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The roots of modern criminology can be found in the writings of social philosophers, who addressed Hobbes's question: "How is society possible?" Locke and Rousseau believed that humans are endowed with free will and are self-interested. If this is so, the very existence of society is problematic. If we are all free to maximize our own self-interest we cannot live together. Those who want more and are powerful can simply take from the less powerful. The question then, as now, focuses on how is it possible for us to live together. Criminologists are concerned with discovering answers to this basic question.

Locke and Rousseau, philosophers who are not considered criminologists, argued that society is possible because we all enter into a "social contract" in which we choose to give up some of our freedom to act in our own self-interest for the privilege of living in society. What happens though to those who do not make, or choose to break, this covenant? Societies enforce the contract by punishing those who violate it. Early societies punished violations of the social contract by removing the privilege of living in society through banishment or death. In the event of minor violations, sanctions such as ostracism or limited participation in the community for a time were administered. The history of sanctions clearly demonstrates the extreme and frequently arbitrary and capricious nature of sanctions (Foucault 1979).

The Classical School of criminology (Beccaria 1764; Bentham 1765) began as an attempt to bring order and reasonableness to the enforcement of the social contract. Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishments (1768) made an appeal for a system of "justice" that would define the appropriate amount of punishment for a violation as just that much that was needed to counter the pleasure and benefit from the wrong. In contemporary terms, this would shift the balance in a cost/benefit calculation, and would perhaps deter some crime. Bentham's writings (1765) provided the philosophical foundation for the penitentiary movement that introduced a new and divisible form of sanction: incarceration. With the capacity to finally decide which punishment fits which crime, classical school criminologists believed that deterrence could be maximized and the cost to societal legitimacy of harsh, capricious, and excessive punishment could be avoided. In their tracts calling for reforms in how society sanctions rule-violators, we see the earliest attempts to explain two focal questions of criminology: Why do people commit crimes? How do societies try to control crime? The "classical school" of criminology's answer to the first question is that individuals act rationally, and when the benefits to violating the laws outweigh the cost then they are likely to choose to violate those laws. Their answer to the second question is deterrence. The use of sanctions was meant to discourage criminals from committing future crimes and at the same time send the message to noncriminals that crime does not pay. Beccaria and Bentham believed that a "just desserts" model of criminal justice would fix specific punishments for specific crimes.

In the mid-nineteenth century the early "scientific study" of human behavior turned to the question of why some people violate the law. The positivists, those who believed that the scientific means was the preeminent method of answering this and other questions, also believed that human behavior was not a product of choice nor individual free will. Instead they argued that human behavior was "determined behavior," that is, the product of forces simply not in the control of the individual. The earliest positivistic criminologists believed that much crime could be traced to biological sources. Gall (Leek 1970), referred to by some as the "father of the bumps and grunts school of criminology," studied convicts and concluded that observable physical features, such as cranial deformities and protuberances, could be used to identify "born criminals." Lombroso (1876) and his students, Ferri and Garofalo, also embraced the notion that some were born with criminal constitutions, but they also advanced the idea that social forces were an additional source of criminal causation. These early positivists were critics of the Classical School. They did not go so far as to argue that punishment should not be used to respond to crime, but they did advance the notion that punishment was insufficient to prevent crime. Simply raising the cost of crime will not prevent violations if individuals are not freely choosing their behavior. The early positivists believed that effective crime control would have to confront the root causes of violations, be they biological or social in nature.

Around 1900, Ferri gave a series of lectures critiquing social control policies derived from classical and neo-classical theory. What is most remarkable about those lectures is that, considered from the vantage point of scholars at the end of the twentieth century, the arguments then were little different from public debates today about what are the most effective means of controlling crime. Then, as now, the main alternatives were "get tough" deterrence strategies that assumed that potential criminals could be frightened into compliance with the law, versus strategies that would reduce the number of offenses by addressing the root causes of crime. We know far more about crime and criminals today than criminologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century knew, yet we continue the same debate, little changed from the one in which Ferri participated in.

The debates today pit those espousing rational choice theories of crime (control and deterrence theories being the most popular versions) against what still might best be called positivistic theories. To be sure, contemporary positivistic criminology is considerably different from the theories of Gall and Lombroso. Modern criminologists do not explain law-violating behavior using the shapes of heads and body forms. Yet there are still those who argue that biological traits can explain criminal behavior (Wilson and Herrenstein 1985; Mednick 1977), and still others who focus on psychological characteristics. But most modern criminologists are sociologists who focus on how social structures and culture explain criminal behavior. What all of these modern positivists have in common with their predecessors Gall, Lombroso, and company, is that they share a belief that human behavior, including crime, is not simply a consequence of individual choices. Behavior, they argue, is "determined" at least in part by biological, psychological, or social forces. The goal of modern positivist criminologists is to unravel the combination of forces that make some people more likely than others to commit crimes.

Today the research of sociological criminologists focuses on three questions: What is the nature of crime? How do we explain crime? What are the effects of societies' attempts to control crime? Approaches to answering these questions vary greatly, as do the answers offered by criminologists. For example the first question, what is the nature of crime, can be answered by detailing the characteristics of people who commit crimes. Alternatively, one can challenge the very definition of what crime, and consequently criminals, are. In an attempt to answer this question, some criminologists focus on how much crime there is. But of course, even this is a difficult question to answer because there are many ways to count crime, with each type offering different and sometimes seemingly conflicting answers.


Simply defining crime can be problematic. We can easily define crime legally: Crime is a violation of the criminal law. The simplicity of this definition is its virtue, but also its weakness. On the positive side, a legalistic definition clearly demarcates what will be counted as crime—those actions defined by the state as a violation. However, it is not as clear as to whom will be defined as criminals. Do we count as criminals those who violate the law and are not arrested? What about those who are arrested and not convicted? Some criminologists would argue that even an act that may appear to be criminal cannot be called "crime" until a response or evaluation has been made of that act. For example, how can we know if an offensive act is a crime if there has been no evaluation of the intent of the perpetrator? In Anglo-American law, without criminal intent, an offensive action is not considered a criminal action. Other critics of a legalistic definition of crime argue that it is an overly limited conception that too narrowly truncates criminological inquiry; a legalistic definition of crime accepts the state's definition of "legal" and equates that with "legitimate." Critical criminologists (Quinney 1974; Chambliss 1975; Taylor, Walton, and Young 1973) argue that we should ask questions about the creation of law such as whose interests are being served by classifying a particular behavior as "illegal." Questions such as these tend to be ignored if we simply accept a legalistic definition. Indeed, the particular definition used influences the kind of questions criminologists ask. When a legalistic definition is used, criminologists tend to ask questions such as: "How much crime occurs?" "Who commits rime?" "Why are some people criminal?" If a broader conception of crime is the focus (i.e., one that addresses the rule-makers as well as the rule-breakers), then one might ask these same questions, but add others: "Where does the law come from?" "Why are some offensive acts considered crimes while others are not?" "Whose interests do the laws serve?" This is not a debate that will ever be resolved. Students of criminology should understand however, that the definition of crime they employ will have important implications for the kinds of questions they will ask, the kinds of data they will use to study crime, and the kinds of explanations and theories they will apply to understand crime and criminal behavior.


Having made choices about definitions, criminologists are then faced with an array of data and methodologies that can be brought to bear on criminological questions. The data and methodological approach used should be dictated by the definition of crime and the research question being asked. Some very interesting research problems require analysis of quantitative data while others require that the researcher use qualitative approaches to study crime or a criminal justice process. For example, if one is trying to describe the socio-demographic characteristics of criminals then one of several means of counting crimes and people who engage in them might be used. On the other hand, in his book On The Take (1978), because Chambliss was interested in the source and nature of organized crime, it was clearly more appropriate for him to spend time in the field observing and interviewing, rather than simply counting.

Methods of Criminological Research. For the most part, criminologists use the same types of research methods as do other sociologists. But a unique quality of crime is its "hiddenness." The character of crime means that those who do it hide it. As a result, the criminologist must be a bit of a detective even while engaged in social science research. To do this criminologists use observational studies such as those conducted by Chambliss (1978) in studying organized crime, or Fisse and Braithwaite (1987) in studies of white-collar crime, or Sanchez-Jankowski (1992) in his studies of gang crime.

Those who use quantitative methods frequently use data generated by the criminal justice system, victimization surveys, or self-reports. All of these data collection procedures have strengths and weaknesses, and they are best used by criminologists who have an appreciation of both. The most widely used criminal justice data are produced by police departments and published by the Federal Bureau Investigation each year in their Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). The UCR contains counts of the crimes reported to police, arrest data (including some characteristics of those arrested), police manpower statistics, and other data potentially of interest to researchers. Victimization surveys may be conducted by individuals or teams of researchers. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is conducted annually by the federal government and, as a consequence, is widely used. The virtue of victimization surveys is that they include criminal acts that are never reported to the police. As their name indicates, self-report studies simply ask a sample of people about their involvement in criminal activity. If done correctly, it is quite surprising what people will report to researchers.

Characteristics of criminals. It is always risky to speak of the characteristics of criminals because of the problems with crime data mentioned above. Also, one must take care to specify the types of crimes included in any description of those characteristics correlated with criminal involvement. For example, those engaging in white-collar crime have very different characteristics than perpetrators of what might be called "common crimes" or "street crime." In order to engage in white-collar crime, one has to be old enough to have a white-collar job, and possess those characteristics (such as education) requisite for those jobs. Without these same requirements, the perpetrators of street crime can reasonably be expected to look different from white-collar criminals.

Criminologists frequently speak of "the big four correlates of crime": age, sex, race, and social class. The first two are rather uncomplicated. Crime is, for the most part, a young person's activity (Hirschi and Gottfredson 1983). Probable involvement escalates in the teen years reaching a peak at between ages 15 and 17 and then drops. Most people stop participating in criminal activity by their mid to late twenties, even if they have not been arrested, punished, or rehabilitated. The correlation between sex and crime is also quite straightforward. Males are more likely to engage in crime than females. Criminologists have not found a society where this pattern does not hold.

The correlation between race, or ethnicity, and crime is complex. Most Americans when asked state that they believe that minorities commit more crimes than whites. This oversimplification is not only inaccurate, but it obscures important patterns. First, some nonwhites in the United States are from groups with lower crime rates than whites (e.g. Chinese and Japanese Americans), but even this pattern is more complex. Chinese Americans whose families have been in the United States for generations seem to have lower crime rates than white Americans, but more recent Chinese immigrants have higher rates than white Americans. The category "Asian Americans" is too diverse to make generalizations about the larger group's perpetration of crime. The same is true of Latinos and Latinas. African Americans have disproportionately high crime rates, but Africans and people of Caribbean island descent have lower crime rates than black Americans. To simply describe the correlations between broad racial categories and crime misses an important sociological point: The criminality associated with each group appears to be more a product of their experience in America than simply their membership in that racial/ethnic category. This point is buttressed by patterns of race, ethnicity, and crime in other countries. Visible minorities and immigrants are more likely to have higher crime rates and to be more frequently arrested in countries where they are subordinated (see Tonry 1997 for a collection of studies of race, ethnicity, crime, and criminal justice in several countries).

For decades, in fact probably for centuries, researchers assumed that people from the lower classes committed more crime than those of higher status. In fact, most sociological theories used to explain common crime are based on this assumption. In the mid-1970s several criminologists argued that there really is not a substantial correlation between social class and crime (Tittle, Villemez, and Smith 1978). Many criminologists today believe that if we are simply considering the likelihood of breaking the law then there probably is not much difference by social class. But if the criminal domain being studied is serious violent offenses, then there probably is a negative association between social class and crime. Still, the correlation between social class and violent crime is not as strong as most people would assume (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis 1981).

