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Criminology Research Methods

Sample Research Paper: The Validity of Self-Control Theory of Crime

❶One which focuses on the idea that people are more highly motivated to satisfy their immediate desires and pleasures around.

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20 Criminology Research Paper Topics on Criminal Behavior
Research Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Cesare Beccaria , [2] author of On Crimes and Punishments —64 , Jeremy Bentham inventor of the panopticon , and other philosophers in this school argued: This school developed during a major reform in penology , when society began designing prisons for the sake of extreme punishment. This period also saw many legal reforms, the French Revolution , and the development of the legal system United States. The Positivist school argues criminal behavior comes from internal and external factors out of the individual's control.

Philosophers within this school applied the scientific method to study human behavior. Positivism comprises three segments: Cesare Lombroso , an Italian sociologist working in the late 19th century, is often called "the father of criminology.

This approach, whose influence came via the theory of phrenology and by Charles Darwin 's theory of evolution , has been superseded. Enrico Ferri , a student of Lombroso, believed social as well as biological factors played a role, and believed criminals should not be held responsible when factors causing their criminality were beyond their control. Criminologists have since rejected Lombroso's biological theories, with control groups not used in his studies.

Sociological positivism suggests societal factors such as poverty, membership of subcultures, or low levels of education predispose people to crime. Adolphe Quetelet used data and statistical analysis to study the relationship between crime and sociological factors. He found age, gender, poverty, education, and alcohol consumption were important factors to crime.

Rawson used crime statistics to suggest a link between population density and crime rates , with crowded cities producing more crime. People learn crime through association. This theory was advocated by Edwin Sutherland. Interacting with antisocial peers is a major cause. Reinforcing criminal behavior makes it chronic. Where there are criminal subcultures , many individuals learn crime, and crime rates swell in those areas.

The Chicago school arose in the early twentieth century, through the work of Robert E. Park , Ernest Burgess , and other urban sociologists at the University of Chicago. In the s, Park and Burgess identified five concentric zones that often exist as cities grow, including the "zone in transition", which was identified as most volatile and subject to disorder. Shaw focused on juvenile delinquents , finding that they were concentrated in the zone of transition.

Chicago School sociologists adopted a social ecology approach to studying cities and postulated that urban neighborhoods with high levels of poverty often experience breakdown in the social structure and institutions such as family and schools. This results in social disorganization , which reduces the ability of these institutions to control behavior and creates an environment ripe for deviant behavior. Other researchers suggested an added social-psychological link.

Edwin Sutherland suggested that people learn criminal behavior from older, more experienced criminals with whom they may associate. Theoretical perspectives used in criminology include psychoanalysis , functionalism , interactionism , Marxism , econometrics , systems theory , postmodernism , genetics , neuropsychology , evolutionary psychology , etc. This theory is applied to a variety of approaches within the bases of criminology in particular and in sociology more generally as a conflict theory or structural conflict perspective in sociology and sociology of crime.

As this perspective is itself broad enough, embracing as it does a diversity of positions. Shaw of the Chicago School. These groups have different values to the majority norm values in society.

These neighborhoods also tend to have high population heterogeneity. Since the s, social ecology studies have built on the social disorganization theories. Many studies have found that crime rates are associated with poverty, disorder, high numbers of abandoned buildings, and other signs of community deterioration. William Julius Wilson suggested a poverty "concentration effect", which may cause neighborhoods to be isolated from the mainstream of society and become prone to violence.

Strain theory , also known as Mertonian Anomie, advanced by American sociologist Robert Merton , suggests that mainstream culture, especially in the United States, is saturated with dreams of opportunity, freedom, and prosperity—as Merton put it, the American Dream. Most people buy into this dream, and it becomes a powerful cultural and psychological motivation. Merton also used the term anomie , but it meant something slightly different for him than it did for Durkheim.

Merton saw the term as meaning a dichotomy between what society expected of its citizens and what those citizens could actually achieve. Therefore, if the social structure of opportunities is unequal and prevents the majority from realizing the dream, some of those dejected will turn to illegitimate means crime in order to realize it.

Others will retreat or drop out into deviant subcultures such as gang members , or what he calls " hobos ". Robert Agnew developed this theory further to include types of strain which were not derived from financial constraints.

This is known as "General Strain Theory". Following the Chicago school and Strain Theory, and also drawing on Edwin Sutherland 's idea of differential association , subcultural theorists focused on small cultural groups fragmenting away from the mainstream to form their own values and meanings about life. Cohen tied anomie theory with Freud 's reaction formation idea, suggesting that delinquency among lower class youths is a reaction against the social norms of the middle class.

Criminal acts may result when youths conform to norms of the deviant subculture. Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin suggested that delinquency can result from a differential opportunity for lower class youth. British subcultural theorists focused more heavily on the issue of class, where some criminal activities were seen as "imaginary solutions" to the problem of belonging to a subordinate class.

A further study by the Chicago school looked at gangs and the influence of the interaction of gang leaders under the observation of adults. Sociologists such as Raymond D. Gastil have explored the impact of a Southern culture of honor on violent crime rates. Another approach is made by the social bond or social control theory. Instead of looking for factors that make people become criminal, these theories try to explain why people do not become criminal.

Travis Hirschi identified four main characteristics: On the other hand, if these factors are not present, a person is more likely to become a criminal. Hirschi expanded on this theory with the idea that a person with low self control is more likely to become criminal. As opposed to most criminology theories these do not look at why people commit crime but rather why they do not commit crime [27].

Someone wants a big yacht but does not have the means to buy one. If the person cannot exert self-control, s he might try to get the yacht or the means for it in an illegal way, whereas someone with high self-control will more likely either wait or deny themselves of what want or seek an intelligent intermediate solution, such as joining a yacht club to use a yacht by group consolidation of resources without violating social norms.

