Criminological Theories

Criminological Theories




Criminological Theories

The chapter examines different theories that explain why people commit crimes. It explores how people have formed diverse hypotheses to elucidate crime, beginning from the classical theories that emerged during the enlightenment period, to the current theories that are based on scientific thought and observation. The theories examined include positivist, biological, psychological, psychoanalytic, humanistic psychological theory, sociological, strain theory, learning, and social control theories. It has identified critical theories, which include the labeling, conflict, radical, left realism, feminist, and postmodernism. This provides a clear picture of how people’s understanding of crime has changed over the years.

Understanding how different theories of crime have emerged over the years gives a person the chance to understand how some terms used in the criminal justice systems emerged. For instance, terms and concepts such as premeditation and rehabilitation of the offenders emerged after the enlightenment period. Over time, people have come to understand crime based on the experiences they are going through such as poverty, discoveries in science and related fields, and continuous research in the field of criminology. In addition, the more people understand about crime, the more they look at it from different perspectives. People’s understanding of crime has led them to enquire more about it, and this has led to the formulation of distinct theories such as left realism, feminist, and peace criminology theories. The theories look at tentative issues, which researchers would not have considered several years back.

Knowledge of criminological theories is fundamental. Knowing why people commit crimes is crucial for policy makers, criminologists, offenders, and others in the criminal justice system. Judges and those defending offenders need information on the different reasons why people commit crime. Lawyers need to argue their case to the judge when defending their client. For instance, they can claim insanity as the reason for their offences. They are able to do this because of the development of different theories. Judges need information so that they can be able to hand out a fair sentence. A judge can hand out different sentences to two different people who have committed the same crime, based on their reason for doing so. A psychopath does not have the same sentence as an insane person.

 Information on criminal theories is pivotal in establishing institutions to help the offenders. It also helps in gaining more understanding about crime. Policy makers know the decisions to make, such as the possibility of providing professionals to help the offenders while in different correctional facilities. For instance, some offenders might need the services of psychologists, others need to learn essential skills while serving their sentences, and others may need treatment such as drug rehabilitation. Therefore, offenders, prison officers, and others in the criminal justice system benefit from learning essential elements of criminological theories. The society gains an understanding of crime when they know about its causation. People are able to take measures to prevent crimes from their neighborhoods when they understand what may be causing it. In addition, they take measures to protect themselves against criminals.

What are the five key assumptions of the positivist school of thought?

The positivist school of thought rejects the classical idea that people have free will and that this determines their behavior. Instead, it establishes a cause and effect relationship, which seeks to identify the determinants of human behavior. It holds that criminals have distinguishing behaviors and other factors, which make them different from non-criminals. Another assumption of the theory concerns the objectivity of the social scientists. The theory also assumes that multiple factors cause crime. Another assumption is that the society is not based on a social contract, but it is based on consensus.

Explain feminist theory and its key criticisms

Feminist theory seeks to explain crime from a feminine perspective by examining different women experiences. This theory asserts that different studies and research on crime have been centered on males. It focuses on three main issues, which include victimization, gender differences in understanding crime, and gendered justice. Gendered justice includes differences in the way men and women offenders and victims are treated by different people in the criminal justice system. Feminist theories include radical, socialist, liberal, and Marxist. Liberal theorists differ from other feminist theorists in that they do not consider male patriarchy to be a source of discrimination against women, but they seek to ensure that women have equal opportunities and rights, and they have the freedom to choose what they want, and to make their own decisions.    

The main criticisms of the feminist theory include failure to recognize the differences between different women. For instance, white women face different challenges compared to women of color. They go through different experiences, and this determines their perception of crime. Another criticism of the theory is that feminists have different views concerning the criminal justice system. This affects the decisions and choices they make. For instance, feminists cannot decide on the role of the police in protecting women from abuse. Some feminists think that more police are needed to protect women, while others think that police do not need more power since it will only lead to more discrimination against women. Feminists have also failed to agree on the role of the law towards improving gender relations. They posit that the law is not adequate since it was formulated by white males. Therefore, it will not represent women issues well.


Bohm, R. (2011). Introduction to Criminal Justice – 7th edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company

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