Where crime occurs. A very sociological way of describing crime is to examine the crime patterns that exist for different types of areas. The social "ecological" literature that does this usually focuses on states, metropolitan areas, cities, and neighborhoods. When this occurs, we find that those areas with relatively large numbers of residents who are poor, African American, immigrants, young, and living in crowded conditions have higher crime rates. One must be very careful when interpreting these patterns. Because an area with relatively large numbers of people with these characteristics has a high crime rate, we cannot conclude that they are necessarily the people committing the crimes. For example, high poverty areas have high crime rates. The high crime rates found in poor neighborhoods however, could be produced by their victimization by the nonpoor. The interesting thing about these correlations, as well as patterns of individual crime correlations, are not the observed patterns themselves but rather the questions that arise from these observations.

Victims of crime. One of the more interesting things that we have learned from victimization studies is how similar the victims of crimes are to the offenders. Victims of crime tend to be young, male, and minority group members. In fact, the prototypical victim of violent crime in America is a young, African-American male. The poor and those with limited education are disproportionately the victims of crime as well. These patterns are obviously inconsistent with popular images of crime and victimization, but they are quite predictable when we examine what we know about crime.


Three theoretical traditions in sociology dominated the study of crime from the early and mid-twentieth century. Contemporary versions of these theories continue to be used today. The "Chicago School" tradition, or social disorganization theory, was the earliest of the three. The other two are differential association strain theories or anomie theory (including subculture theories).

Sociologists working in the Chicago School tradition have focused on how rapid or dramatic social change causes increases in crime. Just as Durkheim, Marx, Toennies, and other European sociologists thought that the rapid changes produced by industrialization and urbanization produced crime and disorder, so too did the Chicago School theorists. The location of the University of Chicago provided an excellent opportunity for Park, Burgess, and McKenzie to study the social ecology of the city. Shaw and McKay found (1931) that areas of the city characterized by high levels of social disorganization had higher rates of crime and delinquency.

In the 1920s and 1930s Chicago, like many American cities, experienced considerable immigration. Rapid population growth is a disorganizing influence, but growth resulting from in-migration of very different people is particularly disruptive. Chicago's in-migrants were both native-born whites and blacks from rural areas and small towns, and foreign immigrants. The heavy industry of cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh drew those seeking opportunities and new lives. Farmers and villagers from America's hinterland, like their European cousins of whom Durkheim wrote, moved in large numbers into cities. At the start of the twentieth century Americans were predominately a rural population, but by the century's mid-point most lived in urban areas. The social lives of these migrants, as well as those already living in the cities they moved to, were disrupted by the differences between urban and rural life. According to social disorganization theory, until the social ecology of the "new place" can adapt, this rapid change is a criminogenic influence. But most rural migrants, and even many of the foreign immigrants to the city, looked like and eventually spoke the same language as the natives of the cities into which they moved. These similarities allowed for more rapid social integration for these migrants than was the case for African Americans and most foreign immigrants.

In these same decades America experienced what has been called "the great migration": the massive movement of African Americans out of the rural South and into northern (and some southern) cities. The scale of this migration is one of the most dramatic in human history. These migrants, unlike their white counterparts, were not integrated into the cities they now called home. In fact, most American cities at the end of the twentieth century were characterized by high levels of racial residential segregation (Massey and Denton 1993). Failure to integrate these migrants, coupled with other forces of social disorganization such as crowding, poverty, and illness, caused crime rates to climb in the cities, particularly in the segregated wards and neighborhoods where the migrants were forced to live.

Foreign immigrants during this period did not look as dramatically different from the rest of the population as blacks did, but the migrants from eastern and southern Europe who came to American cities did not speak English, and were frequently Catholic, while the native born were mostly Protestant. The combination of rapid population growth with the diversity of those moving into the cities created what the Chicago School sociologists called social disorganization. More specifically, the disorganized areas and neighborhoods where the unintegrated migrants lived were unable to exercise the social control that characterized organized, integrated communities. Here crime could flourish. Crime was not a consequence of who happened to live in a particular neighborhood, but rather of the character of the social ecology in which they lived. That is, the crime rate was a function of the area itself and not of the people who lived there. When members of an immigrant or ethnic group moved out of that area (usually in succeeding generations), that group's crime rate would go down. But, the old neighborhood, with its cheaper housing and disorganized conditions, would attract another, more recent group migrating to the city. Those groups settled there because that is where they could afford to live. When they became more integrated in American urban life, like those who came before them, they would move to better neighborhoods and as a result have lower crime rates. Chicago School sociologists called the process of one ethnic group moving out to be replaced by a newly arriving group (with the first group passing on to newcomers both the neighborhood and its high crime) "ethnic succession." This pattern seems to have worked for most ethnic groups except African Americans. For African Americans, residential segregation and racial discrimination prohibited the move to better, more organized neighborhoods.

Contemporary social disorganization theorists (Sampson and Groves 1989) are less concerned with the effects of ethnic migration. The disorganizing effects of urban poverty (Sampson and Wilson 1994), racial residential segregation (Massey and Denton 1993), and the social isolation of the urban poor (Wilson 1987), and the consequent effect on crime is the focus of current research. This line of research has developed intriguing answers to the question of why some racial or ethnic groups have higher crime rates.

Both the anomie and differential association traditions grew out of critiques of the Chicago School version of social disorganization theory. The latter was developed by Sutherland (1924), himself a member of the University of Chicago faculty. Sutherland believed that a theory of crime should explain not only how bad behavior is produced in bad living conditions, but also how bad behavior arises from good living circumstances. This theory should also explain why most residents of disorganized neighborhoods do not become criminals or delinquents. Sutherland explained this by arguing that crime is more likely to occur when a person has a greater number of deviant associations, relative to non-deviant associations.

Differential association occurs when a person has internalized an excess of definitions favorable to violations of the law. Sutherland believed that we all experience a variety of forms of exposure to definitions favorable to violation of the law—"It is OK to steal this because the insurance company will pay for it"—and definitions unfavorable to violation of the law—"It is not OK to steal from stores, because all of us are hurt when prices go up to pay the stores' higher insurance premiums." Sutherland was very careful to point out what differential association was not. It is not a simple count of favorable and unfavorable definitions. Differential association theory is not a theory that focuses on who a person associates with. Indeed Sutherland argued that it is possible to receive definitions favorable to violation from the lawabiding. Of course those spending time with delinquent peers will be exposed to more criminal definitions, but the theory should not be reduced to simply a peer group theory of crime and delinquency (Sutherland and Cressey 1974). As Cressey has pointed out, if crime were simply a consequence of prolonged proximity with criminals, then prison guards would be the most criminal group in the population. Differential association theory continues to be of influence in contemporary sociology, but it does not occupy as central a role as it did in the 1940s and 1950s. Matsueda (1988), the theory's major contemporary proponent, has emphasized the interactive quality (similar to labeling theory) of differential association theory. Matsueda has suggested new ways to operationalize the key concepts of differential association, and the theory is "evolving" in his writings to bring in aspects of both interactionist and rational choice theory.

Anomie theory's roots are in the work of Durkheim, who used the concept anomie to describe the disruption of regulating norms resulting from rapid social change. Strain theories, including anomie theory, focus on social structural strains, inequalities, and dislocations, which cause crime and delinquency. Durkheim stressed that societal norms that restrained the aspirations of individuals were important for preventing deviance. However, unrealistically high aspirations would be frustrated by a harsh social reality, leading to adaptations such as suicide, crime, and addiction. Merton adapted Durkheim's notion of anomie by combining this idea with the observation that not only do societal norms affect the likelihood of achieving aspirations, but they also determine to a large degree what we aspire to (1938). In other words, society helps determine the goals that we internalize by defining which of them are legitimate but it also defines the legitimate means of achieving these goals. American society, for example, defines material comfort as legitimate goals, and taking a well-paid job as a legitimate means of achieving them. Yet legitimate means such as these and economic success are not universally available. When a society is characterized by a disjunction between its legitimate goals and the legitimate means available to achieve them, crime is more likely.

This conceptualization led a number of criminologists to focus on these "opportunity structure" strains (Cloward and Ohlin 1960), as well as cultural strains (Cohen 1955), to explain why crime would be higher in lower social class neighborhoods. Contemporary strain theorists have moved in two directions. Some have proceeded in ways that are quite consistent with Merton's original conceptualization, while others have set forward a more social psychological conception of strain (Agnew 1992). What ties these contemporary versions of anomie theory to the earlier tradition is the notion that there are individual adaptations to social strain, or structurally based unequal opportunity, and that some of these adaptations can result in crime.

Subcultural explanations of crime are similar to both differential association and anomie theories. Like differential association, subculture theories have an important learning component. Both types of theories emphasize that crime, the behavior, accompanying attitudes, justifications, etc., are learned by individuals within the context of the social environment in which they live. And, as anomie and other versions of strain theory emphasize, subcultural explanations of crime tend to focus on lower-class life as a generating milieu in which procriminal norms and values thrive. Cohen's book Delinquent Boys (1955) describes delinquency as a product of class-based social strains, which lead to a gang subculture conducive to delinquency. Miller (1958) argued that a prodelinquency value system springs from situations where young boys grow up in poor, female-headed households. He felt that adherence to these values, which he called "the focal concerns of the lower class," made it more likely that boys would join gangs and involve themselves in delinquency. This idea enjoys recurring popularity in explanations of behavior in poor, and especially urban, minority neighborhoods (Banfield 1968; Murray 1984) even though it is notoriously difficult to test empirically.

A different version of subculture theory has been championed by Wolfgang (Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1967). Wolfgang and his colleagues argued that people in some segments of communities internalized, carried, and intergenerationally transferred values that were proviolence. Accordingly, members of this subculture of violence would more frequently resort to violence in circumstances where others probably would not. Critics of this thesis have argued that it is difficult to assess who carries "subculture of violence values" except via the behavior that is being predicted.

Along with most other institutions and traditions, mainstream criminology was challenged in the 1960s. Critics raised questions about the theories, data, methods, and even the definitions of crime used in criminology. The early challenges came from labeling theorists. This group used a variant of symbolic interaction to argue that lawviolating behavior was widespread in the general population, and the official labeling of a selected subset of violators was more a consequence of who the person was than of what the person had done (Becker 1963). Consequently, crime should not be defined as behavior that violates the law, because many people violate the law and are never arrested, prosecuted, or convicted. Rather, crime is a behavior that is selectively sanctioned, depending on who is engaging in it. It follows then that when criminologists use data produced by the criminal justice system, we are not studying crime but the criminal justice system itself. These data only tell us about the people selected for sanctioning, not about all of those who break the law. And, labeling theorists argued, most of our theories have been trying to explain why lower-class people engage disproportionately in crime, but since they do not—they are simply disproportionately sanctioned—the theories are pointless. What should be explained, labeling theorists argued, is why some people are more likely to be labeled and sanctioned as criminals than are others who engage in the same or similar behavior. The answer they offered was that those with sufficient resources—enough money, the right racial or gender status, etc.—to fend off labeling by the criminal justice system are simply less likely to be arrested.

A further contribution by labeling theorists is the idea that the labeling process actually creates deviance. The act of labeling people as criminals sets in motion processes that marginalize them from the mainstream, create in them the self-identification as "criminal," which in turn affects their behavior. In other words, the act of sanctioning causes more of the behavior the criminal justice system wishes to extinguish.

