Crime is a complex social phenomenon that has puzzled researchers and policymakers for centuries. One approach to understanding crime is through the lens of social theory.

Social theories of crime examine the social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to criminal behavior. In this article, we will explore the social theory of crime in detail and its relevance in understanding criminal behavior.

What Is Social Theory?

Social theory is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to explain human behavior by examining the ways in which individuals interact with each other and with their environment. It encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, psychology, anthropology, and economics. Social theorists seek to understand how society functions and how social structures influence individual behavior.

What Is the Social Theory of Crime?

The social theory of crime posits that criminal behavior is not solely determined by individual characteristics but also by social and environmental factors. According to this perspective, individuals who engage in criminal behavior are not inherently different from those who do not. Instead, they are influenced by their surroundings, including family dynamics, peer pressure, poverty, and other societal factors.

Social Disorganization Theory

One prominent social theory of crime is social disorganization theory. This theory suggests that high crime rates are a result of weakened social institutions within certain communities. Factors such as poverty, unemployment, and residential mobility can contribute to a breakdown of community bonds and lead to an increase in criminal activity.

Social Learning Theory

Another important social theory of crime is social learning theory. This perspective suggests that individuals learn criminal behavior through observation and imitation of others. The process of learning can occur through direct interaction with criminal peers or through exposure to media portrayals of criminal activity.

Strain Theory

Strain theory posits that individuals may turn to criminal behavior when they experience strain or pressure within their lives. This strain can come from a variety of sources, such as poverty, discrimination, or lack of access to opportunities. According to strain theory, individuals may turn to crime as a means of coping with these stressors.


In conclusion, the social theory of crime provides a valuable framework for understanding criminal behavior. By examining the social and environmental factors that contribute to crime, researchers and policymakers can develop effective strategies for prevention and intervention. As we continue to study crime and its causes, the social theory of crime will undoubtedly play an important role in shaping our understanding of this complex phenomenon.