Individual and Social Theories in Explanation for Crime


The problem of crime is one of the constant problems which attract the attention of researchers. The sociologists, historians, economists reflect on the origins of violations of law and are looking for the reasons, but in many situations, there is a rising crime, the decline of morality and ethics, crave stability and security, trying to find the roots of many deformations of the law. Especially the problem is acute now.

Statistics provide the opportunity to trace the relative momentum only of registered crimes when the evidence shows that the level of latent crime is comparable to the level registered. It may be noted a significant increase in serious crimes involving violence against persons. We are facing up to the problem of “contract killings”, “political assassinations” corruption in the higher echelons of power. In addition, constantly growing the number of policemen who died while duty and getting worse attitude towards them.

The theories of crime

A great influence on the theory of crime was made by the Belgian scientist Adolphe Jacques Catley. Catley paid particular attention to the statistical study of crime. He stressed the importance of the need for observations of large masses of people, rather than on individual governmental instances. Catley has initiated the study of crime based on statistical methods.

In the last century, there was the scientific philosophical direction, which became known as the “positivist school”. The founder of this school is Cesare Lambrozo. He developed his theory when he was a prison doctor. Watching the prisoners he discovered that criminals have adverse mental and physical properties. Based on this, he was able to take a picture of the different criminals. ( Fishbein, 1990)

Another member of this school is an Italian Raffael Garofallo. He has given heed to the main offender, but also was interested in criminal law and its transformation. Garofallo divided the crime of natural-based altruistic feelings, rights and police, the crime of violating the law. He believed that the police have to destroy the criminals, because they are dangerous to society.

Another representative of the “positivist school” is Enrico Ferri. He believed that crime stems from three factors-anthropological, physical and social. Also Ferri believed that there was a “law of saturation of crime”, which determines its value in a particular country.

French sociologist Emile Durkheim was interested in sociology of crime also. He developed a theory of anemia, which was used in his study, essentially committing suicide. The cause of suicide Durkheim believed anomie. He also introduced the term of “social disruption” which refers to the state of society where cultural values and norms are not available, weak or contradictory. The main representative of the psychological theory of crime is an Englishman G.J.Aizenk. He explained the crime from the perspective of the individual. The social causes of crime, he considered secondary, and concluded that the improvement of social conditions does not lead to a reduction, but rather to an increase in crime. (Fishbein, 1990)

About the theory of the Chicago school, they tried to identify the relationship of crime and the territorial city. They believed that changing the city a great number of deviating behaviors.

Theory of anomy by Merton is one of the most well-known theories of crime. Merton believed that the cause of deviation is a gap between cultural goals of society and the means of achieving these goals. ( Fishbein, 1990)

Each of these representatives has their point of view, it is impossible to carve out a single theory. There are many theories, which show only that the crime is a multilateral phenomenon, the result of many factors. If we consider this phenomenon in light of the theory of self-organization, perpetrator is an element of society which can not be undertaken by the societal values. They individually or in a group of criminals are looking for a way to organize them.

Social and biological components

However, in discussions of the social and biological components in the genesis of criminal behavior, scientists agree that several biological characteristics (sex, age, especially the nervous system, psyche, and anomalies of others) have played a role in the commission of crimes, only as indirect social factors. Of course, the social environment is the most important factor in shaping identity, but has not denied the fact that biologically caused particular person in conjunction with the social conditions result in the commission of crimes. Indeed, a specific crime is always committed to the individual and expresses their faith, views, aspirations, habits, needs, etc. ( Fishbein, 1990)

Currently, the problem of the identity of the perpetrator is of particular relevance and significance in the fact those in recent years:

  • First, there is proliferation of the perpetrators of the crime;
  • Secondly, the crimes increasingly are of aggressive connotation, i.e., bear a stamp of cruelty, malice and special insolence, and are associated with personal qualities;
  • Third, there has been an infusion of crime among people from non-traditional social groups.

From the standpoint of criminal law, criminal is physical, attributable to having attained a certain age, person is guilty committed socially dangerous acts under criminal law. This combination of features forms the content of the notion of “subject of the offense.” That is criminal legal concept usually is meant when the term “identity of the perpetrator.”

The question of the social and the biological essence of the offender was discussion throughout the history of the development of criminology.

Nowadays crime problems are determined by social and economic structure of society. Crime problems are the companions of every society, which is characterized by usual social events, such as unemployment, uncertainty in life, difficulties in getting education. All these factors influence on young generation greatly. Also drug addiction and gambling are the substantial factors for the development of youth problems. It is worth mentioning that Mass media has a great impact on people, especially on children and teenagers, and that is why it can be considered to be one of the factors that influences on formation of thoughts and opinions. It is a well-known fact that Mass media and other means of information do not always suggest positive things to think about.

Trying to define the main causes of crime problems many scientists distinguish psychological and microsocial factors. Others explain that youth problems growth is determined by “sexual revolution”, family crisis and youth subcultures. There are some theories which insist on constitutional bias towards violence, national and race peculiarities. (Brendtro, 2003)

Generally speaking the very roots of crime are connected with bad breeding, negative events in family. The age peculiarities, such as lack of life experience, inclination to imitation, difficulties in evaluating the life situations, emotional instability and so on, increase the risk of adopting negative things, while being in bad surrounding. Especially this happens if there is no control from parents and educational establishments. A great majority of young problems is from the families with the low level of parents’ education.(Brendtro, 2003)

Speaking about the causes of youth problems more in detail it should be mentioned that there two approaches exist. The first approach is connected with the defining of the reasons of problems as the complex of all delinquents and deviations. The second approach is oriented on separate deviant’s actions (Brendtro, 2003).