Marxist criminology actually began in 1916 with the publication of Bonger's Criminality and Economic Conditions, but it became central to criminological discourse in the late 1960s and 1970s (Chambliss 1975; Platt 1969; Quinney 1974; Taylor, Walton, and Young 1973). The Marxist critique of mainstream criminology can be summarized by focusing on the argument that it tends to ask three types of questions: Who commits crimes? How much crime is there? Why do people break the law? The Marxist perspective argues that these may be important questions, but more important are those that do not reify the law itself. Marxists argue that in addition to the above questions, criminologists should ask: Where does the law come from? Whose interest does the law serve? Why are the laws structured and enforced in particular ways? Their answers to these questions are based on a class-conflict analysis. Power in social systems is allocated according to social class, and the powerful use the law to protect their interests and the status quo that perpetuates their superordinate status. So the law and criminal justice system practices primarily serve the interest of elites; while they at times serve the interests of other classes, their raison d'être is the interests of the powerful. Law is structured to protect the current status arrangements.

Both the labeling and Marxist perspectives experienced broad popularity among students of criminology. Many scholars responded to their critiques not by joining them, but by taking some lessons from the debate and moving forward to develop theories consistent with traditional directions and research methods that were not as dependent on data generated by the criminal justice system. Victimization surveys and self-report studies of crime have become more widely used, in part as a consequence of these critiques.

All of the theories mentioned so far have had significant empirical challenges. Most of the initial statements have been falsified or their proponents have had to revise the perspective in the face of evidence that did not support it. Several of these explanations of crime, or how societies control their members, are used today in a modified form, while others have evolved into contemporary theories that are being tested by researchers. No doubt when someone writes about criminology in the future, some or all of the more recent theories will have joined those that have been falsified or modified as a result of empirical analyses. Contemporary criminological theories tend to be in the control theory, rational choice, or conflict traditions. However, these are not mutually exclusive (e.g. some control theories are very much rational choice theories).

Control theorists begin by saying that we ask the wrong question when we seek to understand why some people commit crimes. We should instead seek to explain why most people do not violate the rules. Control theorists reason that we do not need to explain why someone who is hungry or has less will steal from those who have what they want or need. We do not need to explain why the frustrated and angry among us will express their feelings violently. The interesting question is: Why don't most people who have less or have grievances engage in property or violent crime? Other versions of control theory (Nye 1958; Reckless 1961) preceded his, but Hirschi's (1969) classic answer to this question is that those who are "socially bonded" to critical institutions such as families, schools, conventional norms, etc., are less likely to violate the law. The bonds give them a "stake in conformity," something they value and would risk losing should they violate important rules. Though not initially stated in rational choice terms of classical school ideas, one can see similarities between Hirschi's notions of "stakes in conformity" and the Classical School of criminology's concept of the "social contract."

Control theory has evolved in a number of directions. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) have argued that crime and deviance are a consequence of the failure of some to develop adequate self-control. Self-control is developed, if at all, early in life—by the age of eight or ten. Those who do not develop self-control will, they argue, exhibit various forms (depending on their age) of deviance throughout their lives. These people will commit crimes disproportionately during the crime-prone ages, between adolescence and the late twenties. Sampson and Laub's (1993) "life-course" perspective argues that social bonds change for people at different stages of their lives. Bonds to families are important early, to schools and law-abiding peers later, and eventually bonds to spouses, one's own children, and jobs and careers ultimately tie people to conventional norms and prevent crime and deviance. Tittle (1995) has offered a control balance theory of deviance. He believes that those who balance control exerted by self with control by others that they are subjected to are the least likely to commit acts of crime and deviance. Those whose "control ratio" is out of balance, with too much or too little regulation by the self or others, have a higher probability of breaking rules.

The contemporary rational choice perspective of crime has been most explicitly articulated by economists (Becker 1968; Ehrlich 1973). Becker described the choices people make in social behavior, including crime, as much like those made in economic behavior. Before a purchase we weigh the cost of an item against the utility, or benefit to be gained by owning that item. Likewise, before engaging in crime, a person weighs the cost—prison, loss of prestige, relationships, or even life—against the benefits to crime—pleasure, expression of anger, or material gain. Becker argued that when the benefits outweigh the cost individuals would be more likely to commit criminal actions.

Control theory can also be thought of as a rational choice theory. The "bonded" among us have a stake in conformity, or something to weigh on the "to be lost" side of a cost-benefit analysis. To engage in crime is to risk the loss of valued bonds to family, teachers, or employers. The bond in control theory, thought of in this way, is an informal deterrent. Deterrence theory (Geerken and Gove 1975) is ordinarily written of in terms of a formal system of deterrence provided by the criminal justice system. As originally conceived by Classical School criminologists, police, prosecutors, and the courts endeavor to raise the cost of committing crime so that those costs outweigh the benefits from illegal behavior. In the case of those convicted, the courts attempt to do this by varying the sentence so that those convicted become convinced that they must avoid crime in the future. This deterrence aimed at those already in violation is referred to as "specific" or "special" deterrence. The noncriminal public is persuaded by general deterrence to avoid crime. They perceive that crime does not pay when they see others sanctioned. So, when considering criminal options, they weigh the utility of illegal action against the potential cost in the forms of sanctions. According to deterrence theory, when those positive utilities are outweighed by the perceived cost—effective deterrence—they choose not to engage in crime.

A number of contemporary conflict theories of criminology are legacies of 1960s and 1970s-era critical perspectives. Most prominent among these is feminist criminological theory (Simpson 1989). Contemporary conflict theories, like earlier Marxist theory, address important questions about interest groups. They begin with the position that to understand social life, including crime and responses to crime, the social, political, and economic interests of contesting parties and groups must be taken into account (Marxists, of course, focus on economic conflict). Feminist criminology focuses on gender conflict in society. These criminologists argue that to understand crimes by women, against women, and the reaction to both, we must consider the subordinate status of women. If poverty is one of the root causes of crime, then we should recognize first that the largest impoverished group in American society, and in most western industrialized societies, is children. Increasingly, children are raised in female-headed households whose poverty can be traced to the lower earnings of women, a consequence of gender stratification.

Other conflict analyses of crime focus on income inequality (Blau and Blau 1982), racial inequality (Sampson and Wilson 1994), and labor-market stratification (Crutchfield and Pitchford 1997). What these approaches share is the idea that to understand why individuals engage in crime, or why some groups or geographic areas have higher crime rates, or why patterns of criminal justice are the way they are, consideration of important social conflicts and cleavages must be brought into the analysis. Blau and Blau (1982) illustrated how income inequality, especially inequality based on race, is correlated with higher rates of violent crime. Those metropolitan areas with relatively high levels of inequality tend also to have more violence. Others (Williams 1984; Messener 1989) have argued that it is not so much relative inequality that leads to higher violent crime rates, but rather high levels of poverty. Sampson and Wilson (1994) argue that racial stratification is linked to economic stratification and this complex association accounts for higher levels of crime participation among blacks. Crutchfield and Pitchford (1997), studying a particular form of institutional stratification that was produced by segmented labor markets, found that those marginalized in the work force under some circumstances are more likely to engage in crime.

Hagan, Gillis, and Simpson (1985) developed what they call a "power control theory of delinquency." They combine elements of social control theory and conflict theory to explain class and gender patterns of delinquency. They argue that because of gender stratification, parents seek to control their daughters more and because of class stratification, those in the higher classes have more capacity (because they have the available resources) to monitor (control) their children. Yet, children of the upper classes are actually free to commit more delinquency by virtue of their social-class standing. Consequently, upper-class girls will be more controlled than their lower-class counterparts, but their brothers will have minor delinquency rates resembling those of lower-class boys.


While the theories discussed above focus on the causes of crime, they are also important for describing how social systems control crime. Societies attempt to control the behavior of people living within their borders with a combination of formal and informal systems of control. Social disorganization theory and anomie theory are examples of how crime is produced when normative control breaks down. Differential association and subcultural explanations describe how informal social control is subverted by socialization that supports criminal behavior rather than compliant behavior. Control theories focus specifically on how weak systems of informal social control fail. The obvious exception to this last statement is that portion of control theories that are also deterrence theory. Deterrence theory does consider informal systems of control, but an important part of this thesis is aimed at explaining how formal systems, or the criminal justice system in western societies, attempt to control criminal behavior. Most criminologists believe that informal systems of control are considerably more efficient than formal systems. This makes sense if one remembers that police cannot regulate us as much as we ourselves can when we have internalized conventional norms, and similarly, police cannot watch our behavior nearly as much as our families, friends, teachers, and neighbors can. The criminal justice system then is reduced to supporting informal systems of control (thus the interest in block-watch programs by police departments), engaging in community policing and patrol patterns that discourage crime, or reacting after violations have occurred.


Criminologists are interested in answering questions about how crime should be defined, why crime occurs, and how societies seek to control crime. The history of modern criminology, which can be traced to the early nineteenth century, has not produced definitive answers to these questions. To some students that is a source of frustration. To many of us the resulting ambiguity is the source of continuing interesting debate. More importantly, the disagreement among criminologists captures the complexity of social life. Oversimplification to achieve artificial closure on these debates will not produce quality answers to these questions, nor will it, to the consternation of some politicians, lead to workable solutions to crime problems. Most criminologists recognize that the complex debates about the answers to these three seemingly simple questions will ultimately be a more productive route to understanding crime and to finding effective means to address crime problems.


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Robert D. Crutchfield

Charis Kubrin


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The search for causes

Criminology in modern times


It is proper to use the term criminology to designate either (a) a body of scientific knowledge about crime, including its causes and prevention, the handling of offenders, and the pursuit of such knowledge regardless of where it stems from; or (b) a didactic discipline, which assembles, analyzes, and integrates the findings of criminological research in all scientific disciplines and indicates the best way in which they can be applied in practice to secure socially desirable ends.

Since Raffaele Garofalo (1885) invented the term, no agreement has been reached on the definition of criminology. Traditionally, it has concerned itself with the study of violations of the criminal law and of those who commit them, but opinions vary on the nature and scope of such study. Some hold that it should concentrate on the scientific investigation of the causes of crime and form a subclass of a more general catch-all discipline called “criminal science.” Criminal science would be composed of many specialized branches of study, some concerned with etiology—criminology, further subdivided into biological, psychological, and sociological criminology—and others with police science, substantive and procedural legal problems, and penology. By contrast, there are those who would regard all these branches as parts of criminology, a view reflected in American textbooks in particular, which consequently employ the term merely as a pedagogical device. This custom is opposed by those who see in criminology an empirical and naturalistic science, but even this more restrictive view raises problems. This is because the scientific study of offenses, offenders, and the whole complex of penal and law-enforcing institutions is carried on by researchers in a variety of scientific fields, each having its own theories, hypotheses, and techniques of investigation, which are often poorly understood, misunderstood, or rejected by researchers in other fields—either in principle or because of faulty interdisciplinary communication arising from increasing specialization in research activity. One cannot, therefore, speak of a science of criminology in the narrow sense of a discipline that possesses universally accepted theoretical concepts.

The search for causes

It is in the search for an understanding of why people commit crime that most research has occurred. The history of such inquiries can be said to have begun with the nineteenth century, which witnessed the development of the psychological and social sciences. Previously, indeed going back to antiquity, the problem of criminal conduct occupied the minds of natural philosophers and proto-scientists, and various theories were advanced to explain it. Observers of the social scene also speculated on the causes of criminality long before sophisticated inquirers with more adequate sources of data began their studies. Generally speaking, one might say that the search for the causes of crime has either been made by those who believe that criminal conduct can be explained chiefly by the biological or mental characteristics of offenders, or by those who believe that environmental conditions and circumstances are the chief operative factors. We shall call the former the individualists and the latter the environmentalists.

