Short Essay on Different Theories of Crime

Various scholars have attempted to build different theories to explain crime systematically. Some have even tried to modify the existing theories so that different parts of a theory fit coherently, ironing out inconsistencies and contradictions of position.

It is not even uncommon to adopt different explanations for different types of crime and different categories of offenders.

Thus, white-collar (or occupational) crime is theorised differently from a common thief’s petty property crime. Female crime is explained differently from male crime. Crimes by juvenile delinquents and also youths (between 16 and 24 years of age) are explained differently from adult crimes.


In fact, variability in crime has led some criminologists to question the search for a single all-embracing theory which will explain all types of crimes. It may well be that we may not require a single theory, no matter how systematic it may be, to account for all types of crime.

Criminological theories indeed differ in their explanation of crime. Reid (1976: 103-251) has classified theoretical explanations as follows: (1) classical and positive theories, (2) physiological, psychiatric and psychological theories, and (3) sociological theories.

He has further sub classified the sociological theories in two groups: (i) social structural theories (including Merton’s, Cohen’s, Cloward and Ohlin’s, Matza’s, Miller’s and Quinney’s theories), and (ii) social process theories (including Sutherland’s and Howard Becker’s theories.

Seven major theoretical explanations of criminal behaviour:


(i) classical and neo-classical theories, (ii) biological and constitutional theories, (iii) psychological, psychiatric and psychoanalytical theories, or mental sub normality, mental illness and psychopathological explanations, (iv) economic theory, (v) geographical or topographical theory, (vi) sociological theories, or ecological, structural, sub cultural and social process theories, and (vii) multiple-factor theory.