Theories of Crime

Theories of Crime













Theories of Crime


The paper pays attention to the theories that seek to explain the causes of crime. The ideas that feature in the analysis include the evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory, the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory, and the social disorganization theory. The variations that exist in the frameworks indicate that crime may erupt from a broad range of issues which needs one to be aware of these elements to stay away from trouble. The theories that developed at different times provide varying descriptions on why crime is likely to occur, but from the description, the social disorganization theory gives a compelling argument because it presents several issues as being responsible for the occurrence of a defiant behavior.

Theory One – The Evolutionary Nueroandrogenic Theory

Evidence suggests that various biological factors are responsible for the emergence of criminal conduct. Ellis (2005) describes the evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory (ENA) of the penal behavior which seeks to explain the offenses that have direct harm on other people either by inflicting physical pain or by taking away their property. ENA relies on two major aspects with the first one asserting that aggressive and acquisitive criminal actions developed as an element of human production, particularly among males. The second perspective of ENA seeks to find out the neurochemistry in charge of expanding the probability of engaging in crime among men in comparison with females. The framework maintains that the sex hormones affect the functioning of the male brain in such a manner that it promotes what is called the competitive or victimizing behavior. The influence of the sex hormone on male’s brain based on the report by Ellis (2005) instigate criminal actions directed at others and also cause other behaviors that may not be criminal but appear contrary to social norms.

The idea of competitive action presented by ENA can occur in a continuum with two opposite sides. The one hand of the spectrum contains actions that can intentionally cause injury to the other party or may deprive them of their property. The side of the continuum represents actions that go against the regulations that define how people ought to act, and are, therefore, criminalized.  At the other end of the competitive behavior continuum are actions that make no gain on the sale of services or goods, although the parties that administer the institutions receive higher pay than the persons who perform the day-to-day operations. Ellis (2015) gives the description to show how men develop an aggressive character because of the effort that they have to put to earn a living. The ENA theory presents females as being dependant on people who expose them to fewer experiences that would force them to victimize others to make a living.

The ENA theory purports that the brain of males is in such a way that it is more likely to develop the victimization behavior compared to the female brains. The variations that exist in the brain setting push males to commit acts that may not be familiar with girls. Ellis (2015) proceeds to mention how genes determine the variations in the way brains interpret actions and that males have genes that increase propensity towards victimization. The author agrees that men and females share most of the genes and that the claims by ENA would be correct if the genes that facilitate criminality (as well as other forms of victimizing or competitive behavior are located on a chromosome that both sexes do not share which is the Y chromosome.

Theory Two – Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic Theory

The second approach that helps to understand why individuals tend to engage in criminal behavior is the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory that developed from the works of Sigmund Freud. Moore (2011) who categorizes the framework to be part of personality trait theories posits that personality emerged during the early parts of life and comprises of three distinct units. The first part (the id) stands for the instinctual motives, the second part (the ego) stands for the social norms that connect to the id, while the third (the superego) is the moral lessons one acquires from a situation. The argument in the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory is that criminal behavior emanates as a result of lack of coordination between the three parts of human personality which is thought to be a way of meeting individual’s unconscious wants (Moore, 2011). The theory asserts that the internal conflict that results in crime occur from lack of coordination between the id and the societal requirements as interpreted by the ego. The conflict pushes an individual to an unconscious state where one develops the desire to develop coping strategies known as defensive mechanisms to put up with the misunderstanding. The theory informs that the defensive mechanisms can be out of control leading one to problematic behaviors such as robbery, theft, and personal assault among others.

The chief limitation of the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory is that it is problematic to provide evidence for defiance behavior. Moore (2011) gives the opinion of Erikson who viewed defiant behavior to be as a result of inner turmoil, and who thought that it is hard to test the theory empirically. Erikson, as Moore (2011) reports, felt that the utility of the framework to describe complex and criminal behavior is limited by the lack of proof to support the idea. Moore (2011) even includes the findings of a study conducted among 500 boys who showed how delinquents were more defensive, less cooperative, and more suspicious in their answers to show how much it may be difficult to judge whether internal conflicts lead to criminal acts.

Theory Three – The Social Disorganization Theory

The third framework that may help to understand why people tend to engage in criminal actions is the social disorganization theory that considers a person’s immediate environment to be responsible for the formation of defiant behaviors. The argument that comes out in theory is that individuals have a higher chance of taking part in criminal activities when they dwell in an environment that experience a high rate of drug use, vandalism, and lack of employment opportunities (Madyun, 2011). The theory also considers lack of education and high incidence of poverty to be a good recipe for involvement in a crime. The social activities dominant in a particular area may also influence one to engage in activities that may be perceived to be against the law (Madyun, 2011). A person, for example, may decide to become a con when the act is rampant in the local community yet the authoritative parties do very little to address the case. Similarly, a lady may decide to engage in commercial sexual activities which are widely perceived to be morally wrong in many communities when other women in the locality or region participate in such acts and even earn some income out of their actions. Likewise, a person may turn into an addict use of hard drugs when his or her peers engage in such acts on a daily basis without caring about their health or legal implications.