The individualists

Attempts to interpret the significance of relationships between body and mind led in ancient times to the development of physiognomies. This method of character diagnosis survived well into the Middle Ages, and one of its practitioners, Giambattista della Porta (1536–1615), may have been the first criminologist. He is said to have made anthropometric measurements on criminals in order to establish a typology. These medieval studies are not unlike some that appeared in the last century, and della Porta’s drawings comparing human and animal faces have found counterparts in relatively recent studies by responsible scientists working with different underlying hypotheses. However, physiognomies soon fell into disrepute and remained so until Lombroso revived it in a new connection.

A different approach to the explanation of crime was that of Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828), the greatest brain anatomist of his age, who was influenced by the faculty psychology of the time. His study of the brain and the nervous system caused him to propound a theory of the localization of brain functions, each operating through an organ in a cluster of other organs distributed over the outer layer of the brain. Criminal conduct then occurred if an overdeveloped organ of combativeness or acquisitiveness, for instance, was too stimulated. In vogue for a few decades, Gall’s theory was abandoned, but it called attention to the necessity of studying the offender in order to understand his conduct. Following Gall’s lead, Lauvergne (1841) studied prisoners at Toulon and described a criminal type that Lombroso later was to call a criminal by nature.

Psychiatrists were also interested in the etiology of crime. Benjamin Rush (1786), a Philadelphia physician, published an essay on the influence of physical causes on the moral faculties, in which he described persons who, although in other respects normal, became criminals because their moral faculty was impaired, a disease he called anomia. This theory, later elaborated by Philippe Pinel and Jean E. D. Esquirol, given the name “moral insanity” by James C. Prichard, and strongly defended by Prosper Despine and Henry Maudsley, took on a new lease of life in the late 1930s, when the notion of the constitutional psychopathic inferior aroused a discussion that seems likely to continue. [SeePsychopathic personality.]

The political revolutions of the eighteenth century may have proclaimed the equality of man, but scientists of the period were fully aware of the great variations within the human species. The prevalence of physical and mental defects, ill-health, poverty, and criminality gave rise to B. A. Morel’s theory of “degeneration” (1857), which held that all these phenomena were the results of a progressive pathological process in which heredity played an important role. This process led to the formation of a variety of human types, which he described in a monograph (Morel 1864) that contained many of the ideas later adopted by the Lombrosians. He also suggested the need for a science of “morbid anthropology.” Dugdale’s study of the Jukes (1877) shows some affinity with Morel’s ideas.

In 1876 a work with the title L’uomo deliquente (”The Criminal Man”), by Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), introduced a new variant among individualistic theories—the most important one, judging from its ultimate influence rather than its intrinsic value. On the basis of clinical and anatomical studies of criminals, Lombroso was convinced that the criminal was a throwback (atavism), a person who has the body and mind of our primitive ancestors, a kind of vestigial survivor from a day when mankind stood on a lower rung of the ladder of evolution, who, acting in a way natural to such a person, breaks the laws of modern society. The theory is a perfect example of the confluence of many contemporary sources of ideas. Jacob Moleschott and Friedrich K. C. L. Büchner supplied the materialistic doctrine, Charles Darwin the framework, Ernst H. Haeckel’s biogenetic principle of recapitulation the mechanism that, interfered with, would account for the atavism (Mendel’s discovery was still unknown), psychiatrists the concepts of moral insanity and degeneration, Paul Broca the techniques and instruments of anthropometry, the psychophysicists the methods of psychometrics, and Joseph A. de Gobineau the documentary data on the customs of primitive man.

Lombroso’s theory aroused both support and opposition among researchers, not to mention the clergy or the laity represented by the legal profession. The first serious attempt to test it was done by C. B. Goring (1913), who found no support for it, and the last by E. A. Hooton, who failed to substantiate the claims he made for it. It no longer survives anywhere in its original formulation, but the orientation it represents, namely the stress on the importance of biological factors, still dominates criminological thought in Italy, the Iberian peninsula, and the Latin American countries.

A parallel avenue has been followed by the constitutionalists, seeking a correlation between somatic body types and criminality. The rediscovery of Mendel’s hypothesis and the development of new psychometric devices such as intelligence tests led to numerous researches on the relationship of hereditary or psychological factors in delinquency, best demonstrated in studies of identical twins. It is within this context that we should appraise the psychoanalytic theories advanced in explanation of crime. Biological theories also fall under this head; indeed, it looks as if ancient beliefs in the role of body fluids in shaping temperaments have reappeared in a new guise in physiological studies of endocrine influences on behavior. As each new hypothesis of a biological or psychological nature has appeared, or new diagnostic devices have been found (the electroencephalograph or projective psychological tests, for instance), attempts have been made to determine their usefulness in research explaining criminal conduct.

The environmentalists

The earliest environmentalists were probably the astrologers who believed that traits ascribed to planets were mysteriously transmitted to humans, and that persons born when certain planets were in ascendancy or conjunction were doomed to crime. In later ages, such primitive conceptions were replaced by beliefs in the effect of climate on behavior (cf. Montesquieu), systematized less than a century ago by Enrico Ferri (1881a) in his discussion of telluric factors in the etiology of crime. Today, observed seasonal changes in criminality are recognized but explained in social terms. Indeed, the contributions of the environmentalists to an understanding of criminality have been predominantly sociological. Their ideas, at first based on commonplace experience and observation, have undergone many different, if not always basic, changes, because of improved sources of data, greater methodological sophistication, and the stimulus of scientific developments of the behavioral sciences in general.

It is said that Galen, noting the malpractice of Roman physicians, claimed that their conduct was made possible only by the anonymity of city life. Had they lived in small towns, where everybody would have known them, they could not have persisted in their conduct. The effect of poverty on crime was seen by Sir John Fortescue in the fifteenth century, and described by Sir Thomas More and Juan Luis Vives in the sixteenth century. The economic and social consequences of the Black Death and the endemic wars of the following three centuries created a criminal class, the existence of which was attributed to social causes. Eighteenth-century writers like Bernard Mandeville, Henry Fielding, and Patrick Colquhoun cited police corruption, the moral contagion of prisons, poor law enforcement, gambling, the saloon, illiteracy and ignorance, etc. as responsible for criminality. Both Fielding and Colquhoun gave graphic descriptions of organized crime, as did Avé-Lallemant in Germany half a century later.

It is during the last three quarters of the nineteenth century that we discern in the social sciences a development paralleling that already described in our discussion of the individualists. In 1825 France set up the first system of judicial criminal statistics. It was to be imitated by most other European countries. These annual series of data inspired the first important statistical studies by Charles J. M. Lucas (1827) on the relation of education to crime, by Adolphe Quetelet in 1831 on the relation of age to criminality, and by André M. Guerry (1833) on economic conditions, education, sex, etc. as related to crime. To facilitate the understanding of their tables, they presented maps of France showing the distribution of some of the phenomena they investigated, a technique much employed by contemporary and later authors and revived in the present century by American social ecologists.

The socioeconomic consequences of the industrial revolution were seen as criminogenic by numerous authors, especially those influenced by the economic theories of Karl Marx. Indeed, two of them, Napoleone Colajanni (1889) and Enrico Ferri (1881b), produced the first treatises on criminal sociology. Ferri’s work became particularly influential. His effort to reconcile the divergent views of the social scientists and the criminal anthropologists led to a multiple-factor approach to the study of causation, which took account of anthropological, telluric, and social factors. His earliest studies (Ferri 1881a) were statistical analyses of criminality in France since 1825.

Two French sociologists were to have considerable influence on criminological thought—Gabriel Tarde (1843–1904) and Émile Durkheim (1858–1917). Both presented sociological theories of criminality worthy of comparison with the biological theories of men like Morel and Lombroso, and the dates of their formulation are evidence of the comparatively later maturation of sociological thought. Tarde (1890) held that as a special activity criminality was explained by the laws of imitation. The criminal represented a social type. Forms of crime originated in the upper classes and spread downward by imitation; thus an individual might be born vicious, but societal influences make him a criminal. Durkheim’s best contribution was his theory of anomie, a condition that he held to be created by social evolution, as it transforms homogeneous societies into heterogeneous ones by the increasing division of labor, and by the rise of more and more social groups with divergent norms that may be in conflict with legal norms. Both of these authors, and especially Durkheim, have influenced the thinking of American criminologists.

Criminology in modern times

In this brief review, scores of names of scholars and scientists who have engaged in criminological research and who have assisted in enriching it have necessarily been omitted. And it will be noticed that, with one exception, Benjamin Rush, only Europeans have been mentioned. This is because in the United States, until the present century, studies of criminality or criminals only imitated work done abroad. The poverty of criminal statistics, which is still a problem, made the kind of social investigations done in Europe impossible. Psychologists and psychiatrists faced no such problem; the publication of Healy’s The Individual Delinquent (1915) marked the beginning of a new era for their studies. Sociologists had to find different approaches. Before World War i, no leading American sociologist, except perhaps Charles H. Cooley, Franklin H. Giddings, or E. A. Ross, showed any theoretical interest in criminology. Courses in criminology were offered in many American colleges and universities by 1905, but they were largely concerned with social reform. Only in the last forty years has a scientific orientation grown up in American sociological research on crime, as in other sociological areas of inquiry. Such research has tended to focus on the causation of crime. Psychiatric research in criminology, clinically oriented, has also increasingly come to recognize the significance of social and cultural influences on criminal conduct. [SeeCrime, article onCauses of crime.]

Whereas in the United States criminological research has been done mostly by sociologists, elsewhere clinical criminology, practiced mainly by psychiatrists, dominated research until World War ii. In most countries of basically Latin culture, this is still the case. Since then, however, sociological research has been gaining in importance in many countries and has reversed the psychiatric dominance, especially in northern Europe. This process has been largely due to the phenomena of postwar criminality and delinquency and to the growing familiarity with the products of American empirical criminological research, which before World War ii seemed to be almost unknown outside the United States.

Sociologists have also become interested in the study of correctional institutions seen as social systems; significant research in that connection has been conducted in the United States, England, and Norway. The effectiveness of various forms of correctional treatment is being studied in many coun-tries. Such research may be expected to have an influence on legislation on crimes, their sanctions, and correctional administration. Attempts are also being made in some countries to develop prognostic instruments useful in spotting future delinquents among young children, in the selection of offenders for placement on probation or parole, and in the assignment of prisoners to different types of treatment programs. In this connection, the central diagnostic clinics established by many state or national correctional departments, of which California, France, and Italy offer good examples, have aided in bringing about closer cooperation among staff representatives of the various disciplines concerned with criminal conduct.

Concurrent with the growth of scientific research activity and with the proliferation, especially in the United States, of state or local programs and agencies for the prevention of crime and delinquency and for the treatment of offenders has been the increase in the demand for criminologically trained research and treatment personnel. Pedagogical institutes of criminology, aiming to broaden the knowledge of the judiciary and of correctional administrators or candidates for such civil service offices, have existed for more than half a century at law schools in many foreign countries. Institutes combining staff research and teaching have appeared more recently. The most active are those at Cambridge, England, and Vaucresson, France. In the United States, a few universities offer programs of graduate study leading to advanced degrees related to criminology. Such courses are, with rare exceptions, designed to train teachers of criminology or correctional administrators rather than researchers; the same holds true for the offerings of the institute recently established in Japan by the United Nations.

Thorsten Sellin

[Directly related are the entriesCrime; Penology. Other relevant material may be found inDelinquency; Drugs, article ondrug addiction: social aspects; and in the biographies ofDurkheim; Hooton; Lombroso; Mandeville; Montesquieu; Quetelet; Rush; Sutherland; Tarde.]


