Theories of Crime Causation: Trait Theory and Rational Choice Theory

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Theories of Crime Causation: Trait Theory and Rational Choice Theory

Theories of crime causation get to the fundamental characteristics of human nature. Theories of crime causation can be separated into trait theories and choice theories. Both types of theories make valid points about the causes of crime, yet they are have different implications for preventing the causes of crime. Thesis: Trait theories and choice theories both assume that humans are self-interested, but their conceptions of self-interest limit the applicability of each to certain types of crime. Trait theories appear more suited for explaining the causes of violent crime, whereas choice theories are more appropriate to property crimes or economic crimes.

Trait Theories
Trait theories posit that crime is caused by certain traits, biological or psychological, among individuals which predispose them to crime. These traits control the individual's coping strategies and ultimately result in criminal behavior. Social philosopher Cesare Lombroso, working in the early 1900's, theorized that there were common physical traits shared by criminals. (Glaser, 205-6). These included distinct characteristics in the jaw line, teeth, and nose as cranium of offenders. As a result, public law enforcement viewed offenders as either incapable of reason or as unable to control their animal impulses. (Glaser, 206).
Trait theories eventually grew beyond the realm biological characteristics, into social and
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