Further studies consider family composition and residential mobility to be some of the elements of the social disorganization theory that may create room for the development of deviant behavior. Madyun (2011) informs the audience that “having fewer two-parent families in a community mostly results in less adult intervention and fewer mentors” (24). Madyun’s (2011) argument is that being a single-parent makes it problematic to prevent the young ones from taking part in criminal activities. Additionally, Madyun (2011) finds fewer long-lasting societal relationships results in poorly developed social ties which pave the way for unstable income and poorer quality resources. The description encourages planners who wish to lower criminal actions should to consider addressing the challenges single-parent families experience and find ways of enhancing social connection as ways of dealing with the escalating crime rates.

Finally, investigations show that racial diversity is not likely to cause behaviors that qualify to be a crime but findings by Madyun (2011) remind readers to be wary because racial difference makes it difficult to adopt common norms or expected behaviors. Madyun (2011) who consider racial diversity to be part of the social disorganization theory argues that when a community brings together persons of diverse cultures but do not agree with similar ideologies, the cultural barriers develop the feeling of wanting to be on top or deserving equal rights. The author who uses the example of where students of color get a quality education in comparison with minority groups to be a scenario that leads to conflicts among learners and instructors conclude by calling for quick actions to prevent terrifying occurrences such as physical confrontations.

Comparing ENA with Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic Theory and Social Disorganization Theory

Analysts would realize some similar and varying features between the ENA framework and the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory. One of the common features between the two is that they all aim at describing the cause of criminal activities as manifested in the society. The two theories also share a similar feature in the way they both focus on internal aspects that exist within the body. The two vary in the sense that it is possible to confirm whether an individual’s anatomy contains the elements that have an association with the occurrence of crime as it comes out in ENA, but it is impossible to scientifically test or prove a person’s id, ego, and superego.

The social disorganization theory manages to address more issues as being responsible for the emergence of crime unlike ENA that focuses on limited issues. The social disorganization theory, for example, identifies factors like drug use, poverty, limited education, unemployment, social immorality, and unstable families to be some of the factors that can lead one to crime. ENA, on the other hand, only focuses on the genetic structure to be the primary cause of participation in a crime. The second variation that exists between ENA and social disorganization is that the latter framework pays attention to the societal issues whereas ENA focuses on genetic composition.

Comparing Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic Theory with ENA and Social Disorganization Theory

The variation between the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory and the social disorganization revolves around the expansiveness of the latter framework in the way in describes the factors that cause crime. The psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory only brings out limiting factors (id, ego, and superego) to be responsible for the development of lawless behavior. The social disorganization theory, on the other hand, mentions several causes as explained above. Similarly to ENA, the psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory pays attention to internal factors that may lead to crime yet the social disorganization pays attention on the ineffectiveness present in the external environment.

Comparing the Social Disorganization with ENA and Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic Theory

The major connection that exists between the social disorganization theory and the other two (ENA and Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic) is that they both seek to explain the reasons why people take part in criminal activities. The social disorganization, nevertheless, give more reasons from the society and the external environment as being responsible for engagement in crime in comparison to the other two. The social disorganization framework pays attention to the misfortunes in the society that lead to participation in crime while ENA centers on genetic and evolutionary reasons. The Psychodynamic-Psychoanalytic Theory on its part focuses on the emotional feelings or interactions that take place within an individual.

Choosing the most Convincing Argument

Based on the analysis of the three frameworks, the description of the social disorganization theory appears to be more convincing and liable to cause criminal acts. One of the factors that make the social disorganization theory to be a detailed framework that explains the causes of crime is that it is possible to experience and relate the transformations one exhibits from being a law-abiding citizen to one who chooses to act contrary. A researcher, for example, may introduce an individual who has never practiced corruption in an environment where the action is rampant and note his or her transformation as the interactions continue.  The researcher may note that after some time, the person under study may change personal views on the act and even be a party to it. It would be easy to witness the change because the individual may one day take or give out bribe. The transformations in the other two theories, nevertheless, may be hard to observe because they are mostly internal features. The dominant characteristics the social disorganization theory has over the other frameworks that explain why crime occurs undoubtedly make it more convincing.


The social disorganization theory emerges as the most persuading in the way it describes the factors that lead to engagement in crime. It covers many aspects such as drug consumption, poverty, limited education, unemployment, social immorality, and single-parent families to be responsible for the emergence compared to ENA and psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory that cover narrower ranges. ENA only includes genetic and evolutionary factors to be responsible for the appearance of competitive or victimizing behaviors that may amount to a crime. The psychodynamic-psychoanalytic theory, on its part, centers on how a person’s id, ego, and superego interact to develop conflicting feelings that may amount to a crime.























Ellis, L. (2005). A theory explaining biological correlates of criminality. European Journal of Criminology, 2(3), 287-315.

Madyun, N. (2011). Connecting social disorganization theory to African-American outcomes to explain the achievement gap. Educational Foundation, 25(4), 21-35.

Moore, M. (2011). Psychology theories of crime and delinquency. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 21(3), 226-239.


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