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Many different causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support.

Research and sources[edit | edit source]

The causes of crime is one of the major research areas in criminology. A large number of narrow and broad theories have been proposed for explaining crime.

The Handbook of Crime Correlates (2009) is a systematic review of worldwide empirical studies on crime publicized in the academic literature. The results of a total of 5200 studies are summarized. In order to identify well-established relationships to crime consistency scores were calculated for the factors which many studies have examined. The scoring depends on how consistent a statistically significant relationship was found in the studies. The authors argue that the review summaries most of what is currently known of variables associated with criminality.[1]

Biological[edit | edit source]

Age[edit | edit source]

Crime is most frequent in second and third decades of life.[1]

Gender[edit | edit source]

Males commit more overall and violent crime. They also commit more property crime except shoplifting, which is about equally distributed between the genders. Males appear to be more likely to recidivate.[1]

Arousal[edit | edit source]

Measures related to arousal such as heart rate and skin conductance are low among criminals.[1]

Body type[edit | edit source]

Mesomorphic or muscular body type is positively correlated with criminality.[1]

Hormones[edit | edit source]

Testosterone is positively correlated to criminality.[1]

Biochemical markers[edit | edit source]

Low monoamine oxidase activity and low 5-HIAA levels are found among criminals.[1]

Race, ethnicity, and immigration[edit | edit source]

There is a relationship between race and crime.[1]

Ethnically/racially diverse areas probably have higher crime rates compared to ethnically/racially homogeneous areas.[1]

Most studies on immigrants have found higher rates of crime. However, this varies greatly depending on the country of origin with immigrants from some regions having lower crime rates than the indigenous population.[1]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Pregnancy[edit | edit source]

Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with later criminality. Low birth weight and perinatal trauma/birth complications may be more prevalent among criminals.[1][2]

Family[edit | edit source]

Child maltreatment, low parent-child attachment, marital discord/family discord, alcoholism and drug use in the family, and low parental supervision/monitoring are associated with criminality. Larger family size and later birth order are also associated.[1]

Enuresis[edit | edit source]

Nocturnal enuresis or bed wetting correlates with criminality.[1]

Bullying[edit | edit source]

Bullying is positively related to criminal behavior. [1]

School[edit | edit source]

School disciplinary problems, truancy, low grade point average, and dropping out of high school are associated with criminality.[1]

Adult behavior[edit | edit source]

Alcohol and illegal drug use[edit | edit source]

High alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism, as well as high illegal drug use and dependence are positively related to criminality in general.[1]

Sex[edit | edit source]

Early age of first intercourse and more sexual partners are associated with criminality.[1]

Friends[edit | edit source]

Few friends, criminal friends, and gang membership correlate positively with criminality.[1]

Religion[edit | edit source]

High religious involvement, high importance of religion in one's life, membership in an organized religion, and orthodox religious beliefs are associated with less criminality. Areas with higher religious membership have lower crime rates.[1]

Physical health[edit | edit source]

General morbidity[edit | edit source]

Criminals probably suffer from more illnesses.[1]

Epilepsy[edit | edit source]

Epilepsy appears to have a positive correlation with criminality.[1]

Accidental injuries[edit | edit source]

Criminals are more frequently accidentally injured.[1]

Psychological traits[edit | edit source]

Conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder[edit | edit source]

Childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial personality disorder are associated with one another and criminal behavior.[1][3]

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder[edit | edit source]

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder correlates positively with criminality.[1]

Depression and suicide[edit | edit source]

Minor depression and probably clinical depression is more likely among offenders. Depression in the family is associated with criminality. Criminals are more likely to be suicidal.[1]

Schizophrenia[edit | edit source]

Schizophrenia and criminality appear to be positively correlated.[1][4]

Intelligence quotient and learning disabilities[edit | edit source]

There is also a relationship between lower IQ and crime.

A learning disability is a substantial discrepancy between IQ and academic performance. It has a relationship to criminal behavior. Slow reading development may be particularly relevant.[1]

Personality traits[edit | edit source]

Several personality traits are associated with criminality: High impulsivity, high psychoticism, high sensation-seeking, low self control, high aggression in childhood, and low empathy and altruism.[1]

Socioeconomic factors[edit | edit source]

Higher total socioeconomic status (usually measured using the three variables income (or wealth), occupational level, and years of education) correlate with less crime. Longer education is associated with less crime. Higher income/wealth have a somewhat inconsistent correlation with less crime with the exception of self-report illegal drug use for which there is no relation. Higher parental socioeconomic status probably have an inverse relationship with crime.[1]

High frequency of changing jobs and high frequency of unemployment for a person correlate with criminality.[1]