No adequate history of criminology exists, and the textbooks give scanty information. A broader view may be gained from Niceforo 1941; Kan 1903; Bonger 1905; Bernaldo de Quirós 1898; Antonini 1900; Montes 1911; Fink 1938; Void 1958; Mannheim 1960. The discussion of the scope and nature of criminology continues unabated, as witnessed by such works as Bianchi 1956; Pelaez 1960. Two national dictionaries of criminology are worthy of note: Elster & Lingemann, Handwörterbuch der Kriminologie 1933–1936; and the Dizionario di criminologia 1943. Good bibliographical tools are now available; especially useful are the International Review of Criminal Policy; International Bibliography on Crime and Delinquency; Annales internationales de criminologie; Excerpta criminologica; Current Projects in the Prevention, Control and Treatment of Crime and Delinquency. Textbooks are numerous. Among the many current American ones, all written by sociologists, the best known is Sutherland & Cressey 1924. Of foreign texts, among the leading titles are Agge 1955; Greeff 1946; Hurwitz 1947; Bemmelen 1942; Pinatel 1963. Many criminological journals are being published; among them, in the United States, are the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science; Archives of Criminal Psychodynamics; Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

In England, the leading publication is the British Journal of Criminology. In Germany, the Archiv für Kriminologie and the Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechts-reform are both well-established journals, as are the Belgian Revue de droit pénal et de criminologie, the Dutch Nederlands tijdschrift voor criminologie, and the Swiss Revue internationale de criminologie et de police technique. France and Italy, both of which have long traditions of criminological research, produce, respectively, the Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé and the Quaderni di criminologia clinica. More extensive listings of journals will be found in International Society of Criminology 1961. The teaching of criminology in different countries, including the United States, is described in International Society of Criminology 1957. Also worth reading in this connection is Radzinowicz 1961. National societies for the study and promotion of scientific criminology exist in many countries. International exchange between criminologists has been organized since the late nineteenth century; no fewer than seven international congresses of “criminal anthropology” were held between 1885 and 1911. The International Society of Criminology, organized in 1937, has held such congresses in 1938, 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1965.

Agge, Ivar et al. 1955 Kriminologi. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand.

Annales Internationales de criminologie. → Published by the Société Internationale de Criminologie. From 1951 to 1961 it was called the Bulletin [of the International Society of Criminology].

Antonini, Giuseppe 1900 I precursori di C. Lombroso. Turin (Italy): Bocca.

Archiv für Kriminologie: Unter Besonder Berücksichtigung der naturwissenschaftlichen Kriminalistik. → Published since 1898.

Archives of Criminal Psychodynamics. → Published since 1955.

Bemmelen, Jacob M. van (1942) 1958 Criminologie: Leerbock der misdaadkunde. 4th ed. Zwolle (Netherlands): Tjeenk Willink.

Bernaldo de QuirÓs, Constancio (1898) 1911 Modern Theories of Criminality. Boston: Little. → First published as Las nuevas teorías de la criminalidad.

Bianchi, Hermanus 1956 Position and Subject-matter of Criminology: Inquiry Concerning Theoretical Criminology. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing.

Bonger, William A. (1905) 1916 Criminality and Economic Conditions. Boston: Little. → First published as Criminalité et conditions économiques.

Branham, Vernon C.; and Kutash, Samuel B. (editors) 1949 Encyclopedia of Criminology. New York: Philosophical Library.

British Journal of Criminology. → Published since 1960 by the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Delinquency. From 1950 to 1960 published as British Journal of Delinquency.

Colajanni, Napoleone 1889 La sociologia criminale. 2 vols. Catania (Italy): Tropea.

Current Projects in the Prevention, Control and Treatment of Crime and Delinquency. → Published from 1962 to 1964 by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Now published by the National Clearing House for Mental Health Information, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service.

Dizionario di criminologia. 2 vols. Edited by E. Florian, A. Niceforo, and N. Pende. 1943 Milan (Italy): Vallardi.

Dugdale, Richard L. (1877) 1910 The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease and Heredity. 4th ed. New York: Putnam.

Elster, Alexander; and Lingemann, Heinrich (editors) 1933–1936 Handwörterbuch der Kriminologie und der anderen strafrechtlichen Hilfswissenschaften … Berlin: de Gruyter.

Excerpta criminologica. → A journal of abstracts, published since 1961 by the Excerpta Criminologica Foundation, Amsterdam.

Ferri, Enrico 1881a Studi sulla criminalità in Francia dal 1826 al 1878. Rome: Botta.

Ferri, Enrico (1881b) 1917 Criminal Sociology. Boston: Little. → First published as I nuovi orizzonti del diritto e della procedura penale. Title later changed to Sociologia criminale.

Fink, Arthur E. 1938 The Causes of Crime: Biological Theories in the United States, 1800–1915. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Barnes & Noble.

Garofalo, Raffaele (1885)1914 Criminology. Boston: Little. → First published in Italian.

Goring, Charles B. 1913 The English Convict: A Statistical Study. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Greeff, Étienne de (1946) 1947 Introduction à la criminologie. 2d ed. Brussels: Vandenplas.

Guerry, AndrÉ M. 1833 Essai sur la statistique morale de la France. Paris: Crochard.

Healy, William 1915 The Individual Delinquent: A Text-book of Diagnosis and Prognosis for All Concerned in Understanding Offenders. Boston: Little.

Hurwitz, Stephan (1947) 1952 Criminology. London: Allen & Unwin. → First published in Danish.

International Bibliography on Crime and Delinquency. → Published since 1963, first by the National Research and Information Center on Crime and Delinquency, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, now by the National Clearing House for Mental Health Information, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service.

International Review of Criminal Policy. → Published since 1952 by the United Nations, Department of Social Affairs. Contains an extensive international bibliography of criminology.

International Society of Criminology 1957 The University Teaching of Social Sciences: Criminology. Paris: UNESCO.

International Society of Criminology 1961 Selected Documentation on Criminology. Social Science Clearing House, Reports and Papers in the Social Sciences, No. 14. Paris: UNESCO. → A selective bibliography for each of 25 countries.

Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science. → Published since 1910 under various titles.

Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. → Published since 1964 by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Center for Youth and Community Studies, Howard University.

Kan, Joseph van 1903 Les causes économiques de la criminalité: Étude historique et critique d’étiologie criminelle. Paris: Storck.

Kinberg, Olof 1935 Basic Problems of Criminology. Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard. → A French revision was published in 1960 as Les problàmes fondamentaux de la criminologie.

Lauvergne, Hubert 1841 Les forçats considérés sous le rapport physiologique, moral et intellectuel. Paris: Baillière.

Lucas, Charles J. M. 1827 DU système pénal et du systeme repressif en général, de la peine de mort en particulier. Paris: Béchet.

Mannheim, Hermann (editor) (1954–1960) 1960 Pioneers in Criminology. London: Stevens. → A collection of biographies that first appeared separately in the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science.

Mannheim, Hermann 1965 Comparative Criminology: A Text Book. 2 vols. London: Routledge.

Middendorff, Wolf 1959 Soziologie des Verbrechens. Düsseldorf (Germany): Diederich.

Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform. → Published since 1904 under various titles.

Montes, JerÓnimo 1911 Precursores de la ciencia penal en España: Estudios sobre el delincuente y las causas y remedies del delito. Madrid: Suarez.

Morel, Benedict A. 1857 Traité des dégénérescences physiques, intellectuelles et morales de I’éspèce humaine et des causes qui produisent ces variétés maladives. Paris: Baillière.

Morel, Benedict A. 1864 De la formation du type dans les variétés dégénérées: Ou, nouveaux éléments d’anthropologie morbide pour faire suite à la théorie des dégénerescences dans I’espèce humaine. Paris: Baillière.

Nederlands tijdschrift voor criminologie. → Published since 1959.

Niceforo, Alfredo (1941) 1949 Criminologia. Volume 1: Vecchie e nuove dottrine. Milan (Italy): Bocca.

Pelaez, Michelangelo 1960 Introduzione allo studio della criminologia. Milan (Italy): Giuffré.

Pinatel, Jean 1963 Criminologie. Volume 3 in Pierre Bouzat and Jean Pinatel, Traité de droit pénal et de criminologie. Paris: Dalloz.

Quaderni di criminologia clinica. → Published since 1959.

Radzinowicz, Leon (1961) 1962 In Search of Criminology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Revue de droit pénal et de criminologie. → Published since 1907.

Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé. → Published since 1936 by the Centre Français de Droit Comparé, Université de Paris, Institut de Criminologie.

Revue internationale de criminologie et de police technique. → Published since 1947.

Rush, Benjamin (1786) 1839 Inquiry Into the Influence of Physical Causes Upon the Moral Faculty. Philadelphia: Cist. → Speech delivered before the American Philosophical Society, February 27, 1786. First published as An Oration … Containing an Enquiry Into the Influence of Physical Causes Upon the Moral Faculty.

Sellin, Thorsten; and Savitz, Leonard (1935) 1963 A Bibliographical Manual for the Student of Criminology. 3d ed., rev. International Bibliography on Crime and Delinquency 1, no. 3.

Sutherland, Edwin H.; and Cressey, Donald R. (1924) 1960 Principles of Criminology. 6th ed. New York: Lippincott. → First published as a textbook under the title Criminology with E. H. Sutherland as sole author.

Tarde, Gabriel (1890) 1912 Penal Philosophy. Boston: Little. → First published as La philosophic pénale.

Tullio, Benigno di 1945 Trattato di antropologia criminale. Rome: Criminalia.

Vold, George B. 1958 Theoretical Criminology. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.


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The scientific study of the causation, correction, and prevention of crime.

As a subdivision of the larger field of sociology, criminology draws on psychology, economics, anthropology, psychiatry, biology, statistics, and other disciplines to explain the causes and prevention of criminal behavior. Subdivisions of criminology include penology, the study of prisons and prison systems; biocriminology, the study of the biological basis of criminal behavior; feminist criminology, the study of women and crime; and criminalistics, the study of crime detection, which is related to the field of forensic science.

Criminology has historically played a reforming role in relation to criminal law and the criminal justice system. As an applied discipline, it has produced findings that have influenced legislators, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, probation officers, and prison officials, prompting them to better understand crime and criminals and to develop better and more humane sentences and treatments for criminal behavior.


The origins of criminology are usually located in the late-eighteenth-century writings of those who sought to reform criminal justice and penal systems that they perceived as cruel, inhumane, and arbitrary. These old systems applied the law unequally, were subject to great corruption, and often used torture and the death penalty indiscriminately.

The leading theorist of this classical school of criminology, the Italian Cesare bonesano beccaria (1738–94), argued that the law must apply equally to all, and that punishments for specific crimes should be standardized by legislatures, thus avoiding judicial abuses of power. Both Beccaria and another classical theorist, the Englishman jeremy bentham (1748–1832), argued that people are rational beings who exercise free will in making choices. Beccaria and Bentham understood the dominant motive in making choices to be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Thus, they argued that a punishment should fit the crime in such a way that the pain involved in potential punishment would be greater than any pleasure derived from committing the crime. The writings of these theorists led to greater codification and standardization of European and U.S. laws.

Criminologists of the early nineteenth century argued that legal punishments that had been created under the guidance of the classical school did not sufficiently consider the widely varying circumstances of those who found themselves in the gears of the criminal justice system. Accordingly, they proposed that those who could not distinguish right from wrong, particularly children and mentally ill persons, should be exempted from the punishments that were normally meted out to mentally capable adults who had committed the same crimes. Along with the contributions of a later generation of criminologists, known as the positivists, such writers argued that the punishment should fit the criminal, not the crime.

