There are a variety of theories that attempt to explain why individuals commit criminal acts. Some theorists believe individuals have a biological predisposition to commit crimes, while other theorists propose social learning roles, learned through modeling, are attributed to an individual learning to behave in a criminal manner.
Researchers attempt to explain behavior using an assortment of theories including general theories, unicausal theories, and integrated theories. A general theory attempts to explain all, or most of criminal behavior by using one technique, and explains the theory as a comprehensive role. A unicausal theory focuses on one primary cause for criminal behavior. While an integrated theory advocates the use of a variety of theories in order to explain criminal behavior. Author Frank Schmalleger is a proponent of utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, he asserts, “When we consider the wide range of behaviors regarded as criminal-from murder, to drug use, to white collar and computer crime-it seems difficult to imagine one theory can explain them all or that might even explain the same type of behaviors under varying circumstances.” (Schmalleger, 2009, pg. 18)
Criminal profiling that involves a multidisciplinary approach attempts to explain, and understand criminal behavior using many perspectives including biological roots, social structure, and psychological/psychiatric foundations.
Theorists who are proponents of the biological theory maintain that people are more likely to commit criminal acts due to genetic factors, physical attributes, and chemical structure having an affect on personality, aggression levels, and behavioral problems. Theorists who advocate a psychological approach assert that criminal activity is a direct result of an individual’s personality disorder, which may include antisocial conduct, or mental illness. Social learning theorists argue an individual’s social environment is an effective indicator as to whether an individual will learn criminal behavior, and subsequently become involved in it. (Schmalleger, 2009).
A variety of factors are involved in an individual’s criminal behavior, and no one theory is all encompassing, thus a multidisciplinary approach should be utilized to provide better understanding in the role of criminal profiling. Studies show that criminal activities can occur as a result of biological roots, social learning problems, as well as personality disorders. Since every theory, and every individual is different, researchers that use a diverse collection of theories will have a greater perceptiveness when it comes to the role of the offender. “Exactly what makes an offender behave the way he or she does cannot simply be explained by individual factors but must also take into account the environment in which he or she was raised and how this environment transmitted justifications for his or her behavior.” (Holmes & Holmes, 2009, pg. 75)
Holmes, R., & Holmes, S. (2009). Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool. (4th ed). Sage Publications, Inc.
Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminology today: An integrative introduction. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.