Social Causes

Social Causes

Environmental and Social Theories of Crime Social Causes

Introduction to Social Causes

One of the first theories describing the influence of social factors on crime came from French sociologist Gabriel Tarde. In the late 1880s Tarde criticized the physical typology theories of Lombroso and his followers. Although Tarde did not deny the relevance of biological factors in enhancing criminal tendencies, he asserted that the causes of crime are chiefly social. His basic theory on the causes of crime was founded on laws of imitation.

Tarde believed that persons predisposed to crime are attracted to criminal activity by the example of other criminals. He also felt that the particular crimes committed and the methods of committing those crimes are the products of imitation. The predisposition to crime, while in part reflecting many factors, is explained principally by the offender’s social environment, particularly the environment of his younger years. Tarde was also one of the first to study the professional criminal. He noted that certain offenders pursue careers of crime. These career criminals may engage in periods of apprenticeship that are similar to those that characterize training for entry into other professions.

Another French social theorist of major importance to modern criminology was Émile Durkheim, who believed that the causes of crime are present in the very nature of society. According to Durkheim, whose major works were written in the 1890s, crime is related to the loss of social stability. Durkheim used the term anomie to describe the feelings of alienation and confusion associated with the breakdown of social bonds. According to Durkheim, individuals in the modern era tend to feel less connected to a community than did their ancestors, and thus their conduct is less influenced by group norms.

Since the early work of Tarde and Durkheim that proposed a link between social interactions and criminal motivation, sociological theories of crime have become much more detailed. They have identified the particular social groups that affect criminal motivation and the process by which criminal socialization occurs. This elaboration of sociological theories of crime can be divided into two major schools of thought: the social-structural school and the subcultural school. ” (1)


Notes and References

Guide to Social Causes

In this Section

Criminology, Criminology Development (including Classical Criminology, Modern Criminology, Criminology Italian School and Independent Criminology), Criminology Goals, Biological Theories of Crime (including Crime Genetic Factors and Neurological Abnormalities), Psychological Theories of Crime (including Moral Development Theories, Social Learning Theories and Personality Theories), Environmental and Social Theories of Crime (including Social Causes, Social-Structural Theories, Subcultural Theories and Economic Causes of Crime) and

Criminal Opportunity.