Later in the nineteenth century, the positivist school of criminology brought a scientific approach to criminology, including findings from biology and medicine. The leading figure of this school was the Italian Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909). Influenced by Charles R. Darwin's theory of evolution, Lombroso measured the physical features of prison inmates and concluded that criminal behavior correlated with specific bodily characteristics, particularly cranial, skeletal, and neurological malformations. According to Lombroso, biology created a criminal class among the human population. Subsequent generations of criminologists have disagreed harshly with Lombroso's conclusions on this matter. However, Lombroso had a more lasting effect on criminology with other findings that emphasized the multiple causes of crime, including environmental causes that were not biologically determined. He was also a pioneer of the case-study approach to criminology.

Other late-nineteenth-century developments in criminology included the work of statisticians of the cartographic school, who analyzed data on population and crime. These included Lambert Adolphe Quetelet, (1796– 1874) of France and André Michel Guerry, of Belgium. Both of these researchers compiled detailed, statistical information relating to crime and also attempted to identify the circumstances that predisposed people to commit crimes.

The writings of French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) also exerted a great influence on criminology. Durkheim advanced the hypothesis that criminal behavior is a normal part of all societies. No society, he argued, can ever have complete uniformity of moral consciousness. All societies must permit some deviancy, including criminal deviancy, or they will stagnate. He saw the criminal as an acceptable human being and one of the prices that a society pays for freedom.

Durkheim also theorized about the ways in which modern, industrial societies differ from nonindustrial ones. Industrial societies are not as effective at producing what Durkheim called a collective conscience that effectively controls the behavior of individuals. Individuals in industrial societies are more likely to exhibit what Durkheim called anomie—a Greek word meaning "without norms." Consequently, modern societies have had to develop specialized laws and criminal justice systems that were not necessary in early societies to control behavior.

Early efforts to organize criminologists in the United States attracted law enforcement officials and others who were interested in the criminal justice system. In 1941, a group of individuals in California organized for the purpose of improving police training and the standardization of police-training curricula. In 1946, this movement developed into the establishment of the Society for the Advancement of Criminology, which changed its name to the American Society of Criminology in 1957. Initial efforts of this organization focused upon scientific crime detection, investigation, and identification; crime prevention, public safety, and security; law enforcement administration; administration of criminal justice; traffic administration; and probation.

The American Society of Criminology has since attracted thousands of members, including academics, practitioners, and students of the criminal justice system. Studies of criminology include both the theoretical and the pragmatic, and some combine elements of both. Although some aspects of criminology as a science are still considered radical, others have developed as standards in the study of crime and criminal justice.

Sociology and Criminology

During the twentieth century, the sociological approach to criminology became the most influential approach. Sociology is the study of social behavior, systems, and structures. In relation to criminology, it may be divided into social-structural and social-process approaches.

Social-Structural Criminology Social-structural approaches to criminology examine the way in which social situations and structures influence or relate to criminal behavior. An early example of this approach, the ecological school of criminology, was developed in the 1920s and 1930s at the University of Chicago. It seeks to explain crime's relationship to social and environmental change. For example, it attempts to describe why certain areas of a city will have a tendency to attract crime and also have less-vigorous police enforcement. Researchers have found that urban areas in transition from residential to business uses are most often targeted by criminals. Such communities often have disorganized social networks that foster a weaker sense of social standards.

Another social-structural approach is the conflict school of criminology. It traces its roots to Marxist theories that saw crime as ultimately a product of conflict between different classes under the system of capitalism. Criminology conflict theory suggests that the laws of society emerge out of conflict rather than out of consensus. It holds that laws are made by the group that is in power, to control those who are not in power. Conflict theorists propose, as do other theorists, that those who commit crimes are not fundamentally different from the rest of the population. They call the idea that society may be clearly divided into criminals and noncriminals a dualistic fallacy, or a misguided notion. These theorists maintain, instead, that the determination of whether someone is a criminal or not often depends on the way society reacts to those who deviate from accepted norms. Many conflict theorists and others argue that minorities and poor people are more quickly labeled as criminals than are members of the majority and wealthy individuals.

Critical criminology, also called radical criminology, shares with conflict criminology a debt to Marxism. It came into prominence in the early 1970s and attempted to explain contemporary social upheavals. Critical criminology relies on economic explanations of behavior and argues that economic and social inequalities cause criminal behavior. It focuses less on the study of individual criminals, and advances the belief that existing crime cannot be eliminated within the capitalist system. It also asserts, like the conflict school, that law has an inherent bias in favor of the upper or ruling class, and that the state and its legal system exist to advance the interests of the ruling class. Critical criminologists argue that corporate, political, and environmental crime are underreported and inadequately addressed in the current criminal justice system.

Feminist criminology emphasizes the subordinate position of women in society. According to feminist criminologists, women remain in a position of inferiority that has not been fully rectified by changes in the law during the late twentieth century. Feminist criminology also explores the ways in which women's criminal behavior is related to their objectification as commodities in the sex industry.

Others using the social-structural approach have studied gangs, juvenile delinquency, and the relationship between family structure and criminal behavior.

Social-Process Criminology Social-process criminology theories attempt to explain how people become criminals. These theories developed through recognition of the fact that not all people who are exposed to the same social-structural conditions become criminals. They focus on criminal behavior as learned behavior.

Edwin H. Sutherland (1883–1950), a U.S. sociologist and criminologist who first presented his ideas in the 1920s and 1930s, advanced the theory of differential association to explain criminal behavior. He emphasized that criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others, usually in small groups, and that criminals learn to favor criminal behavior over noncriminal behavior through association with both forms of behavior in different degrees. As Sutherland wrote, "When persons become criminal, they do so because of contacts with criminal patterns and also because of isolation from anticriminal patterns." Although his theory has been greatly influential, Sutherland himself admitted that it did not satisfactorily explain all criminal behavior. Later theorists have modified his approach in an attempt to correct its shortcomings.

Control theory, developed in the 1960s and 1970s, attempts to explain ways to train people to engage in law-abiding behavior. Although there are different approaches within control theory, they share the view that humans require nurturing in order to develop attachments or bonds to people and that personal bonds are key in producing internal controls such as conscience and guilt and external controls such as shame. According to this view, crime is the result of insufficient attachment and commitment to others.

Walter C. Reckless developed one version of control theory, called containment. He argued that a combination of internal psychological containments and external social containments prevents people from deviating from social norms. In simple communities, social pressure to conform to community standards, usually enforced by social ostracism, was sufficient to control behavior. As societies became more complex, internal containments played a more crucial role in determining whether people behaved according to public laws. Furthermore, containment theorists have found that internal containments require a positive self-image. All too often, a sense of alienation from society and its norms forms in modern individuals, who, as a result, do not develop internal containment mechanisms.

The sociologist Travis Hirschi has developed his own control theory that attempts to explain conforming, or lawful, rather than deviant, or unlawful, behavior. He stresses the importance of the individual's bond to society in determining conforming behavior. His research has found that socioeconomic class has little to do with determining delinquent behavior, and that young people who are not very attached to their parents or to school are more likely to be delinquent than those who are strongly attached. He also found that youths who have a strongly positive view of their own accomplishments are more likely to view society's laws as valid constraints on their behavior.

Political Criminology

Political criminology is similar to the other camps in this area. It involves study into the forces that determine how, why, and with what consequences societies chose to address criminals and crime in general. Those who are involved with political criminology focus on the causes of crime, the nature of crime, the social and political meanings that attach to crime, and crime-control policies, including the study of the bases upon which crime and punishment is committed and the choices made by the principals in criminal justice.

Although the theories of political criminology and conflict criminology overlap to some extent, political criminologists deny that the terms are interchangeable. The primary focus points in the new movement of political criminology similarly overlap with other theories, including the concerns and ramifications of street crime and the distribution of power in crime-control strategies. This movement has largely been a loose, academic effort.

Other Issues

Criminologists also study a host of other issues related to crime and the law. These include studies of the victims of crime, focusing upon their relations to the criminal, and their role as potential causal agents in crime; juvenile delinquency and its correction; and the media and their relation to crime, including the influence of pornography. Much research related to criminology has focused on the biological basis of criminal behavior. In fact, a field of study called biocriminology, which attempts to explore the biological basis of criminal behavior, has emerged. Research in this area has focused on chromosomal abnormalities, hormonal and brain chemical imbalances, diet, neurological conditions, drugs, and alcohol as variables that contribute to criminal behavior.

The true effect of criminology upon practices in the criminal justice system is still subject to question. Although a number of commentators have noted that studies in criminology have led to significant changes among criminal laws in the various states, other critics have suggested that studies in criminology have not directly led to a reduction of crime.

In McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 107 S. Ct. 1756, 95 L. Ed. 2d 262 (1987), an individual who had been sentenced to death for a murder in Georgia demonstrated to the U.S. Supreme Court that a criminologist's study showed that the race of individuals in that state impacted whether the defendant was sentenced to life or to death. The study demonstrated that a black defendant who had killed a white victim was four times more likely to be sentenced to death than was a defendant who had killed a black victim. The defendant claimed that the study demonstrated that the state of Georgia had violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, as well as under the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The high court disagreed. Although the majority did question the validity of the study's findings, it held that the study did not establish that officials in Georgia had acted with discriminatory purpose, and that it did not establish that racial bias had affected the officials' decisions with respect to the death sentence. Accordingly, the death sentence violated neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the eighth amendment.

Criminology has had more of an effect when states and the federal government consider new criminal laws and sentencing provisions. Criminologists' theories are also often debated in the context of the death penalty and crime control acts among legislators and policymakers. In this light, criminology is perhaps not at the forefront of the development of the criminal justice system, but it most certainly works in the background in the determination of criminal justice policies.

further readings

Carrington, Kerry, and Russell Hogg, eds. 2002. Critical Criminology: Issues, Debates, Challenges. Portland, Ore.: Willan Publishing.

Cullen, Francis T., and Velmer S. Burton, Jr. 1994. Contemporary Criminological Theory. New York: New York Univ. Press.

Reid, Sue T. 1994. Crime and Criminology. 7th ed. Madison, Wis.: Times Mirror Higher Education Group, Brown & Benchmark.

White, Rob. 2001. "Criminology for Sale: Institutional Change and Intellectual Field." Current Issues in Criminal Justice 13 (November).


Critical Legal Studies; Forensic Science; Marx, Karl Heinrich.


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Criminology was born as one of the theoretical fields of social sciences or sociology because crime and criminal behavior are social phenomena with direct impacts on societies. The efforts to understand not only the social determinants of criminality, but also the possible biological, moral, and psychological factors involved when someone commits a crime attracted researchers from other academic fields, such as anthropology , medicine , and psychiatry . As a consequence, a great variety of criminological theories have gradually developed in the last three centuries. In more recent years, criminology acquired an even wider scope, with the inclusion of new scientific fields such as forensic science , criminal psychology , and analysis of crime statistics.

The concept of crime is itself an object of study, as definitions of crime vary across cultures and change throughout history. For instance, for many centuries the practice of torture of prisoners, the destruction of civilian populations and cities by invading armies, child labor exploitation, and the capture and selling of human beings as slaves were almost universally practiced and accepted worldwide. These activities were part of the customs and values of previous times. As societies change and evolve, the moral standards also change to reflect the new social conventions. In consequence of such changes, some previously condemned behaviors may become accepted, whereas others, until then considered legally and morally justified, may be rejected as barbaric or criminal practices. Laws and penal codes reflect the values of a given historical period and tend to be amended or abolished to meet new emerging social and scientific consensus.

