Crime Causation Theories Summary

In criminology, three theories that explain and provide principles behind the causes of crime are Walter Reckless’ Containment theory, Edward Sutherland’s Differential Association theory, and Thorsten Sellin’s Culture Conflict theory. Although they remain theories, most of their principles and guidelines have great significant to a lot of crimes and cases at present. Walter Reckless’ Containment theory is a unique way of approaching crime causation as it doesn’t necessarily look for the cause of a crime. Instead it searches for factors that keep people from committing a crime.

It proposes that delinquency is the interaction between two forms of control which he calls outer or external containment and inner or internal containment (De Melo, 2001). In addition, according to Reckeless’ theory, every person has an external containing structure and an internal protective structure, which both insulate an individual from delinquency or crime. The inner containments basically are the factors such as one’s inner strength, self-conscience, confidence, ego, and tolerance of frustration, among others, while outer containments pertains to an individual’s social environment (De Melo, 2001).

There are also internal push factors, which are the personal negative traits like anxiety, hostility, and restlessness; and external pull factors, which compose of the external environment such as pornography and criminal peers (De Melo, 2001). These two factors weaken the inner and outer containments and eventually lead a person to commit a crime. For example, in the case of robbery and assault, external pull factors may include friends who have a history of theft and violence.

If these factors succeed in breaking the two barriers of containment of an individual, he or she may end up robbing and assaulting people. On the other hand, Edward Sutherland’s Differential Association theory mainly revolves around the ways through which individuals end up committing crimes. Although the theory has 9 guiding principles, in sum, it states that criminal behavior is learned through interaction with other people through communication and that the main part of this learning process is by interacting with intimate groups (Hamlin, 2006).

This learning process of a criminal behavior includes the techniques of committing a crime and also the specific motives and drives, which are learned from the legal codes either us unfavorable or favorable. In addition, the same learning mechanism in any other forms of learning is the same in learning criminal behavior (Hamlin, 2006). When a person becomes delinquent, he or she has an excess of definitions that favor the violation of the law and his or her differential associations may vary in duration, intensity, frequency, and priority.

Lastly, a person’s general needs and values do not justify an expression of a criminal act because behavior that is non-criminal is also an expression of those needs and values (Hamlin, 2006). In relation to robbery and assault, an individual who is associated with a certain criminal group can slowly learn the techniques and justifications in theft and hurting another person. As his or her relationship with this group becomes stronger, he or she grows more in favor of breaking the law and has well-defined motive or driving force.

Ultimately, he is able to commit robbery, assault and other crimes even without the presence of his criminal peers. Finally, Thorsten Sellin’s Culture Conflict theory generally proposes that criminal behavior is a result of conflict or differences between conduct norms (Keel, 2005). Meaning to say, criminal behavior develops when laws of one culture overlaps the laws of another culture and when their standards and practices oppose each other.

For example, in the case of robbery, a man from a certain culture decides to take something from white person without permission but swears to return it. Although this can be a clear case of robbery, to the person who took the object, he thinks it’s alright since this is what he has grown accustomed to when he is with other members of his culture and as a result, a clash between norms occur. Similarly, in the case of assault, for example, a boy from another culture decides to slap his Latin friend in the back playfully, thinking it was normal.

However, this act might be considered an assault by Latin culture. References De Melo, D. (2001). Criminological Theory. University of Missouri-St. Louis. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://www. umsl. edu/~keelr/200/Diane_Demelo/diane. pdf. Keel, R. O. (2005). Cultural Conflict Theory. University of Missouri-St. Louis. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://www. umsl. edu/~keelr/200/culflic. html. Hamlin, J. (2006). Differential Association Theory. University of Minnesota Duluth. Retrieved March 4, 2009 from http://www. d. umn. edu/.