Towards an Integrative Theory of Crime and Delinquency: Re-conceptualizing the Farrington Theory

Sonya Buffone


The Farrington Theory (2003) was developed to explain offending and anti-social behaviour by working class males. This theory alleges that stability in criminal behaviour resides in the individual rather than in the environment; the social problem of crime is largely medicalized, constituting a psychological model of anti-social behaviour rather than a theory of crime and delinquency. The argument proposed in this paper is threefold: First, I argue Farrington’s theory is problematic given that it constructs deviance in a narrow and largely stable manner; therefore, this theory is better conceptualized as a psychological model of anti-social behaviour not a theory of crime. Secondly, I argue that integrated theoretical perspectives offer more nuanced and dynamic explanations and understandings of crime over the life course. As such, I attempt to address the shortcomings of Farrington’s model by reframing it in terms of an integrative framework. Specifically, I use strain theory and control theory to elucidate the importance of structural and social processes leading to crime and delinquency, and to emphasize the potential for discontinuity as well as change in criminal propensities over the life course. I conclude the paper by illuminating the implications of Farrington’s psychological model in terms of broader policy initiatives.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782