Criminological theories may be classified according to historical/cultural periods, or by the scope of their investigations. Some theories are developed around the psychological traits of criminal subjects, as well as the crime incidence among the general population or among a particular ethnic group or social strata. Other theories investigate the relation between socio-economic contexts and crime incidence, or between abuse and neglect in childhood and juvenile criminality, while others discuss the legal definition of crime, legal and social methods of punishment and rehabilitation, or means of crime prevention. The main theoretical schools of criminology are the classical school, positive school, and the Chicago school. However, criminological theories are more recently also classified according to scopes, such as biological, psychological, disorganization-ecological, learning, control, labeling, radical-conflict, feminist, middle-class, and integrated theories.

The classical school is considered the cradle of modern criminology, and was basically a product of philosophers and physicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The classical school was a consequence of both the preceding Renaissance cultural movement and the social and humanistic ideals of the time, such as individual rights, egalitarianism, and democracy, which led to the American and French revolutions. Criminality was viewed as the result of free will and individual choice, as all human beings were considered to be endowed with natural rationality. The emphasis of the classical school was therefore, not the analysis of criminal behavior, but in the social and legal definition of crime, on the need of consensus between society's best interests, and the role of the state and laws in the protection of the common good.

The mainstream premise behind the Classical School was the existence of a natural and implicit social contract between the individuals of a society and their government. Cesare Beccaria (17381794), author of a seminal book of this school On Crimes and Punishment explained criminality as a consequence of bad and unjust legislation. Like Thomas Hobbes (15881679), Beccaria and others professed that men, in their natural state, are rational beings, always pursuing pleasure and self gratification and trying to escape suffering. Such pursuit inevitably led to the conflict between individuals' interests, thus preventing the maintenance of social peace and the individual fruition of happiness.

According to Hobbes, government was a natural necessity to protect society and to define the social common good and moral standards to be forcefully followed by all. In contrast to Hobbes, who was essentially a totalitarian (e.g., government dictates the rules), Beccaria insisted that governments should not suppress individual liberties but instead, be their guarantor. When government failed the expectations implied in the social contract or created oppression and injustice, social unrest and increased criminality would be the result. Beccaria declared that legal equality to all citizens was essential to the success of the social contract, but laws and regulations should be kept to an optimum minimum to avoid unnecessary restriction of individual liberties.

Another influential thinker of this school was Jeremy Bentham (17481832), with his utilitarian approach, in which individuals were believed to always consider the overall utility of government or of a law through the benefits it could yield in the present or in the future, weighted against those painful results or pleasures that could result from breaking the law or the social contract. The greater the benefits promoted by the government for the greater number of individuals, Bentham reasoned, the lesser the tendency of breaking the law among the population. Historical examples of the social contract application are the premises that justified the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

The positive school was born inside the positivist movement that rapidly dominated academic thought after the French Revolution, with the separation between science and religion. The positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte (17981857) was the cornerstone of this movement, whose emphasis was the systematization of scientific investigation, the consolidation of a scientific methodology, and the construction of rational hypothesis through the empirical observation, quantification, and analysis of facts or of natural phenomena. The positive school of criminology sought, therefore, to explain criminality as a human phenomenon whose probable causes were to be identified in both the human nature and/or in the social determinants. Cesare Lombroso (18351909), an Italian physician, is considered the founder of positivist criminology because he rejected criminality as a result of free will and rational decisions on the premises that criminal subjects should be studied in both their biological and social contexts. However, Lombroso assumed that biological diseases, such as epilepsy or some mental illnesses, were the main causes of criminal behavior, with socio-economic factors acting as secondary triggers. Lombroso and others studied the psychological and physical characteristics of thousands prisoners and mental hospital patients in an attempt to identify common features associated to criminal tendencies.

Lombroso described two main criminal types: the "born criminal type," whose compulsion to commit violent crimes was beyond the individual's control, and the "criminoid" type, a less dangerous (often harmless) and treatable and/or preventable pathological condition. Among the psychological features of born criminal types, Lombroso reported that they were incapable of remorse (an emotional process), displayed absence of moral values, lack of self-control, with many showing various degrees of mental illness. Therefore, Lombroso considered born criminals as psychopaths who needed to be isolated from society, as their condition was untreatable. Contrary to the general assumption, Lombroso never denied the social and cultural determinants, such as poverty, demographic density, educational deficiencies, childhood maltreatment and adolescence trauma, etc. as contributing factors or even direct causes to criminality, especially in the case of criminoid types. He also proposed several institutional solutions for the rehabilitation of criminoids, such as a reform in the prison system, with less emphasis on punishment and the introduction of educational and professional programs for those convicted of lesser crimes, along with social, medical, and educational policies to prevent criminality in problematic urban areas. However, his comparative anthropometrical study of physical morphological features between criminals and non-criminal individuals, a theory now widely discredited, is the best known and the most often cited of all Lombroso's theories.

The theory of social and environmental determinism (e.g., social conditions as the causal root) of criminal behavior gained force in the United States after 1910 with the Chicago school. This theory especially took hold after World War I. The concept of cultural relativism of moral values in opposition to the existence of human-inherent universal values was an emerging paradigm in American sociology as a result of immigration, fast and disorganized urban growth, economic crisis, and the industrialization boom, which attracted to the cities an ever-growing numbers of people from rural areas. These combined factors were seen as disruptive to the social organization of urban communities. Social organization was defined as a socially developed consensus about ethical norms and moral values that determined the regularity of behavior in a given community. The ensuing augment of crime incidence and the appearance of new types and styles of criminal behavior in certain "disorganized" local urban areas posed new questions to criminologists and sociologists.

Social scientists W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki published in 1920 the result of a comparative social study between Polish rural populations and the process of cultural assimilation of Polish immigrants in the slums of Chicago. They concluded that in contrast to the older immigrants, who had lived in rural communities in Poland and whose social values and cultural traditions were well established and assimilated, the younger Polish generations in Chicago (who had never lived in those rural communities) were in a kind of socio-cultural limbo. They could not identify with the values of the older generation and were not assimilated by the socio-cultural values of their present urban environment and country. The authors associated this state of socio-cultural limbo to the increasing incidence of crime and delinquency among the Polish-descendant youth of Chicago.

Inspired by this study, social scientists created the Chicago concentric zone model of Chicago, dividing the city into five "natural urban areas," as follows: zone 1, the central business district; zone 2, the transitional zone (the area where recent immigrant groups lived in an environment of deteriorated houses and poor sanitation, among abandoned buildings, and factories); zone 3, the working class zone, where working families lived in apartment buildings at low rental rates; zone 4, the residential zone, where the middle class population owned single-family homes with garages, surrounded by back and front yards; and zone 5, the commuter zone, or suburbs. The scientists analyzed each zone in terms of family income, types of economic activities, community infrastructure and organization, and ethnic predominance. They called such sets of characteristics "the natural ecological habitat" of each of those populations. In other words, it was defined as the environmental conditions wherein a given urban community lived and related to one another. These social scientists established a direct relation between higher crime incidence, gang organization, and juvenile delinquency and the more impoverished and precarious urban environments. They proposed that as the residents of zone 2, for instance, progressed and moved to zone 3, other immigrants took their place in zone 2. As they moved farther from the center, crime incidence dropped.

The model was also used to study juvenile delinquency in the various zones of Chicago, when data was collected from 56,000 court records of juvenile delinquency between 1900 and 1933. The group also concluded that higher crime rates were associated to the more central zones, where immigrants, nonwhites, and low-income families lived. These and other theorists of the Chicago school viewed poverty, population high density, and industrialization as the main factors inducing the deterioration of family ties and community relationships, which led to social isolation and juvenile delinquency. The group interpreted the results as showing that delinquency was the result of a defiant rejection of the established cultural norms and social values, which tended to grow through proximity and direct exposition of new individuals to delinquent groups.

Disorganization and criminality were, therefore, more prevalent in the central zones and tended to decrease with distance towards the suburban areas. In 1947, Edwin H. Sutherland published the theory of differential association, which he elaborated using elements from prior studies. Sutherland also introduced new data gathered from studies of patterns of learned behaviors through the relationship between the individual and his intimate group, which led him either to accept or reject criminal behavior, depending on which set of values is more emphasized by such influential groups or persons. In brief, Sutherland's theory proposed that: 1), criminal behavior is learned; 2), is learned through the interaction with other individuals or groups close or significant to the individual; 3) together with criminal behavior, individuals also learned techniques to commit specific forms of crime; 4), the choices, motivation, and preferences to commit certain types of crime derived from the quantity of exposition to accepted criminal behaviors in his/her relationships, whose definitions of behaviors that are justifiable, in spite of their illegality, and which are not justifiable, played an important role in criminal behavior.

Because human societies and human beings are both complex and dynamic entities, hardly a single-approach theory, or even a partially-integrated one, will offer the final answer to multi-sided human and social problems to which multiple contributing factors can be associated. Social theories tend in general to contain a variable degree of bias because the prevailing premises and implicit paradigms of their own cultural and personal backgrounds, as well as of their political beliefs in general influence the researchers of each generation. Theoretical criminology is a vast arena where a constellation of these and other recent studies, each tending to explain criminal behavior or its causes through different and often mutually excluding view points, are constantly fueling the academic debate.

see also Anthropometry; Forensic science; Misdemeanor; Psychological profile; Psychopathic personality.


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Traditional Jewish criminal law based the treatment of the offender on the idea of the freedom of will and on the principle that the severity of the punishment should fit the nature of the violation. Until modern times no consideration was given to the personality of the offender or any biological, psychological or socio-economic factors in crime causation and correction.

The Anthropological-Biological School

The first to stress the hereditary or biological aspect of crime causation was Cesare *Lombroso, a founder of the positivist school of criminology, who maintained that the true criminal was born as such and could be recognized in his physical features. Among later criminologists, Sheldon and Eleanor Touroff *Glueck, in their Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency (1950), made use of three basic somatic (body) types and showed their relationship to delinquency, but in a subsequent study, Physique and Delinquency (1956), they concluded that bodily structure was no longer to be considered the most important etiological factor in criminality. They emphasized, however, that the biological aspect of criminal causation was still "a promising focus of attention."

Psychiatric-Psychological School

The psychological and psychiatric approach to an understanding of crime causation was based on the teachings of Sigmund *Freud. Although Lombroso and Freud agreed on the biological origin of antisocial impulses, they differed fundamentally on the importance of environmental influences. Freud, in contrast to Lombroso, emphasized the prime importance of infancy and early childhood in the formation of character. Freud also stressed the possibility of altering the personality through psychoanalysis. Gregory Zilboorg (1890–1959) underlined the irrationality of antisocial behavior and asserted that mere punishment, which does not take this into account, served no useful purpose ("Psychoanalysis and Criminology," Encyclopedia of Criminology (1949), 398–405). Psychoanalytical interpretation became important for the development of progressive methods in correction. Morris *Ginsberg defended psychoanalysis against the claim that this method tended to free the criminal from his responsibility for his misdeed, pointing out that the object of psychoanalytical treatment was to help the patient face realities and become a responsible person. Herman *Mannheim, in his Comparative Criminology (2 vols., 1965), warned against the great dangers which the traditional penal methods held for society. In his view the character and measure of the punishments meted out by criminal courts everywhere tended to create in the offender feelings of unjust treatment and that this led to recidivism. An important concept of Freudian theory which helped to explain criminal behavior was the psychoanalytical theory of symbolism, according to which every object, action, or person could have an unconscious symbolic value. The application of symbolism to political murder is of particular interest. Wilhelm *Stekel, one of the earlier followers of Freud, maintained that a political attentat was a "displacement of a small personal conflict into the life of nations – perhaps Booth was beaten by a drunken father – so Lincoln died." Alfred *Adler, one of Freud's disciples, who later founded his own school of individual psychology, contributed to criminological thinking by the formation of the widely known and accepted concepts of the "inferiority complex" and the "masculine protest," which, under certain conditions, could become criminogenic factors.

