Routine Activity Theories

Per-Olof H. Wikström

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Routine Activity Theories

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Routine activity theory, like the related lifestyle-exposure theory, emerged as a key theoretical approach in criminology in the late 1970s. Routine activities refer to generalized patterns of social activities in a society (i.e., spatial and temporal patterns in family, work, and leisure activities). A key idea is that the structure of routine activities in a society influences what kinds of situations emerge, and changes in a society’s routine activities cause changes in the kind of situations people confront. Another key idea is that people act in response to situations (including when they commit crimes); therefore, the kinds of situations they encounter in their daily lives influence their crime involvement (and, as a result, influence a society’s crime rate), and changes in people’s exposure to situations may lead to changes in their crime involvement (and, consequently, changes in a society’s crime rate). Routine activity theory links a macro-level structural model (spatial and temporal patterns of routine activities in society) with a micro-level situational model that aims to explain why a crime occurs. The situational model stipulates that a criminal act occurs as a result of the convergence of a motivated offender, a suitable target, and a lack of guardianship (control, supervision). Routine activity theory is sometimes combined with rational choice theory, an action theory that explains human action as the result of rational choice (i.e., acting on the best available option perceived). When applied at the individual level, the routine activity approach has generally aimed to explain why a person is victimized, or offends, by explaining how his/her individual routines (lifestyles) bring him/her into contact with (or expose him/her to) situations conducive to crime. Some efforts have been made to integrate the routine activity approach with other criminological theories. In terms of policy and prevention, the routine activity approach has mainly been linked to situational crime prevention and policing (for example, hot spots analysis).

Article.  3733 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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