Are delinquents really a product of their environment or are they troubled individuals beset by personal, emotional and/or physical problems? If social and economical factors alone can determine behavior, how is it that many youth residing in dangerous neighborhoods live law-abiding lives?
Research indicates that relatively few youths in any population, even the most economically disadvantaged, actually become hard-core, chronic delinquents. The quality of neighborhood and family life may have little impact on the choices individual makes.
Choice theory suggests that offenders are rational decision makers who choose to engage in antisocial activity because they believe their actions will be beneficial. Whether they join a gang, steal cars, or sell drugs, their delinquent acts are motivated by the belief that crime can be relatively risk free way to better their situation, make money, and have fun. They have little fear of getting caught. Some have fantasies of riches, and others may enjoy the excitement produced by criminal acts such as beating up someone or sexual assault.
Trait theory suggests that delinquent are product of personal problems and conditions. Many forms of delinquency such as substance abuse and violence appear more impulsive than rational, and this behavior may be inspired by abnormal physical or psychological traits. Although some youths may choose to commit crime because they desire conventional luxuries and power, others may be driven by abnormalities, such as hyperactivity, low intelligence, biochemical imbalance, or other genetic factors including psychopathology.