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Holds that youths will engage in delinquent and criminal behavior after weighing the consequences and benefits of their actions; delinquent behavior is a rational choice made by a motivated offender who perceives that the chances of gain outweigh any possible punishment or loss.

Choice theory


Trait theory

Holds that youth engage in delinquent or criminal behavior due to aberrant physical or psychological traits that govern behavioral choices; delinquent actions are impulsive or instinctual rather than rational choices.


Free will

The view that youths are in charge of their own destinies, and are free to make personal behavior choices unencumbered by environmental factors


Those who believe that people weigh the benefits and consequences of their future actions before deciding on a course of behavior.



Violent crimes against persons, and crimes in which an offender attempts to steal an object directly from its holder.

Predatory crimes


The view that crime is a “normal” function of the routine activities of modern living; offenses can be expected if there is a motivated offender and a suitable target that is not protected by capable guardians.

Routine activities theory


Committing criminal acts in groups.



Crime control policies that depend on the fear of criminal penalties, such as long prison sentences for violent crimes; the aim is to convince law violators that the pain outweighs the benefit of criminal activity.

General deterrence


Holds that decisions to violate the law are weighed against possible punishments, and to deter crime the pain of punishment must outweigh the benefit of illegal gain; led to graduated punishments based on seriousness of the crime (let the punishment fit the crime).

Classical criminology


Biosocial theory

The view that both thought and behavior have biological and social base


Sending convicted offenders to secure incarceration facilities so that punishment is severe enough to convince them not to repeat their criminal activity.

Specific deterrence


Crime prevention method that relies on reducing the opportunity to commit criminal acts, by making them more difficult to perform, reducing their reward, and increasing their risks.

Situational crime prevention


A location or address that is the site of repeated and frequent criminal activity.

Hot spot


A law enforcement operation that is designed to reduce or eliminate a particular criminal activity through the application of aggressive police tactics, usually involving a larger than usual contingent of police officers.



Developed by the father of criminology (i.e., Lombroso), this theory suggests that delinquents manifest physical anomalies that make them biologically and physiologically similar to our primitive ancestors; savage throwbacks to an earlier stage of human evolution

Criminal atavism


Neurological dysfunctions that prevent an individual from learning to his or her potential.

Learning disabilities (LD)


Damage to the brain itself that causes antisocial behavior injurious to the individual’s lifestyle and social adjustment.

Minimal brain dysfunction (MBD)


Branch of psychology that holds that the human personality is controlled by unconscious mental processes developed early in childhood.

Psychodynamic theory


A psychological condition producing mood swings between wild elation and deep depression.

Bipolar disorder


Psychological state, identified by Erikson, in which youth face inner turmoil and uncertainty about life roles.

Identity crisis


Branch of psychology concerned with the study of observable behavior rather than unconscious processes; focuses on particular stimuli and responses to them.



The view that behavior is modeled through observation, either directly through intimate contact with others, or indirectly through media; interactions that are rewarded are copied, whereas those that are punished are avoided.

Social learning theory


The branch of psychology that studies the perception of reality, and the mental processes required to understand the world we live in

Cognitive theory


Impulsive behavior without the ability to examine motives and behavior.



A personality trait marked by unfounded anxiety, tension, emotional instability.



A person lacking in warmth, exhibiting inappropriate behavior responses, and unable to learn from experience; the condition is defined by persistent violations of social norms, including lying, stealing, truancy, inconsistent work behavior, and traffic arrests.

Antisocial, psychopathic, or sociopathic personality


The view that intelligence is inherited and is a function of genetic makeup.

Nature theory


The view that intelligence is determined by environment stimulation and socialization.

Nurture theory