Somewhat inconsistent evidence indicates that there is a relationship between low income, percentage under the poverty line, few years of education, and high income inequality in an area and more crime in the area.[1]

The relationship between the state of the economy and crime rates is inconsistent among the studies. The same for differences in unemployment between different regions and crime rates. There is a slight tendency in the majority of the studies for higher unemployment rate to be positively associated with crime rates.[1]

Other geographic factors[edit | edit source]

Cities or counties with larger populations have higher crime rates. Poorly maintained neighborhoods correlate with higher crime rates. High residential mobility is associated with a higher crime rate. More taverns and alcohol stores, as well as more gambling and tourist establishments, in an area are positively related to criminality.[1]

There appears to be higher crime rates in the geographic regions of a country that are closer to the equator.[1]

Weather, season and climate[edit | edit source]

Crime rates vary with temperature depending on both short-term weather and season. The relationship between the hotter months of summer and a peak in rape and assault seems to be almost universal. For other crimes there are also seasonal or monthly patterns but they are more inconsistent across nations. On the other hand for climate, there is a higher crime rate in the southern US but this largely disappears after non-climatic factors are controlled for.[5]

Victims and fear of crime[edit | edit source]

Risk of being a crime victim is highest for teens through mid 30s and lowest for the elderly. Fear of crime shows the opposite pattern. Criminals are more often crime victims. Females fear crimes more than males. Black people appear to fear crime more. Black people are more often victims, especially of murder.[1]

Cultural and societal - Specific factors[edit | edit source]

Media depiction of violence[edit | edit source]

Media violence research examines whether links between consuming media violence and subsequent aggressive and violent behavior exists.

Gun politics[edit | edit source]

The effect of gun politics on crime is a controversial research area.

Drugs[edit | edit source]

Both legal and illegal drugs are implicated in drug-related crime.

Being an unwanted child[edit | edit source]

Children whose parents did not want to have a child are more likely to grow to be delinquents or commit crimes.[2] Such children are also less likely to succeed in school, and are more likely to live in poverty.[2] They also tend to have lower mother-child relationship quality.[6] Children whose births were unintended are likely to be less mentally and physically healthy during childhood.[7]

Cultural and societal - Broad theories[edit | edit source]

Rational choice theory[edit | edit source]

The rational choice theory adopts a utilitarian belief that man is a reasoning actor who weighs means and ends, costs and benefits, and makes a rational choice. Thus, one way for society to prevent crime is by the threat of punishment. The deterrent effect of this is much debated.

Subcultural theory[edit | edit source]

Subcultural theory are a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence.

Social disorganization theory[edit | edit source]

Social disorganization theory links high crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics.

Social learning theory[edit | edit source]

Social learning theory explain deviancy by combining variables which encouraged delinquency (e.g. the social pressure from delinquent peers) with variables that discouraged delinquency (e.g. the parental response to discovering delinquency in their children).

Differential association[edit | edit source]

Differential association theory is a theory proposing that through interaction with others, individuals learn the values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behavior.

Social control theory[edit | edit source]

Social control theory proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial.

Strain theory[edit | edit source]

Strain theory states that social structures within society may encourage citizens to commit crime.

Labeling theory[edit | edit source]

Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from norms.

Criminal triad theory[edit | edit source]

Criminal triad theory is a relatively new theory of criminality that looks at the interplay of three psychosocial developmental processes (attachment, moral development, and identity-formation) in the development of a person's internal deterrence system during adolescence.

Biosocial criminology[edit | edit source]

Biosocial criminology is an interdisciplinary field that aims to explain crime and antisocial behavior by exploring both biological factors and environmental factors. While contemporary criminology has been dominated by sociological theories, biosocial criminology also recognizes the potential contributions of fields such as genetics, neuropsychology, and evolutionary psychology.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

Genetics of aggression

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 1.34 (1 April 2009) Handbook of Crime Correlates, Academic Press.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Monea J, Thomas A (June 2011). Unintended pregnancy and taxpayer spending. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 43: 88–93.
  3. (2002) Crime: public policies for crime control, ICS Press.
  4. DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.8.1397
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  5. J. Mitchell Miller (18 August 2009). 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook, Sage.
  6. Family Planning - Healthy People 2020. URL accessed on 2011-08-18.
  7. Logan C, Holcombe E, Manlove J, et al. (2007 May [cited 2009 Mar 3]). The consequences of unintended childbearing: A white paper.
  8. Kevin M. Beaver and Anthony Walsh. 2011. Biosocial Criminology. Chapter 1 in The Ashgate Research Companion to Biosocial Theories of Crime. 2011. Ashgate.
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