All causes of crime can be divided into four groups:

  1. Crime is caused by the heterogeneity and changeableness of the normative valuable system of society. Problem appears if the social institutions are starting to disappear. This process is characterized by the social disintegration, weakening of solidarity between people, appearance of subcultures. Due to that fact of cultural heterogeneity people evaluate the life situations differently, what causes conflicts and contradictions; (Biglan, 2003)
  2. General reason of deviations and problems is society destabilization. Here we should mention the features of the stable society: relative isolation, relatively low level of population mobility, homogeneity according to race and cultural characteristics, slight differentiation of people according to their social status, presence of the system of general rules or general ethical mentality, high level of non-formal control under the members of society. The violation of these features leads to destabilization and as a result different social pathology appear;
  3. Another reason of deviation behaviour is stigmatization. Problem is a result of social evaluation of behaviour and proclaiming some types of it as crime. All people do right and wrong actions though some of them become the objects of social control and others do not. So it is possible to say that social control gives birth to stigmatization and it leads to the formation of the problem; (Derevensky, 2004)
  4. The global cause of crime is social inequality and stratification of society. It is a well-known fact that one of the most important indicators of the level of organization of society is differentiation of society structure. This natural and progressive process causes some negative results, such as social inequality. Inequality is a base for social conflicts, protest reactions which turn into deviant behaviour.

A problem passes trough several stages while developing their crime career:

The first stage starts from the simplest things: absence or weakening of the psychological contact between parents and child, troubles at school, conflicts with friends and teachers. The causes of all this problems can be different: cruel relationship in family, inattentive teachers and their neglect towards child’s inner world, aggression of peers, inner conflicts, wrong methods of upbringing at school and in family. So it is obvious that the first push toward the crime world is made by family and school. Unsatisfactory living conditions are particularly stressful during pregnancy. Fetal development is negatively affected by maternal stress. Such stress has shown to be closely related to ill-health, neurological problems, slow development and behaviour disturbances in children. While there is not direct cause and effect relationship between poverty and problem, the conditions arising out of poverty combine to create “high” risk populations who are over-represented in the criminal justice system (Dodge, 2007).

The second stage is examining the delinquent subculture and people. This subculture gives new ways of solving the problems, and escaping from the world of cruel family and school.

The third stage is characterized by the approbation of the new variants of achieving aims. A very important feature of this stage is the appearance and development of the complicated inner process – crisis of social identity. This stage is not final and it is still possible to get rid of the deviant forms of behaviour.

At the fourth stage a young person can not imagine the world without subculture and accepts their social role. This stage leads to professional crime (organized underworld).

After having learned the causes of youth problems it is possible to define the general directions in the preventive measures:

  • 1social preventive measures (social policy);
  • situational prevention of crime;
  • prevention of crime with the help of population.

To the social preventive measures belong:

  • creating of the proper legislative base;
  • public control under the police organs;
  • special approaches in the sphere of health care: creating the programs for mentally and physically ill children to integrate them into society, popularization of healthy way of life: discussions about harmful results of drug and alcohol taking, creating the conditions for the development of all forms of treating alcoholism and drug addiction; (Quinn, 2004)
  • educational measures: courses of social skills – healthy way of life, self-defense, preventing violence at school, integration of family and educational establishments; consultations on the problems of smoking, drug taking, sexual relationship, conflict solving; holding the arrangements aimed to realize the creative potential of every child; defining the gifted children from the poor families and their support; free sports activity;
  • family measures: flexible schedule for women having children, discussion about pedagogical skills with parents, creating the programs aimed to support families in conditions of social disadaptation and stressful situations (Quinn, 2004);
  • local accomplishment: liquidation of the boondocks, solving the problems of homeless young people.

To the situational preventive measures belong:

  • measures which make deviations more difficult: self-defense propaganda in Mass media, credit cards instead of cash;
  • police patrolling.

As for the third group of measures it is worth mentioning that it includes all forms of cooperation of population and authorities in achieving the common aims.


It is very important to note that one of the effective preventive arrangements is sports. Young people who are not getting education should be involved into sports activities to improve their health and to be busy with the popularization of healthy way of life.

In conclusion it is worth saying that family and school are an integral part of character formation. That is why special attention should be paid to family values to bring up ethically healthy generation. Cultural and national traditions, family values, love to close people, and to the world in general, are guarantee for youth crime reducing.


Brendtro Larry , Shahbazian Mary . (2003). Troubled Children and Youth: Turning Problems into Opportunities, Research Press (IL)

Biglan Anthony, Walberg Herbert J. , Wang Margaret C.(2003). Preventing Youth Problems (Issues in Children’s and Families’ Lives). Springer; 1 edition.

Derevensky Jeffrey L. , Gupta Rina . (2004). Gambling Problems in Youth: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives.Springer; 1 edition

Dodge Kenneth A. , Dishion Thomas J. , Lansford Jennifer E. (2007). Deviant Peer Influences in Programs for Youth: Problems and Solutions. The Guilford Press; 1 edition.

Fishbein, D. (1990) Biological perspectives in Criminology, Criminology, Vol 28(1): 27-72.

Longo Robert E., Prescott David S. (2005). Current Perspectives: Working with Sexually Aggressive Youth and Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems. NEARI Press.

Quinn William H. (2004). Family Solutions for Youth at Risk: Applications to Juvenile Delinquency, Truancy, and Behavior Problems. Routledge; illustrated edition edition.

Teitell Beth. (2008). Drinking Problems at the Fountain of Youth. William Morrow.

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LawBirdie. "Individual and Social Theories in Explanation for Crime." March 27, 2023.