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Criminal Behavior: Biological and Classical Theories of Crime


I have a bachelor's degree in criminology and a master's degree in criminal justice.



What Is Criminality?

Different perspectives of crime are important to explain why individuals engage in deviant behavior and why only a few become monsters in our society. Explaining each theory and each perspective will help explain the different reasons for the occurrence of crime and the identification of factors that cause an individual to become a criminal. With the biological and classical theories, an understanding of an individual’s behavior will provide an insight into the mind and reasoning towards criminal behavior.

Theories of Crime

The study of criminological theory is an opportunity to analyze crime through explanations for the creation of criminals and criminal behavior. Each theory explains a reason for crime and applies logic to discover what makes crime appealing.

Making sense of the dilemmas that impact social structure, behavior, and change make it easier to understand what needs to be done to prevent the behavior and actions of a criminal. Is crime caused by social or biological factors that encourage the dominance of the criminal behavior?

Classical and biological theories of thought explain crime through two different considerations that are necessary for the rationalization of deviant behavior. Although different perspectives are reasoned, the classical and biological explanations of crime are important for criminological behavior to be understood.

Each theory provides a different perspective for the drive to commit a crime and gives society the information needed to identify and prevent the factors that may lead to the problems of crime and criminal behavior.



The Classical Theory of Crime

The focus of rationality of human nature created the basis for the classical theory of crime. The idea that individuals can live together in harmony, and any individual that chooses to commit crimes chooses willingly without any other factors existing. The prevention of crime came from the fear that a person who stepped out of the norms of society would suffer the consequences of becoming an outcast. If the benefit from the crime was more appealing than the punishment, then the criminal chose to commit the crime.

Individuals are in agreement to the structure of society that shapes the behaviors and actions that are necessary to survive. Social contracts and the emphasis of law formation define human behavior and regulation of behavior to protect society against inherent self-interests or rationality of crime. To create a system that deters crime from an unpleasant punishment will drive an individual to avoid the unfavorable outcome.

The idea of a social contract is to provide an understanding of what is acceptable for the common pursuit of happiness for society, and the creation of a social order that minimizes the pursuit of personal interests. The respect for society is the primary focus, and individual are expected to place the good of society before themselves. All individuals are considered rational and engage in crime for self intent, separate crime from social conditions of accountability by purporting individual decisions as the blame.

The balance of what would deter the criminal from a crime and the due process of law without bias, were important aspects of the classical theory of crime that explain the individual’s rational judgment for criminal behavior. The theory gives the reason for criminal behavior, based on a rational individual’s perspective. This holds validity for many individuals that lead to criminal behavior, but excludes the individuals that are irrational and lead to criminal behavior.

The Biological Theory of Crime

Biological theories of crime are different from classical theories, shifting the focus from the explanation of rational individuals to irrational and uncontrollable human behavior. This theory explains how crime is not an occurrence of social factors or benefits outweighing the punishments, but distinct biological factors that lead to criminal behavior by individuals. Much of an individual’s criminal behavior is due to some physical alteration of the body, particularly with the functions of the brain.

Physical and genetic factors constitute the ability of an individual to engage in criminal behavior. Alterations to the body prevent the development of human bonds to society and prevent social development and normal behavior. Unlike the classical perspective, the Biological perspective uses traditional scientific research techniques to form the study of human behavior to classify determinants that result in crime. Treatment of the individual was a greater importance to deterring crime than the judicial laws that confine criminal behavior.

The biological theory focuses on the uncontrollable aspect of an individual- their genetic alterations. The biological theory for crime focuses on the likelihood that an individual will become a criminal. Prediction of deviant behaviors is based on an individual’s biological inefficiencies. Genetic makeup and the development of and individual determines the degree of deviance that could dominate their decisions and actions in the future.

Crime Scene Tape

Crime Scene Tape

The Importance of Criminological Theories

The importance of classical and biological theories for explaining crime creates different perspectives to correcting criminal behavior and crime in society. Although each theory fails to consist of all factors that lead to crime, they each provide insight into the reasons for criminal behavior. The biological theory gives understanding into the individual’s mind, providing an understanding of an individual’s development into a criminal career.

Yet, the classical theory focuses on the rational-minded individual that chooses to engage in criminal activity by choice. Each theory is important for the understanding of criminals and their choices in society. Even though each theory is deficient with the explanation for all types of criminals that exist, they each give an understanding for the behavior.

Exploring several theories and opinions allows society to understand the different types of criminals that exist in our society and allows society to create a new system that could help deter criminal behavior.

Without theories in society, we would not be able to explore the different options for correcting the criminal or deterring the crime. Theories of crime exist to help society understand how to fix the problems and how to prevent future problems. The existence of crime is very real in our society and continues to increase. Without an understanding of what needs to be done, we cannot fix or prevent anything.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


joe from So. Cal. on September 08, 2013:

There are basically two types of crimes, theft, and causing harm, bodily, property, or livelyhood. When a person who was spotted texting while driving, for whatever reason decides not to stop, the use of deadly force is permitted by law enforcement. No due process, no fair trial, maybe they had a few drinks, or have pot in the car, whatever. Taking another life for a trivial violation of a man made "law", or policy, or regulation, or restriction, or code, or infraction, or act, or bill, or requirement, or ordinance, or proposition, prohibition, or whim of some special interest group, or corporation. Where does taking the life of someone who poses no threat, harmed anybody, or destroyed property, come into rationality? And, "laws" are supposed to apply to all equally, not just some irrationally.

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on September 07, 2013:

Very interesting and informative Hub, Miakouna. I believe that most crime comes from the rational need to obtain goods that one cannot afford. Often this is due to society's pushing them to the fringes. The evidence for this is the consistent rise of crime during economic downturns and vice versa. There are also sociopaths and psychopaths that are hard wired for crime and violence. These are the people who we need to most incarcerate. The rest need remedial sentences and serious help to successfully reunite into common society.

lanablackmoor from New England on November 23, 2012:

A very well-written explanation of the different theories. This was a great refresher, and took me back to the criminal law courses I took in college. Voted up!

joe from So. Cal. on August 30, 2012:

In a society that makes everything a "crime", it's difficult to avoid the three purported felonies everybody commits daily. In theory a crime requires a victim, someone to file a complaint, and to be made "'whole" again. The US has so many laws, nobody knows how many, too many to count. People in jail, who never harmed another individual, are victims, not criminals. Legislating a medical condition(drug addiction) into a criminal act, is the criminal act.

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on May 19, 2012:

Teaching a course on Social Psychology at Africa Christian College in Swaziland in June. Found this article interresting and helpful. Thanks!

Anthony W. Antolic from Vancouver, Washington. on April 25, 2012:

You bring up some good points. Right on.

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