Developmental Theories of Crime - Essay Example

Published: 2021-08-04 10:51:40
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University of Richmond
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Developmental theories on crime are theories used to explain the process of criminology. These theories are categorized in three theories namely: latent trait, life course and trajectory theories. Life course theory states that criminality is influenced by individual characters and social experiences. Latent trait theory states that human being development comes as a result of a mastered technique on birth or thereafter (Cullen,Benson & Makarios, 2012). This trait is open to external factors that affects one through interactions whereby some may be crime related. Trajectory theory states that there are different types of criminals and classes due to the paths one choose to follow and influence by life circumstances. Therefore the crimes committed by one can be influenced by these theories or not (Mosheiff, Agmon, Moriel & Burak, 2016).

The life course theory expounds on the individual behaviors as those that shapes one character. One who rarely mingles with people is likely to develop traits that may lead to criminal activities. On the other hand latent trait holds on the mastery of technique at birth or afterwards. However the surroundings of oneself affect the kind of style you are used to. Some of the activities one gets involved affects the paths being followed. Trajectory theory emphasizes on the involvement of the two. This in turn leads to a variety of criminal activities due to numerous characteristics and exposure (Farrington & Ttofi, 2015).

Charles Edmund Cullen is one of the most renowned serial killers in New Jersey. He was formerly a nurse who killed most of his patients by poisoning them with unprescibed medication. Also worked with the US navy and later discharged .He took nursing at the Mountainside hospital after his discharge. Later on he was employed at St.Barnabas Medical Centre. He administered an overdose to one of the patients including one with aids killing them all. After this incident he left the hospital and got employed to another in New Jersey where he killed three elderly women (Charles, 2017).

Charles Cullen persistent offending was based on his theory of relieving the patients sufferings like an angel would. He considered himself as the angel who saved lives. He served in the US navy and later on joined college to study nursing. Therefore he was considered someone of great personality as in his college years he was elected president of the nursing school. Having been discharged from the navy with mental disabilities, he enrolled to the college and made good use of his time. He was able to get jobs from one hospital to another despite the fact that he was the one killing the people entrusted to look after as a nurse(Charles, 2017).

His criminal offending was not in relation to the theories of life course, latent trait and trajectory. This is because he had not mastered any trait and sought out to help the patients relieve their pain. As a nurse he was tasked with the responsibility of taking care of people. His life experiences and life circumstances did not affect his persistent killings as he never mingled well with his workmates. Therefore the trajectory theory could best account for his persistent offending as he used different types of killings in his line of duty by administering overdoses and attempting to kill other patients.

In conclusion, developmental theories talks about the manner in which killings are committed. However these theories do not necessarily affect ones criminal offending. Some offenders justify their doings as the only option of curbing a situation.


Mosheiff, N. W., Agmon, H., Moriel, A., & Burak, Y. (2016). An Efficient Coding Theory for a Dynamic Trajectory Predicts non-Uniform Allocation of Grid Cells to Modules in the Entorhinal Cortex. arXiv preprint arXiv:1601.02948.

Cullen, F. T., Benson, M. L., & Makarios, M. D. (2012). Developmental and life-course theories of offending. The Oxford handbook of crime prevention, 23-45.

Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2015). 2 Developmental and Life-Course Theories of Offending. In The Development of Criminal and Antisocial Behavior (pp. 19-38). Springer International Publishing.

Charles Cullen. (2017). Criminal Minds Wiki. Retrieved 6 November 2017, from HYPERLINK ""

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