Theories of Crime Causation


Three major theories have been identified in the paper. The biosocial trait theory is similar to the structural functionalism theory because both assume that society is well behaved; the social bond theory differs from the latter because it assumes that self-centeredness is natural to man. Also, structural functionalism and social bond theories are alike because both account for crime causation through socially related factors. The major differences found among the theories include dependence on genetic accounts of crime in the biosocial trait theory hence a lack of accountability. Structural functionalism is different from all other theories because it focuses on kinships while the social bond theory accounts for gender differences among criminals.


The paper shall look at similarities and differences between three types of theories i.e. biosocial trait theory (a trait theory), structural functionalism (a social structure theory), and social bond theory (a social process theory)

Contrasts and comparisons

The biosocial trait theory differs from structural functionalism and the social bond theory because it is the only theory that explains crime causation through biological means. Biosocial trait theory is advantageous because it can explain why there are consistently high differences in crime between different genders with the male gender being highly violent. Adherents to this school of thought claim that the process of human evolution created certain characteristics that remained rooted in the human population and one of these traits are the tendency to commit crimes. This is largely why there are distinct differences between genders. (Laub & Sampson, 2004)

Additionally, it is this very theory (biosocial trait theory) that can be able to account for a relatively small amount of criminals in a high crime area that becomes perpetual criminals. The latter theory explains this phenomenon by asserting that one’s parents can make an individual predisposed to commit crimes if they possess certain criminal traits. In other words, the latter explanation draws on genetic makeup for backup.

Many questions remain unanswered in the biosocial trait theory. For instance, since proponents believe that certain neurological impairments can cause individuals to commit crimes, then how can those individuals be held accountable for their actions? Besides that, the theory does not sufficiently address why certain individuals choose to commit white-collar crimes that are well calculated and understood. However, it should b noted that this theory dos not solely rely on biological factors to explain crime as proponents assert that certain people are usually predisposed to crime but require psychological and environmental factors to trigger those tendencies. Consequently, more should be done to show how these interactions occur in future research on the theory. (Sutherland, 1999)

Structural functionalism and social bond theory are quite similar in that both theories attempt to bring in a macro perspective to crime causation. In other words, both these theories can be able to explain the role that societies play in causing or preventing crime. However, structural-functionalism differs from social bond theory because the former theory assumes that social cohesion is the major reason behind social stability and low crime rate. These proponents claim that whenever a social change occurs, the social equilibrium is disrupted and social institutions must therefore adjust to restore balance. Consequently, structural functionalists claim that an individual’s tendency to commit crimes will be affected by the role that they play within a certain social structure.

Structural functionalism is different from the biosocial trait theory and the social bond theory because it can account for relatively low levels of crime among ‘primitive societies such as the tribes of Africa. The latter proponents claim that uni-lineal descendants or possessing similar ancestors and sharing common values could lead to such observations.

Some of the areas that still need research in structural-functionalism include the uni-lineal descent aspects. This is because there have been some parts of the world that are still deemed as ‘primitive’ but do not exhibit the uni-lineal descents that are supported in structural functionalism. One such society is New Guinea – specifically Papua. In the latter society, their patrilineal linkages are very fragmented and most of their genealogies do not stretch too far. Consequently, the assumption made by structural functionalists that kinship ties account for social solidarity (hence low crime) does not hold water here. This implies that more work needs to be done in such geographical areas. (Burton, 2002)

The social bond theory differs from the other theories because structural functionalists and biosocial trait theorists believe that society is naturally well-behaved. Consequently, the theories focus on why some members of society behave in deviant ways. However, the social bond theory is unique in that it presupposes that man is naturally selfish or self-centered. This means that it is the society that must train its members to behave accordingly. The name social control is derived from the latter notion; that human beings’ instincts must be tamed through socialization.

The social bond theory is quite important in explaining why lack of family attachment among children can lead to future crime. This theory is also important in that it provides a macro-level perspective to crime causation. Besides that, it looks at the relationship between crime and one’s economic level i.e. the theory asserts that when one is in a certain career or profession, then they are committed to society’s belief systems and are less likely to act in contravention to its beliefs. However, if one is unemployed or a school dropout then there isn’t much at stake and there would be little to lose if one committed a crime.

The social bond theory cannot be able to account for the reason why there seems to be more need for attachment among female criminal offenders than among their male counterparts. Besides this, the latter theory may not be able to identify repeated and first-time offenders based on its explanations. This means that more research is needed here.


The biosocial trait theory is most appropriate for understanding gender differences in crime, however, more work needs to be done in understanding white-collar crime. The social bond theory is effective in explaining family-related ties, however, more needs to be done in the realm of repeat offenses. Lastly, structural functionalism is useful in understanding social institutions, however; it cannot explain weak kinship ties in certain tribal societies. Additionally, individual traits have not been considered.


Burton, J. (2002). Explaining adult criminality. Cincinatti: University of Cincinnati press.

Laub, J. & Sampson, R. (2004). Crime in the Making. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Sutherland, E. (1999). Principles of criminology. PA: Lippincott Press.

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