When it comes to understanding the theories behind connections between crimes and individuals or the community, many people may not realize that the beliefs that differentiate the theories are not as complex as they may seem at first. By simplifying the core of the theories, individuals are able to more properly understand the different theories that can help individuals to identify the theory that they most identify with when considering the interactions of crime and society. Once the foundation of the theories are understood, it is much easier to build upon the theory by including some of the more complex ideas supported by the theory. A number of theories exist, and many are being created daily on the part of individuals. However, there are a few theories that are more common and widely held as beliefs than other theories may be.
There are social structure theories, or those theories that the status and construction of the social setting will define the likelihood and amount of crime in the area. Individuals that are exposed to poverty and other signs of social deterioration are believed to be more prone to crimes and acts of violence. There are other specific social theories that believe crime is perpetuated by the inequality that exists within the social structure that is established. When people are unable to achieve that which society expects of them, such as the “American Dream”, these individuals turn to crime to try to realize this dream. Individual theories exist in order to explain criminology within a society. Trait theories are those based on scientific knowledge of the human body and how chemicals and genetic material will determine or alter how an individual responds to stimuli. Aggressive behavior and antisocial tendencies are just some of the many personality traits of individuals that are involved in crime, and the links to genetics, hormones and other biological factors are currently being studied.
Some theories stop looking at what encourages an individual to become corrupt, and instead focus on the effects of society to explain how and why some people are able to lead productive and admirable lives. These theories are commonly referred to as control or social control theories. In an example, it is illustrated that an individual that has a greater degree of self control will be able to wait patiently while attaining their dream or goal instead of using possibly degenerate means in order to gain immediate access to their desire. Symbolic interaction as a theory examines the relationship of the powerful, ruling class and those that are less powerful. By integrating themselves into the belief that they were less powerful, youths that were looked down on played up to the role designated to them. It represents a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts since the youths are taking the more powerful group at their word and transferring the definition onto themselves as criminals.
Of the last main theories that surround criminology, rational choice theory maintains that criminals weigh the pros and cons of an outcome just like anyone else. When the costs and benefits are dissected, the criminal will make a decision. They may also consider the time and place for the crime as well in order to find the situation with the lowest crime risk.