Social bonds, through peers , parents, and others can have a countering effect on one's low self-control. For families of low socio-economic status, a factor that distinguishes families with delinquent children from those who are not delinquent is the control exerted by parents or chaperonage. Symbolic interactionism draws on the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and George Herbert Mead , as well as subcultural theory and conflict theory.

The powerful groups had the ability to become the "significant other" in the less powerful groups' processes of generating meaning. The former could to some extent impose their meanings on the latter; therefore they were able to "label" minor delinquent youngsters as criminal. These youngsters would often take on board the label, indulge in crime more readily, and become actors in the "self-fulfilling prophecy" of the powerful groups. Later developments in this set of theories were by Howard Becker and Edwin Lemert, in the midth century.

Labelling theory refers to an individual who is labelled in a particular way and who was studied in great detail by Howard Becker. It is said that when someone is given the label of a criminal they may reject or accept it and continue to commit crime.

Even those who initially reject the label can eventually accept it as the label becomes more well known particularly among their peers. This stigma can become even more profound when the labels are about deviancy, and it is thought that this stigmatization can lead to deviancy amplification.

Klein [32] conducted a test which showed that labelling theory affected some youth offenders but not others. At the other side of the spectrum, criminologist Lonnie Athens developed a theory about how a process of brutalization by parents or peers that usually occurs in childhood results in violent crimes in adulthood.

Richard Rhodes ' Why They Kill describes Athens' observations about domestic and societal violence in the criminals' backgrounds. Both Athens and Rhodes reject the genetic inheritance theories.

Rational choice theory is based on the utilitarian , classical school philosophies of Cesare Beccaria , which were popularized by Jeremy Bentham. They argued that punishment, if certain, swift, and proportionate to the crime, was a deterrent for crime, with risks outweighing possible benefits to the offender. In Dei delitti e delle pene On Crimes and Punishments, — , Beccaria advocated a rational penology.

Beccaria conceived of punishment as the necessary application of the law for a crime; thus, the judge was simply to conform his sentence to the law. Beccaria also distinguished between crime and sin , and advocated against the death penalty, as well as torture and inhumane treatments as he did not consider them as rational deterrents.

This philosophy was replaced by the Positivist and Chicago Schools and was not revived until the s with the writings of James Q. Gary Becker, for example, acknowledged that many people operate under a high moral and ethical constraint but considered that criminals rationally see that the benefits of their crime outweigh the cost such as the probability of apprehension, conviction, punishment, as well as their current set of opportunities.

From the public policy perspective, since the cost of increasing the fine is marginal to that of the cost of increasing surveillance , one can conclude that the best policy is to maximize the fine and minimize surveillance.

With this perspective, crime prevention or reduction measures can be devised that increase effort required to commit the crime, such as target hardening.

One of the main differences between this theory and Jeremy Bentham's rational choice theory, which had been abandoned in criminology, is that if Bentham considered it possible to completely annihilate crime through the panopticon , Becker's theory acknowledged that a society could not eradicate crime beneath a certain level. This reveals that the goals of utilitarianism and classical liberalism have to be tempered and reduced to more modest proposals to be practically applicable.

Such rational choice theories, linked to neoliberalism , have been at the basics of crime prevention through environmental design and underpin the Market Reduction Approach to theft [38] by Mike Sutton , which is a systematic toolkit for those seeking to focus attention on "crime facilitators" by tackling the markets for stolen goods [39] that provide motivation for thieves to supply them by theft.

Routine activity theory , developed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen, draws upon control theories and explains crime in terms of crime opportunities that occur in everyday life. Biosocial criminology is an interdisciplinary field that aims to explain crime and antisocial behavior by exploring both biological factors and environmental factors. While contemporary criminology has been dominated by sociological theories, biosocial criminology also recognizes the potential contributions of fields such as genetics , neuropsychology , and evolutionary psychology.

Aggressive behavior has been associated with abnormalities in three principal regulatory systems in the body serotonin systems , catecholamine systems , and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Abnormalities in these systems also are known to be induced by stress , either severe, acute stress or chronic low-grade stress [45]. The group was restricted to academics and consisted of members.

Thus, they decided to pursue a new Marxist criminological approach. According to the Marxist perspective on crime, "defiance is normal - the sense that men are now consciously involved…in assuring their human diversity. Criminological Research for Beginners is a comprehensive and engaging guide to research methods in Criminology.

Written specifically for undergraduate students and novice researchers, this book has been designed as a practical guide to planning, conducting and reporting research in the subject.

As you will have seen from the visual indicators in the book, this site contains the types of student and instructor resources listed below. The video below was recorded with a group of postgraduate and undergraduate criminology students. They were also provided with this article, which they read beforehand:. The article also enabled us to discuss some ethical dilemmas that arise during the process of research.

The students who took part were varied in terms of their experience of doing research. Some had done very little whilst others were quite practised. As the debate develops we hope that you will gain understanding of the fact that positivism is just one way of knowing, not superior or inferior to the other ways of knowing, at least in our view, but simply different. We hope that after you have thought about the issues that are discussed you will be more able to understand the different theories of knowledge within which research may be carried out and that this discussion may challenge some of your own preconceptions.

We would like you to take away the idea that it is important to gain knowledge of crime in society in a variety of ways in order to gain a wider understanding of the complexity of this social phenomenon. Most of all we hope that you will be excited about doing your own research. We are grateful to all the students who took part and to their tutors who allowed us to disrupt their day!

We hope that you learn a great deal from their contributions and that you enjoy the debate as much as we did. Clips from this video are also available among the student resources for Chapters 2, 3 and 6, where the video has been divided into three parts according to its relevance to each of these chapters.


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