The General Theory of Crime (GTC) was developed by Gottfredson and Hirschi. This theory attempts to explain criminal or delinquent behavior in terms of criminal offender traits, criminal opportunity, and the act of committing a crime. In this post, we will look at each of these components in terms of how they help to explain delinquent behavior within the context of teaching.
The ideas associated with criminal offenders focus on personality and social connections. Insights into personality play an important part in the GTC framework. Impulse control is one main component of GTC. Impulsive people are often more short-sighted and prone to risk-taking. What this means is that they may be more prone to delinquent behavior because they lack the foresight of the consequences of their actions. Impulsive behavior is also something teachers struggle with when dealing with children who frequently make poor choices due to impulsive actions.
Another component that is highly related to impulsiveness is self-control. In other words, individuals who struggle to control themselves may be more likely to commit a crime. The authors of GTC explain that low self-control can be caused by poor management and or criminal parent(s), lack of supervision, and or self-centeredness. Again, the ideas here are similar to the causes of misbehavior in the classroom. It appears that excellent parenting is a primary tool for alleviating delinquent behavior in the classroom.
Another main cause of low self-control is a weak or a lack of social bonds between a youth and friends and family. When youths are attached and committed to the people around them it discourages poor behavior because people generally don’t want to hurt the people they are close to. The same idea applies in the classroom and is one reason why developing relationships with students and parents is often emphasized. Students with strong relationships often do not want to misbehave.
Criminal opportunity is essentially the openings that a delinquent finds to commit a crime. Often, an individual is more likely to commit a crime when there is a lack of supervision and there are easy targets or potential victims around. Naturally, this is what happens in the classroom when students are always looking for opportunities when the teacher is not looking so they can make poor choices.
What this implies is that students need large amounts of attention to maintain proper behavior. Sadly, many students and delinquents come from homes that lack the one-on-one attention they need.
The criminal act is self-explanatory. Examples of criminal acts can be any action that breaks the law. Unlike adults, there are additional offenses that youths can commit and these are status offenses. Status offenses are acts that are legal for adults but illegal for minors such as smoking and drinking.
All of these criminal acts are the result of a combination of impulse control, self-control, social relationships, and opportunity in the context of GTC.
Of course, no single theory can explain everything about any behavior. There are differences in behavior based on race, gender, and other factors when it comes to crime. Despite this, the GTC provides a simplistic overview into what motives criminal behavior.