Explaining Criminology Theories

Rational Choice Theory

Rational theory suggests that an individual makes a self-interest choice to commit crime after examining his options, that is, the reward and consequences (Hagan and Daigle, 2018). The person goes ahead and commits the offense as the rewards outweigh the implications.  The theory holds that people freely choose their criminal behavior, and the actions are motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. The motivation to commit the crime is aimed at securing ego-boosting incentives such as financial, status, and a learning curve. People evaluate the options taking into account the ability of each potion to produce pleasure. The premise of this theory is that human beings can be controlled by punishment, such as jail term. The reward of financial freedom outweighs the consequences of being caught and sentenced to jail

Trait Theory

Trait theory in criminology states that personality traits predispose a person to become a criminal (Burke, 2017). Innate traits are what defines the personality of a person. These personality traits are the cause of criminal behavior. However, this theory is biased, as many characters make up the personality of a person. These can be summarized into cardinal, central, and secondary. Cardinal traits summarize the entirety of the person’s personality, while the central traits identify personalities based on words to describe the person, such as a kind person. Secondary traits deal shows different personalities in different situations

Critics of this theory point that there is not enough empirical evidence to support the notion. The model is biased as it is based on broad personality terms to describe a person. It also does not take into account the personality trait while in a distress situation, only depicting the generalized form of personality. The theory also fails to describe the extent to which a trait can influence to become a criminal. Each individual may have the same personality but varying underlying traits; hence the theory cannot be said to be satisfactory.

Social Structure Theory

Social structure theory puts forth the sociological approach in explaining the involvement of crime by people. Social structure plays a big role in the determination of people becoming criminals, as they are the foundation of good and evil in the world. Social institutions have the responsibility of controlling people by having good social controls in structures such as family, school, and workplaces. Social structures serve to ensure that community members conform to the accepted norms by rewarding good behavior and penalizing the evil behavior. However, within the social structure there may be barriers that constrain what is possible for people to achieve. These factors may be social, economic or political and ensure that people achievements are biased due to class or ethnicity.

In this scenario, the social structure here is the family. The social structure is designed to guide the young boy in good ways of society. However, this is not the case here as the family is also involved in evil deeds in the community. The grandfather and father are also criminals; hence have nurtured the young boy in this vice and have instilled the idea that the crime is acceptable to society, thus not punishable. This was compounded by his mentor’s victimless crime since everyone was satisfied at the end.

Social disorganization theory suggests that a person’s social and physical surroundings are influential in deciding the behavioral choices a person makes. The principle idea in this theory is that location is essential in deciding to be involved in criminal activities (Burke, 2017). The crime family described in this scenario may live in nearby a lush residency. In contrast, they are from a poverty-stricken area thus are forced into crime from an early age to induce them into the vice to fend for themselves fully.




Burke, R. H. (2017). An introduction to criminological theory. Routledge.

Hagan, F. E., & Daigle, L. E. (2018). Introduction to criminology: Theories, methods, and criminal behavior. Sage Publications.

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