Criminal Behavior Theories and Contributing Factors


Crime, as it is known, is a social phenomenon that accompanies the humanity for as long as there is society itself. In the world, there is a certain evolution of criminogenic factors, both socio-economic and socio-cultural. For example, the first ones include the general tendency of the uneven distribution of resources, income and wealth, that is, the progressive exacerbation of the poverty problem. It is essential to understand the direction in which behavioral norms change and to find out the mechanisms for consolidating those foundations that reflect human values. It will help to not only provide an opportunity to understand the sociality of behavioral norms but also to find the factors contributing to crime today. As the basis for discussion, some criminological theories will be mentioned with a view to explaining criminal behavior.

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Theories of Criminal Behavior

The analysis of criminal behavior is the topic that has been extensively studied in the works of different authors. For example, Anderson and Anderson (2014) note that one of the concepts that can be applied to the analysis of deviant behavior is the theory of differentiated association the essence of which is that crime is the result of influence on the individual of those social groups that are in his or her close contact. In the process of this communication, an imitative element becomes important, as a result of which the individual develops an impulse to commit a crime (Anderson & Anderson, 2014). People gradually learn the basics of criminal behavior and show increasing disrespect for the law.

There is another approach to the definition of a criminal way of life. Downes, Rock, and McLaughlin (2016) claim that the theory of stigmatization, or symbolic interactionism, has a strong influence on the human nature. According to the authors, this theory has the potential to associate antisocial behavior with the fact that the person that is officially affiliated with a particular stigma of the delinquent begins to associate himself or herself with a corresponding social group and behave in accordance with this designation (Downes et al., 2016). Based on this statement, conclusions are drawn about a cautious approach to an official stigmatizing reaction.

Finally, there is one more concept that helps to interpret certain deviations in behavior. Lindberg, Fugett, Adkins, and Cook (2017) mention the tension theory that, one the one hand, explains the reasons for a deviant way of life in the gap between cultural norms and the goals of society, and on the other hand, describes created opportunities and means to achieve them. This approach is directly related to the social norms of morality and implies the neglect of the prevailing stereotypes of behavior. Thus, all the mentioned theories in their own way convey the causes of criminal behavior and explain the prerequisites for its occurrence.

Types of Factors Contributing to Crime

Today, there are a number of categories of factors that determine criminal behavior and can serve as the reason for deviations from the norms of the law. Thus, according to Cook and Winfield (2013), there are various economic criteria that determine crime. The authors mention such causes as the degree of socio-economic differentiation and inequality, privatization, nationalization, globalization, migration, as well as the inadequate ability of law enforcement and financial-economic boards to timely respond to changes in economic relations (Cook & Winfield, 2013). Also, it can be attributed to the lack of the vast majority of citizens’ skills of behavior in a contemporary market economy.

Psychological factors can be identified among the most significant ones. They often play an essential role and act as a catalyst for deviant behavior. Thus, Reid (2015) considers crime the manifestation of deep subconscious natural instincts and inclinations that are peculiar to people. It can be a person’s an attempt to overcome the banality of his or her existence, go beyond the strict framework of social standards, and self-actualize (Reid, 2015). This theory has made a significant contribution to understanding the internal psychological mechanisms of criminal behavior, and the personal meaning of many committed crimes has become more understandable.

There is another factor that deserves particular attention. Livingston, Kearns, and Bannister (2014) mention the residential criterion and claims that the place of residence plays a significant role in the process of forming criminal behavior. According to the authors, in countries with a high level of economic development, the crime rate is less than in the underdeveloped countries (Livingston et al., 2014). This factor may partially be a stereotype; nevertheless, as the world practice shows, disadvantaged regions appear in those cities and towns where the population does not have sufficient means of subsistence and is forced to resort to criminal measures to ensure their needs.

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Thus, a number of scientific criminological theories confirm different sources of the origin of criminal behavior and explain the motives for deviations. Factors contributing to crime have a different background and help to interpret the concept of crime from different points of view. Deviant behavior can be partially reduced by taking appropriate measures and reforms to improve the status of people’s lives and reconsider the political direction of development.


Anderson, J. F., & Anderson, R. (2014). Criminological theories: Understanding crime in America (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Downes, D., Rock, P., & McLaughlin, E. (2016). Understanding deviance: A guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking (7th ed.). Ne York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Cook, S., & Winfield, T. (2013). Crime across the States: Are US crime rates converging? Urban Studies, 50(9), 1724-1741.

Lindberg, M. A., Fugett, A., Adkins, A., & Cook, K. (2017). Tests of theories of crime in female prisoners: Social bond and control, risk taking, and dynamic systems theories. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 61(3), 282-309.

Livingston, M., Kearns, A., & Bannister, J. (2014). Neighbourhood structures and crime: The influence of tenure mix and other structural factors upon local crime rates. Housing Studies, 29(1), 1-25.

Reid, S. T. (2015). Crime and criminology (14th ed.). New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

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