Criminology and Trait theories





Trait theories argues that criminal behavior stems from biological or psychological characteristics of an individual and, therefore, controls coping mechanisms and eventually they lead to criminal behavior. Modern trait theorists indicate that there is no single physical or biological element that can be used to explain crime, but instead every criminal has a unique set of features that explain their actions. In this way, such traits could be hereditary, other may have neurological problems and other findings show that criminals may possess blood chemistry disorders that enhance antisocial behaviors. For example, people who appear impulsive, daring and even aggressive are more likely to engage in criminal activities than individuals who delay gratification, seem guarded and sensitive to the needs of other people (Siegel, 2014).

The social conflict and critical criminology critiques the trait theories by arguing that criminal activities are fueled by social conflicts. Through the social conflict, based on the rich and the poor, the people in power generate laws that favor them and keep the poor in check. In essence, criminals are not just social misfits who have specific attributes, but individuals who have received the raw end of the struggle and seek alternative methods of gaining wealth, status and also survival (Siegel, 2014, p. 200).

The general theory states that people who lack self-control are often short-sighted, impulsive, risk-takers and insensitive to the feelings of others. The lack of self-control is not the main cause of criminal activity, but the absence of self-controls results in other “analogous” actions. In essence, because people with no self-control engage in impulsive actions, they also face problems in social interactions; easily engage in drugs, and other rude behaviors. This “generality” in general theory characterized by lack of self-control stems from parenting. In this way, parents need to recognize bad behavior and correct it appropriately (Siegel, 2014).

However, social conflict and critical criminology through instrumental theory declares that criminal activities occur because of the wide gap between the rich and the poor. Through the capitalist scheme, the poor result to crime owing to the natural frustration of seeing the affluence publicized but it becomes unattainable. The abuse of political, social or media power by the wealthy allows them to control the behaviors of the poor or marginalized, and the pressure results to crimes (Siegel, 2014, p. 203).


Siegel, L. (2014). Criminology: The Core. Kentucky: Cengage Learning.