Criminal Behavior Theories

Criminal behavior is any conduct that is divergent to the overriding norms of the civilization. There exist numerous dissimilar theories regarding what causes an individual to be involved in criminal behavior, such as genetic explanations, mental explanations, and sociological rationalizations. This document seeks to analyze the theories that seek to explain the reasoning behind criminal behavior.

Classical theorists held that severe punishments done in public would deter criminal behavior. The classical school of thought is that crimes happen when the impending satisfaction and rewards from unlawful deeds overshadow the pains of penalties. Thus, for ensuring an effectual punishment, it ought to be public, rapid, and obligatory; The Classical theorists further state that crime always attractive once it promises immense payback with modest effort. They conclude that crime should be controlled through the terror of punishment (Bernard, Vold, Snipes, & Gerould, 2010).

A positivisttheorists Lombroso an Italian physician undertook numerous post mortem evaluations on criminals in 19th century. Lombroso saw that most of the specimen shared a number of similar physical features. He listed these features, which comprised receding hairline, uneven face, forehead wrinkles, wide noses, plump lips, inclined shoulders, lengthy arms along with pointy fingers. Lombroso linked the stigmata to the primitive man a condition called {atavism}. The origins of this condition were firmly entrenched in the mainly influential books The Origin of the Species authored by Charles Darwin  (Crimelibrary, 2014).

Lombroso was persuaded that a wrongdoer was a wicked individual, a kind of throwback to primitive person who was undeveloped to the equivalent biological ranks as the contemporary, non-criminal individual. Therefore, Lombroso referred this lesser person a “born criminal”, the individual who was fated for criminal conduct caused by his physical arrangement. Lombroso concluded that a “born criminal” originated from degenerated families with recurrent instances of psychosis, deafness, syphilis, along with alcoholism amongst its members.

An additional theory regarding criminal behavior states that there exist a relationship between body type and criminal behavior. The body type known as ‘Mesomorphic’ described as being wide /well-built with a spirited, audacious and more fascinatingly; insistent personality. There exist an immense of empirical proof supporting this theory comprising of studies performed with a sample males from a criminal rehabilitation centre. The results indicated an overwhelming mesomorphs majority, which was in contrast since there was a prevalent lack of other body types  such as ectomorphs who possess a personality, nearly straight opposite to that of persons having a mesomorphic body. However, this theory is highly assumptive since there exist people with mesomorphic body types and have no criminal record whilst ectomorphs who are criminals (Bernard, Vold, Snipes, & Gerould, 2010).

Another popular argument regards the theory that individuals with reduced IQ are more likely to be criminals as compared to those with high IQ. However critics are usually against IQ  being a cause of crime, since IQ tests solely measure middle-class knowledge along with values instead of inborn intelligence. Consequently, the remark that some marginal groups own a low score on IQ tests plainly reflects their varied cultural backgrounds. It is evident that these groups commit more crimes since they experience structural disadvantages for instance poverty and prejudice. Therefore, the same individuals who achieve low results on IQ tests seem to commit crimes more, thus, IQ and crime correlation is empirical, thus this is a culturally biased evaluation  (LARRY, 2012).

Researchers states that family studies show indicate a correlation between families way of living and criminal behavior. For instance, research has shown that about 40% of sons belonging to criminal fathers have been involved in criminal activities compared to just 13% of sons belonging to non-criminal fathers. Child rearing practices such as physical punishments by parents are said to create a violent notion in kids minds. Additionally, if the first kids of the family become criminals the contagion effect takes shape and the smaller kids are more prone to violence (Bernard, Vold, Snipes, & Gerould, 2010).

Personality theorists have associated personality to crime via “personality-type psychology” or by declaring that particular deviant, abnormal persons own a criminal personality, psychopathic, antisocial or sociopathic features. Theorists assert that persistent offenders have particular dysfunctional interpersonal, emotional, and behavioral elements. The unique interpersonal and emotional attributes of psychopaths comprises the double possession of complete self-centeredness, ostentation, heartlessness, and lack of guilt or sympathy for others in addition to a magnetic, charming, and scheming superficiality. Thus the researchers hold that the defining behavioral features of psychopaths include impulsivity, capriciousness, risk taking, along with rebellious behavior  (Taylor, Walton, & Young, 2013).

The environmental influence on criminal behavior is and additional factor that studies have continuously endeavored to prove. For instance, an adoptee having non-criminal genetic parents along with criminal adoptive parents are over 10% more probable to receiving a criminal record compared to those whose genetic along with adoptive parents possess no criminal past. Additionally, adoptees having both a criminal genetic along with adoptive parents indicate the highest proportions of acquiring a criminal record in contrast to any other combinations. Thus, ultimately, environmental factors are a contributory factor in the topic since it directly influences criminal probability (LARRY, 2012).

 I find it insufficient to determine criminal behavior based on biological and psychological features since this would lead to stereotyping of in individuals. For instance, labeling individuals as psychopaths, antisocial, mesomorphic and so on raises concerns that these labels may result to undeserved, harsh sentences, since these persons could be seen as incorrigible. On the other hand, labeling offenders through personality and psychological disorders might result in doubts regarding their responsibility for crimes, resulting to unwarranted leniency.


Bernard, T. J., Vold, G. B., Snipes, J. B., & Gerould, A. L. (2010). Vold’s theoretical criminology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Crimelibrary. (2014). The Born Criminal — All about Criminal Motivation, by Mark Gado — Crime Library. Retrieved from

LARRY, J. S. (2012). Criminology: Theories,patterns & typologies. s.l.: Wadsworth publishing co i.

Taylor, I., Walton, P., & Young, J. (2013). The New Criminology. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

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