U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Integrated Theories: Latent Trait and Developmental Theories (From Criminology, Seventh Edition, P 285-315, 2000, Larry J. Siegel, -- See NCJ-185178)

NCJ Number
Larry J. Siegel Ph.D.
Date Published
31 pages
Criminologists have recently been combining elements from a number of different theoretical models into integrated theories of crime including latent trait, developmental, and life course theories.
Latent trait theories hold that some underlying condition present at birth or soon after controls behavior. Suspect traits include low IQ, impulsivity, and personality structure. This underlying trait explains the continuity of offending because, once present, it remains with a person throughout his or her life. Latent trait theories developed by Gottfredson, Hirschi, Wilson, and Hernstein integrate choice theory concepts; people with latent traits choose crime over non-crime and the opportunity for crime mediates their choice. Developmental theories look at multiple factors derived from a number of different structural and process theories. Elliott's integrated theory holds that social position controls life events and that strain leads to weakened bonds. Life course theories argue that events occurring over the life course influence criminal choices and that the cause of crime constantly changes as people mature. At first, the nuclear family influences behavior; during adolescence, the peer group dominates; in adulthood, marriage and career are critical. Important life course theories have been formulated by Thornberry, Farrington, and Sampson. 143 notes, 4 tables, 7 figures, and 6 photographs