Over the course of the last century, there have been a number of developments in theories relating to criminology. Criminology is the study of crime and all aspects relating to crime. While many of the theories that have been created seek to understand an aspect of criminology that had been ignored in the past, resent research papers on criminology reveal that the reality of these new theories is that they represent a larger part of a continuum of criminology. As such, when scholars examine criminological theory and crime control in research papers, they must not only understand each theory, in and of itself, but also they must understand how a particular theory fits into the larger history of criminology that has taken many decades to evolve.
With the realization that the study of criminology presents such a multifaceted challenge for the student embarking on a research paper, Paper Masters has suggestions for examining four specific criminological theories to elucidate the underpinnings of each. Because proper framing of criminological theory requires the researcher to place theory in the context of the specific fields of criminological inquiry from which the specific manifested, this investigation also considers the spectrum of history that shaped the development of these four specific theories.
- Rational Choice Theory
- Strain Theory
By examining theory in this manner it will be possible to elucidate both the importance of each theory and the manner in which each theory came to become part of the broader scope of criminological theory.
Considering first the context of rational choice theory, researchers have acknowledged that this theoretical position on crime manifested as a direct result to the chaotic and barbaric conditions that existed before the institution of law. Research papers reveal that under this specific theory, individuals made a specific choice based on the information available to them. Even if the information is not complete, a choice is made that appears to have some degree of rationality to it.
Although rational choice theories appear to provide a salient explication for criminal behavior, as society progressed and science became the principle foundation of social discourse, researchers exploring criminology began looking for more quantitative reasons for criminal behavior. During this period of research, the focus for theory development became the human genome. Researchers argued in academic research papers that criminal behavior was a manifestation of innate biological characteristics that were common among most criminals. Thus, under this broad umbrella, crime was not a result of social conditions, it was the direct result of the biological composition of the individual.
While biological theories provided a more in depth examination of the potential causes of some criminal behavior, without concrete evidence demonstrating the root manifestations of crime—i.e. genetic correlations—biological theories began to wane in favor of more psychological theories of criminal behavior. Psychological theories of crime contend that there are specific issues in the psychological development of the individual that serve as the basis for criminal behavior. Although some of these problems can stem from biological deficits that impact the ability of the brain to function properly, most are a direct consequence of exposure of the individual to situations that foster criminal activity.
Arguably, psychological theories of criminology had a marked impact on understanding. This is witnessed by the fact that psychological theories gave rise to social-psychological theories of criminology such as strain theory. Under social-psychological theories of criminology, the central focus of investigation was the manner in which the larger context of society prompted the onset of criminal behavior. Thus, while psychological theories considered the ramifications of the micro environment, social structure theories considered the psychological ramifications of the macro environment.
Synthesizing all of the information that has been provided in this investigation, it becomes evident that of all the theories that have been proposed, those related to biology appear to have the least in common with other theories. While it is possible to understand why biological theories of crime developed, it is clear that only by placing these theories in the context of history is it possible to understand why biological theories of criminology came into being. Clearly, biological theories stand markedly apart from the other theories of criminology discussed in this investigation.