particular traits behave.)

Further, sociologists are increasingly recognizing that their theories may require modification if they are to explain crime in different groups and among different types of offenders. As indicated above, theories may have to be modified to explain female versus male crime. And theories may have to be modified to explain crime across the life course. For example, the factors that explain why young adolescents start committing crime likely differ somewhat from those that explain why some older adolescents continue to commit crimes and others stop. Much recent attention, in fact, has been devoted to the explanation of crime across the life course, as described in the text by Vold, Bernard, and Snipes. Also, theories will have to be modified to explain crime among different types of offenders. Some offenders, for example, limit their offending to the adolescent years. Others offend at high rates across the life course.

Sociological theories, then, will become more complex, taking account of individual traits, the immediate social environment, the larger social environment, and situational factors. And modified versions of such theories will be developed to explain crime in different groups and among different types of offenders.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCrime Causation: Sociological Theories - Strain Theory, Social Learning Theory, Control Theory, Labeling Theory, Social Disorganization Theory, Critical Theories