The U. S. Criminal Resource Manual defines murders as “the unlawful killing of a human being with malice” and divides them into two degrees (U. S. Department of Justice). However, by dividing murders into the two different categories, the Manual offers an oversimplified vision of murder as a type of deviant behavior. In reality, numerous sociological theories of crime seek to explain the roots, the reasons, and the drivers that push people to committing murders.
In this context, Rational Choice Theory and Strain Theory of crime may become the two valuable sources of information in regards to the origins and the hidden motives of a murder. Why people engage in unlawful behaviors remains the central and the most controversial problem of criminological and sociological sciences. Numerous concepts were designed to explain the reasons of deviant behaviors, and Rational Choice theory has become the result and the product of rehabilitative technologies’ failure to decrease crime rates in the 1970s-1980s (University of Missouri).
Rational Choice Theory suggests that “law-violating behavior should be viewed as an event that occurs when an offender decides to risk violating the law after considering his or her own personal situation” (University of Missouri). From the viewpoint of Rational Choice, a murder will be the result of a thorough consideration of various situational factors (for example, the extent to which the potential victim is protected, the possibility to approach the victim without being noticed by others, as well as the probability of being discovered and punished, etc. ).
Very often, a murderer will have to weigh the reasons to murder (e. g. the need for food) against the seriousness of the crime. Thus, Rational Choice theory implies that an individual will engage in deviant behaviors (in this case, a murder), if he is not afraid of either punishment or apprehension (University of Missouri), and if the benefits of the murder overweigh its risks. Strain theory offers a different explanation to the reasons of murder. Generally, “strain is the disjunction between aspirations and expectations / actual achievements” (Agnew 51).
Here, murder will result of negative relationships, which prevent individuals from achieving their objectives and goals. Traditionally, strain theory of crime limited the scope of negative relationships to those, in which others prevented lower-class individuals from achieving monetary success, or / and middle class status (Agnew 54); however, this version of negative relationships has been gradually expanded to cover a wide range of abnormal behaviors (e. g. , modern murders may easily result of one’s desire to have better grades, or to achieve popularity among peers).
Social Strain theory is particularly relevant in regards to adolescent behaviors, for the latter are increasingly susceptible to the quality of their relationships with others and tend to review these relationships in negative colors. In this context, a murder is the direct product of the disjunction (or rather, the growing gap) between adolescents’ achievements and expectations. These expectations may relate to subjects, notions, phenomena, or people, and the victims of such murders are those whom adolescents consider to be serious barriers on their way to positive values.
Very often, adolescents engage into deviant behaviors without being driven by specific outcomes, but rather trying to change the rules of distributive justice (Agnew 55); for example, a young man may be satisfied with an average mark, but if such grading does not match his expectations of fairness, he will be more likely to commit a crime. Conclusion Rational Choice Theory and Strain Theory offer the two different explanations to the reasons and possible causes of murder.
The former views murder as a result of the thorough consideration of criminal opportunities and needs, while the latter implies that a murder is nothing more but a result of negative relationships with others. Regardless the purpose, murders represent one of the most serious types of deviant behaviors – behaviors that need to be explored and explained in more detail, to guarantee that we are able to tame them, control them, and minimize the criminal damage they cause to society.
Agnew, R. “Foundations for a General Strain Theory of Crime and Delinquency. ” Criminology, vol. 30, no. 1 (1992): p. 47-87. University of Missouri. “Rational Choice Theory and Deterrence Theory. ” 2005. University of Missouri. 26 January 2009. http://www. umsl. edu/~keelr/200/ratchoc. html U. S. Department of Justice. “Criminal Resource Manual 1536. ” 2007. United States Department of Justice. 26 January 2009. http://www. usdoj. gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title9/crm01536. htm