Correlates of crime  

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Many different causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support. Most of the information on this page comes from Ellis; Kevin M. Beaver; John Wright (1 April 2009). Handbook of Crime Correlates.


Research and sources

The causes of crime is one of the major research areas in criminology.

The Handbook of Crime Correlates (2009) is a systematic review of worldwide studies on crime publicized in the academic literature. The results of a total of 5200 studies are summarized. In order to identify well-established crime correlates consistency scores were calculated for the factors which many studies have examined. The authors argue that the review summaries most of what is currently known of variables associated with criminality.



Crime is most frequent in second and third decades of life.


Males commit more overall and violent crime. They also commit more property crime except shoplifting, which is about equally distributed between the genders. Males appear to be more likely to recidivate.


Measures related to arousal such as heart rate and skin conductance are low among criminals.

Body type

Mesomorphic or muscular body type is positively correlated with criminality.


Testosterone is positively correlated to criminality.

Biochemical markers

Low monoamine oxidase activity and low 5-HIAA levels are found among criminals.

Race, ethnicity, and immigration

There is a relationship between race and crime. Many different theories have been proposed for the relationship between race and crime in the United States.

Ethnically/racially diverse areas probably have higher crime rates compared to ethnically/racially homogeneous areas.

Most studies on immigrants have found higher rates of crime. However, this varies greatly depending on the country of origin with immigrants from some regions having lower crime rates than the indigenous population.

Early life


Maternal smoking during pregnancy is associated with later criminality. Low birth weight and perinatal trauma/birth complications may be more prevalent among criminals.

Children who's birth results from an unintended pregnancy are more likely to be delinquents or commit crimes.


Child maltreatment, low parent-child attachment, marital discord/family discord, alcoholism and drug use in the family, and low parental supervision/monitoring are associated with criminality. Larger family size and later birth order are also associated.


Nocturnal enuresis or bed wetting correlates with criminality.


Bullying is positively related to criminal behavior.


School disciplinary problems, truancy, low grade point average, and dropping out of high school are associated with criminality.

Adult behavior

Alcohol and illegal drug use

High alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism, as well as high illegal drug use and dependence are positively related to criminality in general.


Early age of first intercourse and more sexual partners are associated with criminality.


Few friends, criminal friends, and gang membership correlate positively with criminality.


High religious involvement, high importance of religion in one's life, membership in an organized religion, and orthodox religious beliefs are associated with less criminality. Areas with higher religious membership have lower crime rates.

Physical health

General morbidity

Criminals probably suffer from more illnesses.


Epilepsy appears to have a positive correlation with criminality.

Accidental injuries

Criminals are more frequently accidentally injured.

Psychological traits

Conduct disorder and antisocial personality disorder

Childhood conduct disorder and adult antisocial personality disorder are associated with one another and criminal behavior.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder correlates positively with criminality.

Depression and suicide

Minor depression and probably clinical depression is more likely among offenders. Depression in the family is associated with criminality. Criminals are more likely to be suicidal.


Schizophrenia and criminality appear to be positively correlated.

Intelligence quotient and learning disabilities

There is also a relationship between lower IQ and crime.

A learning disability is a substantial discrepancy between IQ and academic performance. It has a relationship to criminal behavior. Slow reading development may be particularly relevant.

Personality traits

Several personality traits are associated with criminality: High impulsivity, high psychoticism, high sensation-seeking, low self control, high aggression in childhood, and low empathy and altruism.

Socioeconomic factors

Higher total socioeconomic status (usually measured using the three variables income (or wealth), occupational level, and years of education) correlate with less crime. Longer eduction is associated with less crime. Higher income/wealth have a somewhat inconsistent correlation with less crime with the exception of self-report illegal drug use for which there is no relation. Higher parental socioeconomic status probably have an inverse relationship with crime.

High frequency of changing jobs and high frequency of unemployment for a person correlate with criminality.

Somewhat inconsistent evidence indicates that there is a relationship between low income, percentage under the poverty line, few years of education, and high income inequality in an area and more crime in the area.

The relationship between the state of the economy and crime rates is inconsistent among the studies. The same for differences in unemployment between different regions and crime rates. There is a slight tendency in the majority of the studies for higher unemployment rate to be positively associated with crime rates.

Other geographic factors

Cities or counties with larger populations have higher crime rates. Poorly maintained neighborhoods correlate with higher crime rates. High residential mobility is associated with a higher crime rate. More taverns and alcohol stores, as well as more gambling and tourist establishments, in an area are positively related to criminality.

There appears to be higher crime rates in the geographic regions of a country that are closer to the equator.

Weather, season and climate

Crime rates vary with temperature depending on both short-term weather and season. The relationship between the hotter months of summer and a peak in rape and assault seems to be almost universal. For other crimes there are also seasonal or monthly patterns but they are more inconsistent across nations. One explanation for this is that heat affects the body which may cause effects such as discomfort; another is that temperature changes to way people socially interact. On the other hand for climate, there is a higher crime rate in the southern US but this largely disappears after non-climatic factors are controlled for.

Victims and fear or crime

Risk of being a crime victim is highest for teens through mid 30s and lowest for the elderly. Fear of crime shows the opposite pattern. Criminals are more often crime victims. Females fear crimes more than males. Blacks appear to fear crime more. Blacks are more often victims, especially of murder.

Cultural and societal - Specific factors

Media violence

Media violence research examines whether links between consuming media violence and subsequent aggressive and violent behavior exists.

Gun politics

The effects of gun politics on crime is another controversial research area.


Both legal and illegal drugs are implicated in drug-related crime.

Being an unwanted child

Children who's parents did not want to have a child are more likely to grow to be delinquents or commit crimes.

Such children are also less likely to succeed in school, and are more likely to live in poverty. They also tend to have lower mother-child relationship quality.

Cultural and societal - Broad theories

Rational choice theory

The rational choice theory adopts a utilitarian belief that man is a reasoning actor who weighs means and ends, costs and benefits, and makes a rational choice. Thus, one way for society to prevent crime is by the threat of punishment. The deterrent effect of this is much debated.

Subcultural theory

Subcultural theory are a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence.

Social disorganization theory

Social disorganization theory links high crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics.

Social learning theory

Social learning theory explain deviancy by combining variables which encouraged delinquency (e.g. the social pressure from delinquent peers) with variables that discouraged delinquency (e.g. the parental response to discovering delinquency in their children).

Differential association

Differential association theory is a theory proposing that through interaction with others, individuals learn the values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behavior.

Social control theory

Social control theory proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial.

Strain theory

Strain theory states that social structures within society may encourage citizens to commit crime.

Labeling theory

Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from norms.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Correlates of crime" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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