5 May 2022


Comparison of Root Causes of Crime

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Crime is defined by any unlawful act that infringes the freedoms and rights of people in any given region. There are several types of crimes that range from; physical crimes such as breaking, robbery, and assault to the white collar crimes such as corruption, economic fraud, and tax evasion. For the purpose of this paper, this discussion will concentrate on the physical crimes of physical assault, robbery, burglary, and theft. These crimes are often associated with low-income areas within the social settings. To understand the root causes of crimes, this paper will interrogate various factors attributed to crime as well as theories that support them. The comparison will major on these factors in the low-income areas. 

The low-income population is vulnerable to the risk of crime or has a predisposition to crime due to some factors. The crimes, in this case, tend to be physical and ultimately violent crimes. There are some theories as well as factors that can be used to explain this crime trend in the low-income areas (Taylor, Walton, & Young 2013).  The underlying facets of the causes of crime include a range of factors and theories that can be used to explain crime. These factors and theories are economic theories, sociological theories, and psychological factors. These factors are irrespective of race and ethnicity; they assert to explain crime patterns in low-income neighborhoods.

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Theories of root causes of crime

Sociological theories

The society as well as the location that an individual comes from dictates the social behavior of the inhabitants of that area. Proponents of this theory argue that the social organizations and structures are a large proportion of the causes of crime. This theory depicts the socialization of an individual where the values found in the society are expressed by individuals (Sampson, 2013). In the low-income areas, social factors that are likely causes of crime include, inequality, family structures, over exposition to criminal tendencies, poor leadership among many others.

The concept of inequality in the low-income neighborhoods tends to cause elements of criminal behavior. Research has indicated that real or perceived difference in the society can a cause criminal behavior. For instance, when an individual feels that they have unfairly discriminated in the attainment of services, they tend to act on that perception in a negative manner directed towards crime. The crimes are committed in the attempt to correct the inequality or the perceived inequities (Taylor, Walton, & Young 2013). This is due to the sense of desperation created by that perception.

Poor leadership within the society is also a societal factor that contributes to crime. This is because the low-income society tends to have volatile behavior that is associated with the level of desperation due to insufficient flow of money. When the leadership is unable to tap the energy especially of the young people and direct it to the development of the society, the youth tend to join criminal organizations and gangs.

The family dynamic and structure has a direction to the criminal behavior in the society. For instance, the low-income families tend to concentrate more on money earning activities. This often leads to abandonment of parental responsibilities and the children grow up learning from the society. The vulnerability is created for the children where they are at a high risk to engage in criminal activities to attain what they want(Sampson, 2013).The criminal behavior experienced in the neighborhood is therefore replicated in the social lives of the children since they know no better. 

Economic theories/factors

According to studies in the crime dynamics, economic issues have been cited to have a central role in the rates of crime in society. Therefore, proponents of this theory underscore that; Economic issues within a community are contributors of crime in the low-income areas, and its manifestation is observed in the levels income and the high rates of crime. A range of economic factors includes poverty, unemployment rates and education levels (Enamorado, López-Calva, Rodríguez-Castelán, & Winkler, 2016). These issues in the financial arena predispose individuals in the areas of criminal behavior. The rationale followed by this theory is that, by attaching an economic value to crime, people make sense of crime to their benefit.

Poverty is one of the key issues that are cited as an economic issue in the causation of crime. In low-income areas, people have minimal disposable income, and therefore the little4 money that is earned is spent all in living expenses and education. This cycle leaves the population in desperation, and for their aspiration, they often resort to crime in trying to jump into the next social status. Crime is also attributed to poverty in the low-income areas when individuals who have no money feel unfairly treated by the society(Hinton, 2016).This notion often leads to people participating in crime either as a means of life or to correct the perceived discrimination. 

Poor education, as well as low education levels, are other contributing factors to crime predisposition. Studies have shown that areas with quality education and with a high number of educated individuals have lower rates of crime and the opposite is true. As an economic factor, little capital is invested in education in the low-income areas, and where the capital is invested; the population is too high to offer quality education (Enamorado, López-Calva, Rodríguez-Castelán, & Winkler, 2016). These issues form the basis that individual feels are discriminatory, and therefore the issue of desperation and anger fester in people. Crime is therefore born due to acts of despair, anger, and misinformation due to lack of education.

Closely related to the issue of education is a high unemployment level in the low-income areas. Due to low income, there is very little disposable income to create employment opportunities. Therefore the educated individuals, as well as the uneducated ones, find themselves without work. These cause the persons who have a lot of free time to engage in criminal activities to earn a living. 

Psychological theories

Psychological theories on the causes of crime are based on the human cognitive development and socialization of an individual. In these theories, therefore, issues of personality, as well as issues of family composition and background, are illustrated as factors of causing crime. These theories underscore the development of a child in the society and the mode of socialization and group psychology.

