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Social Sci LibreTexts

8.4: Explaining Crime

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    Learning Objectives

    1. Understand social structure theories of crime.
    2. Explain the social bonding theory of crime.
    3. Describe the general assumptions of conflict theories of crime.

    If we want to be able to reduce crime, we must first understand why it occurs. Sociologists generally discount explanations rooted in the individual biology or psychology of criminal offenders. While a few offenders may suffer from biological defects or psychological problems that lead them to commit crime, most do not. Further, biological and psychological explanations cannot adequately explain the social patterning of crime discussed earlier: why higher crime rates are associated with certain locations and social backgrounds. For example, if California has a higher crime rate than Maine, and the United States has a higher crime rate than Canada, it would sound silly to say that Californians and Americans have more biological and psychological problems than Mainers and Canadians, respectively. Biological and psychological explanations also cannot easily explain why crime rates rise and fall, nor do they lend themselves to practical solutions for reducing crime.


    California has a higher crime rate than many other states, but it is difficult to argue that Californians have more biological or psychological problems than the residents of other states.

    Ken Lund – Welcome to California, Nevada-California Border, U.S. 95 – CC BY-SA 2.0.

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