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lindagray

Applicable crime theories 1

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There are a multitude of different theories on the causes of crime; most, if not all, of are applicable to the causes of juvenile delinquency.

Rational choice
Classical criminology stresses that the causes of crime lie within the individual offender, rather than in their external environment. For classicists, offenders are motivated by rational self-interest, and the importance of free will and personal responsibility is emphasized. Rational choice theory is the clearest example of this idea. Delinquency is one of the major factors motivated by rational choice.

Social disorganization
Current positivist approaches generally focus on the culture. A type of criminological theory attributing variation in crime and delinquency over time and among territories to the absence or breakdown of communal institutions (e.g. family, school, church and social groups.) and communal relationships that traditionally encouraged cooperative relationships among people.

Strain
Strain theory is associated mainly with the work of Robert Merton. He felt that there are institutionalized paths to success in society. Strain theory holds that crime is caused by the difficulty those in poverty have in achieving socially valued goals by legitimate means. As those with, for instance, poor educational attainment have difficulty achieving wealth and status by securing well paid employment, they are more likely to use criminal means to obtain these goals. Merton's suggests five adaptations to this dilemma:

Innovation: individuals who accept socially approved goals, but not necessarily the socially approved means.

Retreatism: those who reject socially approved goals and the means for acquiring them.

Ritualism: those who buy into a system of socially approved means, but lose sight of the goals. Merton believed that drug users are in this category.

Conformity: those who conform to the system's means and goals.

Rebellion: people who negate socially approved goals and means by creating a new system of acceptable goals and means.

A difficulty with strain theory is that it does not explore why children of low-income families would have poor educational attainment in the first place. More importantly is the fact that much youth crime does not have an economic motivation. Strain theory fails to explain violent crime, the type of youth crime that causes most anxiety to the public.

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