The family configuration has a bearing on the elaboration of the cognitive ability of an individual. Being the primary socialization unit in the society, a family will guide the character and act as a blueprint of how a child grows, and the view towards issues such as crime. For instance, children who grow in single parent family structure often suffer indiscipline. This is because, in the low-income areas, the time of the parent is overstretched between making working and the family. Therefore the children are often left alone with little or no supervision. Thus, their character is shaped by what they see in the society, and with little rules in the home, the child is socialized with no respect to the law(Walters, 2016). This predisposes the child to criminal behavior.

Group psychology is of interest to these theories as a cause of crime. Individual psychology is unique and different from group psychology. In low-income areas, there is a high population density, and therefore people tend to organize themselves in groups due to surviving. Peer pressure and influences, therefore, become recruiting factors by which individuals are ushered to criminal behavior. Similarly, when people are organized in groups, issues tend to be blown out of proportion; for instance, a case of inequality to an individual, real or perceived, may be taken by the group and brown up. The group psychology, in this case, states that what happens an individual happens to the group, and the vice versa is true(Walters, 2016).Therefore criminal behavior may be acted upon as a means to correct the inequality or get justice for an individual in the group. For example, mob justice is a product of group psychology, where the group in an attempt to seek justice assaults a suspected individual. 

The comparison of theories

Theories of root causes of crime are relatively interlinked and often close gaps between each other in the attempt to underscore the root causes of crime. 

Sociological theories versus economic and psychological theories

Sociological theories explain the causes of crime from a societal perspective where social issues are the leading factors push individuals to crime. As identified in the above explanation, issues within the society such as poverty, education and family dynamics cause offense. The aim of this theory is to highlight social issues that predispose individuals to criminal behavior. Social issues are at the core of individual socialization and behavior, and therefore it only makes sense to explain crime using this theory (Sampson, 2013). Comparing this theory to economic or psychological theories, there is a link between them. This follows that it’s difficult to explain any other theory without the socialization process. This is because individuals do not exist in a vacuum, they exist in society, and the crimes that take place are in the society. Therefore, the sociological theory seems to explain the causes of crime as the root factor.

Economic factors versus psychological and sociological theories

The economy is an essential aspect of every individual anywhere in the society. It’s the means by which people survive in the world. The low-income areas that are the investigation topic are created by differences in economic capabilities of individuals. Economic theories underpin that, for a crime to take place, individuals have to allocate a value to the crime. The value is drawing from financial needs of the individual committing the crime (Hinton, 2016). For instance, a person with no employment needs to eat and live in a house, with no source of income, the value an individual places in the robbery as a means of earning a living. While comparing economic approach as the root causes of crime to psychological issues or sociological theories, it seems to produce a motive for committing a wide array of crimes in the low-income areas. These are because economic problems cut across all factors that seem to explain crime causes. However, economic theories despite being a major factor, they cannot explain crime in singularity.

Psychological theories versus sociological and economic factors

Psychological theories explain the root causes of crime from an individuals’ perspective and the decision to take part in the crime. This explanation is taken by criminologist as the primary predisposition to crime. This is because, for a crime to occur, an individual has to make the decision to commit the offense. The individual decision-making process of a person that leads to crime is at the core of psychological theory(Walters, 2016). Despite there being a vast number of factors that may influence a person to commit a crime, the individual’s psychology is at the core of that decision. Sociological factors and economic theories bring forth general crime causative factors, in comparison with psychological approach; this theory seems to explain individual predisposition factors to crime. 

As identified several theories explain the root causes of crime in society, especially in the low-income areas. However, these theories fail to explain the root causes of crime in their entirety alone. Therefore, to explain the underlying causes of crime, a combination of approaches and theories is most appropriate. This is because each of these theories explains a -single approach while in conjunction, the whole picture is realized. Therefore, no single theory reigns supreme and have to be interpreted using other theories as loopholes exist under a singular approach.


Downes, D., Rock, P., & McLaughlin, E. (2016).  Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking . Oxford University Press.

Enamorado, T., López-Calva, L. F., Rodríguez-Castelán, C., & Winkler, H. (2016). Income inequality and violent crime: Evidence from Mexico's drug war.  Journal of Development Economics 120 , 128-143.

Hinton, E. (2016).  From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime . Harvard University Press.

Sampson, R. J. (2013). The place of context: a theory and strategy for criminology's hard problems.  Criminology 51 (1), 1-31.

Schmidt, P., & Witte, A. D. (2013).  An economic analysis of crime and justice: Theory, methods, and applications . Elsevier.

Taylor, I., Walton, P., & Young, J. (2013).  The new Criminology: For a social theory of deviance . Routledge.

Walters, G. D. (2016). Crime continuity and psychological inertia: Testing the cognitive mediation and additive postulates with male adjudicated delinquents.  Journal of quantitative criminology 32 (2), 237.

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