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    Wikström, Per-Olof H Mann, Richard P and Hardie, Beth 2018. Young people’s differential vulnerability to criminogenic exposure: Bridging the gap between people- and place-oriented approaches in the study of crime causation. European Journal of Criminology, Vol. 15, Issue. 1, p. 10.

    Favarin, Serena 2018. This must be the place (to commit a crime). Testing the law of crime concentration in Milan, Italy. European Journal of Criminology, p. 147737081875770.

    Schepers, Debbie and Reinecke, Jost 2018. Conditional relevance of controls: A simultaneous test of the influences of self-control and deterrence on criminal behaviour in the context of Situational Action Theory. European Journal of Criminology, Vol. 15, Issue. 1, p. 77.

    Craig, Jessica M. 2018. Extending Situational Action Theory to White-Collar Crime. Deviant Behavior, p. 1.

    Cuervo, Keren Villanueva, Lidón Born, Michel and Gavray, Claire 2018. Analysis of Violent and Non-violent Versatility in Self-reported Juvenile Delinquency. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, Vol. 25, Issue. 1, p. 72.

    Beier, Harald 2018. Situational Peer effects on Adolescents’ Alcohol Consumption: The Moderating Role of Supervision, Activity Structure, and Personal Moral Rules. Deviant Behavior, Vol. 39, Issue. 3, p. 363.

    Jordanoska, Aleksandra 2018. The Social Ecology of White-Collar Crime: Applying Situational Action Theory to White-Collar Offending. Deviant Behavior, p. 1.

    Schuurman, Bart Bakker, Edwin Gill, Paul and Bouhana, Noémie 2018. Lone Actor Terrorist Attack Planning and Preparation: A Data-Driven Analysis, . Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 63, Issue. 4, p. 1191.

    Eifler, Stefanie and Schepers, Debbie 2018. Handbuch Jugendkriminalität. p. 219.

    Ivert, Anna-Karin Andersson, Frida Svensson, Robert Pauwels, Lieven J.R. and Torstensson Levander, Marie 2018. An examination of the interaction between morality and self-control in offending: A study of differences between girls and boys. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, Vol. 28, Issue. 3, p. 282.

    Kroneberg, Clemens and Schulz, Sonja 2018. Revisiting the role of self-control in Situational Action Theory. European Journal of Criminology, Vol. 15, Issue. 1, p. 56.

    Thomas, Kyle J. 2018. Rationalizing Delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, p. 002242781878975.

    Lantz, Brendan 2018. The Consequences of Crime in Company: Co-Offending, Victim–Offender Relationship, and Quality of Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, p. 088626051878649.

    Pauwels, Lieven J.R. 2018. The conditional effects of self-control in situational action theory. A preliminary test in a randomized scenario study. Deviant Behavior, p. 1.

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    van Ginneken, Esther F. J. C. 2017. New Perspectives on Desistance. p. 241.

    Wikström, Per-Olof H. and Bouhana, Noémie 2017. The Handbook of the Criminology of Terrorism. p. 175.

    Goergen, Thomas and Beaulieu, Marie 2017. Preventing Crime and Violence. p. 123.

    Rebellon, Cesar J. and Anskat, Paul 2017. The Handbook of the History and Philosophy of Criminology. p. 189.

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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Individuals, settings, and acts of crime: situational mechanisms and the explanation of crime


The questions, “Why do people commit crime?” and “What can we do about it?” are central to any society. The answers to these questions require a basic understanding of what causes crime. I submit that criminological theory, by and large, has not been able to fully address the problems of causation and explanation. I argue that a major reason for this is that criminological theory generally suffers from a lack of a theory of action, a poor integration of levels of explanation and an unclear definition of crime (Wikström, 2004).

Without a clear conception of

what crime is (what the theory should explain),

what moves people to commit acts of crime (a theory of action), and

how individual characteristics and experiences and environmental features interact in this process (integration of levels of explanation),

we cannot fully address the causes of crime. Moreover, without addressing these points in depth we lack the necessary theoretical foundation to evaluate fully the role of individual development and change (Wikström, 2005) and the role of systemic factors and their changes over time (Wikström & Sampson, 2003) in the explanation of crime.

Crimes are acts of moral rule-breaking. To explain crime is to explain why individuals break moral rules defined as crime in law. Crimes are acts committed by individuals. To explain acts of crime is to explain what moves individuals to break moral rules defined in law.

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The Explanation of Crime
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