The Sociological School

The sociological approach to criminology emphasized the fact that most behavior, including criminal behavior, was culturally patterned, and that crime had to be defined as a result of the relationships and interactions between a given society and its individual or corporate members. The best known and most influential proponent of the opinion that the class structure is the main determinant of social pathology, including criminality, was Karl *Marx. He saw in the class struggle the main cause of criminality and, therefore, predicted that in a future classless society there would be no crime. Hermann Mannheim, in his Comparative Criminology, 2 (1965), 499, stated that "by far the most important, comprehensive and influential of the class-oriented theories of crime and delinquency were those based upon the concepts of the criminal subculture and anomie."

The introduction of these two basic sociological concepts into criminological thinking was one of the great achievements of Emil *Durkheim. Robert K. Merton (1910–2003), who developed and classified the ideas of Durkheim on anomie, pointed out in his writings the criminogenic forces, i.e., the anomie situation in a society which preached the democratic idea of equal opportunities for everybody but by failing to give these opportunities to all was responsible for the creation of tension and crime. An outstanding contribution to the description and explanation of the phenomenon of a criminal subculture was made by Albert K. Cohen (1918– ) who, in his Delinquent Boys (1955), described the overwhelming weight of class differences in crime causation. In a middle class society with its middle class ethics, standards, and values, the working class youth, brought up in a different value system, would, according to Cohen, be led inevitably into conflict and confusion and – part of it – into crime. The theories of anomie and criminal subcultures are, however, not generally accepted by contemporary criminologists. Herbert A. Bloch (1904– ) repeatedly expressed the opinion that the tensions which always existed between the young and the old generations were still today far more important as an explanation of the phenomenon of juvenile and gang delinquency. Bloch and Gilbert Geis (1925– ), in their Man, Crime and Society (1962), criticized the Durkheim-Merton theory of anomie and criminal subculture, and disagreed sharply with the view that there were hardly any lawful opportunities for upward mobility among lower class male adolescents.

The pertinent question which still occupies criminologists remains the problem of "differential response." Why do certain individuals living in a generally healthy environment become delinquent, while others, who are exposed to antisocial influences, do not? Daniel Glaser (1918– ) formulated the theory of "differential identification." In his "Criminality Theories and Behavioral Images" (American Journal of Sociology (March 1956), 433–44) he expressed the opinion that an individual would act criminally when he identified himself with real or imaginary persons, in whose view his criminal behavior appeared to be acceptable. Thus the offender may identify with criminals presented in fiction, movies, television, or in the newspapers. Simon Dinitz (1926– ), together with Walter C. Reckless (1899–1988), in Critical Issues in the Study of Crime (1968), approached this basic problem of differential response by asking the reverse question: "Why do some non-delinquent boys succeed in remaining within the law while living in high delinquency areas?" Their answer was that the insulation against a delinquent life consists in the self-image of the boy who experienced himself as being good. Jackson Toby (1925– ), in his "Differential Impact of Family Disorganization" (American Sociological Review (Oct. 1957), 505–12), showed that the higher rate of broken homes among female delinquents was evidence that well-integrated families protected children against the antisocial influences exerted by neighborhood and peer gangs. The consideration of the problem of "differential response" led some sociologically orientated criminologists to the conclusion that it is impossible to explain crime exclusively in sociological terms. Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, who spent decades in their search for the causes of delinquency, believed in multiple causation. In one of their later studies, Family Environment and Delinquency (1962), they provided many illustrations of the complex ways in which psychological, sociological, and biological factors might combine in one individual to produce delinquency.

Study of Criminology in the U.S.

After World War i, when crime began to become a major problem in the United States, and the study of criminology took its place in the universities, Frank Tannenbaum (1893–1969) and Nathaniel F. Cantor (1898–1957) wrote two of the first textbooks on criminology: Crime and the Community (1938) and Crime and Society, an Introduction to Criminology (1939). Later authors were Herbert A. Bloch and Gilbert Geis, Man, Crime and Society (1962); Richard R. Korn (together with W. McCorkle), Criminology and Penology (1959), gave a well balanced description of the different factors in crime causation, as did Ben Karpman (1886–1962) in Case Studies in the Psychopathology of Crime (19472). Other significant contributions to criminology were made by Leonard Savitz, who, in his "Delinquency and Migration" (in The Sociology of Crime and Delinquency, ed. by M.E. Wolfgang, et al., 1962, pp. 199–205), emphasized the criminogenic effect of black migration within the United States, and Stephen Schafter, in his Restitution to Victims of Crime (1960) and The Victim and His Criminal (1968), opened the way for the development of a new chapter – victimology – in the framework of modern criminology.

Other criminologists gave new insight into problems of penology and prison reform, among them, Joseph *Eaton in his Stone Walls Not a Prison Make (1962) and Sol Rubin in his Crime and Juvenile Delinquency (19703). The latter book criticized the very long prison sentences meted out in the United States and the way in which many of the prisons in that country were run. The role of the community in preventing crime was stressed by Solomon *Kobrin (1910–1996) in his research on the "Chicago Area Project, a 25-Year Assessment" (Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (March 1959), 19–29).

The first significant work to determine systematically what psychodynamic theory could contribute to the development of more effective correctional methods was done by the New York State Department of Corrections in the late 1960s. It was carried out at the Diagnostic and Treatment Center of the Dannemora State Hospital at Clinton Prison, New York, under the direction of Ludwig Fink, a psychiatrist. He established a therapeutic community of 100 persistent offenders, subdivided into two units of 50, who received intensive psychotherapeutic treatment – in groups of ten – and in community meetings and psychodrama sessions.

British Contribution to Criminology

Much progress was made in Britain by Jewish criminologists. The great centers of criminological and penological study were all established by scholars who had emigrated from Europe. Hermann Mannheim established the first chair in criminology in the United Kingdom at the London School of Economics and was one of the founders of the Institute for the Scientific Study and Treatment of Delinquency in London. Mannheim and other outstanding psychoanalysts, including Anna *Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, made notable contributions to the study of crime. Max *Gruenhut (1893–1964) was the first to be appointed to a chair in criminology at Oxford University.

Criminology in Ereẓ Israel

Criminological study in Mandatory Palestine and later in Israel grew out of the experience of those engaged in correctional research. Menachem Amir of the Hebrew University's Institute of Criminology published a bibliography in English and Hebrew containing an impressive list of Israel writers on criminology and the titles of their contributions during recent decades. Juvenile delinquency and its treatment under the mandate and in Israel is described in detail by E. Millo in Child and Youth Welfare in Israel (1960). The prison system in Israel's early years in the light of the Israel humanitarian ethos is analyzed fully by J.W. Eaton in the monograph Prisons in Israel (1964). He notes the existence of Massiyahu camp for more trusted inmates – a minimum custody facility. Between 1970 and 1988 nine volumes of Israel Studies in Criminology were published. A later publication was Crime and Criminal Justice in Israel: Assessing the Knowledge Base Toward the Twenty-First Century (1998), edited by Robert R. Friedmann.

The dominant approach to the understanding and treatment of the offender was psychological, psychiatric and especially psychoanalytical. Research was centered in the Hebrew University Institute of Criminology, the director of which was Israel *Drapkin, and at the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Law at Tel Aviv University, headed by Shlomo Shoham (1929– ). Personality and psychopathic disorders in various origin-groups in Israel and crimes of violence in relation to the period of immigration is discussed by Louis Miller in Social Psychiatry and Epidemiology of Mental Ill Health in Israel (1967). In the first years of the State, strenuous efforts were made in the correctional field, including probation, after-care, and prison services, to set up and develop mental hygiene teams, consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social caseworkers, who cooperated in the diagnostic and treatment process of offenders.

[Zvi Hermon]


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criminology Most literally, the study of crime, its perpetrators, and its causes; and, relatedly, an interest in its prevention, and in the deterrence, treatment, and punishment of offenders (see G. M. Sykes et al. , Criminology, 2nd edn., 1992

Approaches and theoretical traditions are diverse. Thus, criminology as the study of crime will be interested in the distribution of crime, and in the techniques and organization of crime. Criminology as the study of criminals might seek explanations for criminal behaviour in biology, psychology, or in the political economy of society. The related sociology of law may be interested in the processes of making and breaking laws and in issues such as proportionality—making the punishment fit the crime. During the 1960s and early 1970s, a sociology of deviance developed as a source of sociological opposition to the law-enforcement and establishment-orientation or traditional criminology, and as an epistemological critique of unquestioned assumptions about what constitutes crime or deviance. In the 1970s and 1980s external and internal influences on criminology encouraged the development of critical criminology and feminist criminology (see CRIMINOLOGY, CRITICAL and CRIMINOLOGY, FEMINIST). The latter drew attention to the near invisibility of women in criminological work and gave significant impetus to rectifying the past neglect of victims of crime. Generally speaking, the politics of these new positions has been identified with supporting and asserting the rights of minority groups.

Sometimes seen as a sub-field of sociology, sometimes as a discipline in itself, criminology is clearly a mixed but dynamic enterprise, drawing on (among others) sociology, economics, history, psychology, and anthropology. It can be criticized for its inability to produce an overall explanatory theory; nevertheless, the subject continues to develop. Some commentators have suggested that its principal concern ought to be the study of the production and disruption of order—in other words control rather than crime—while critics have invoked a postmodern vision of the death of criminology. Yet others argue that such announcements are premature, and are promoting new directions in crime prevention, and critical and realist criminology (see CRIMINOLOGY, REALIST). John Hagan et al. , Criminological Controversies (1996
), provides an excellent introduction to the theoretical and empirical issues that dominate the field. See also BROKEN WINDOWS THESIS; CRIMINAL STATISTICS; CRIMINOLOGY; LABELLING; CRIMINOLOGY, POSITIVIST.

urban ecology

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urban ecology Urban ecology, pioneered by Chicago sociologists in the 1920s, was central to the development of human ecology. Indeed the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Urban ecology applies principles derived from biological science to the explanation of spatial distribution in urban populations. This is said to result from ‘biotic’ competition for territorial advantage by human groups, each constituted by social basis, for example, common class position or ethnicity. Groups occupy distinctive ‘natural areas’ or neighbourhoods. The concentric zone model proposed by Ernest Burgess is an ecological representation of this urban system. The ecological concepts of invasion, domination, and succession describe the stages of change occurring as groups relocate due to competitive pressures. However, unrestrained biotic competition makes social order impossible, so a second level of social organization (‘culture’) overlays and limits territorial competition. This involves communication, consensus, and co-operation, seen in both the natural areas occupied by socially homogeneous groups, and in city-wide mechanisms of integration, such as mass culture, the media, and urban politics.

Few sociologists now accept the biologically derived assumptions underlying urban ecology. However, the urban ecologists' use of Chicago as a research laboratory contributed greatly to the development of empirically grounded sociology and its research methods, influencing directly the development of urban sociology, community studies, cultural sociology, the study of deviance and illness, social and religious movements, the family and race relations, and rural sociology. The recollections by Helen MacGill Hughes of her training in Chicago shed an interesting light on the (at times naïve) methodology of urban ecology (see ‘On Becoming a Sociologist’, Journal of the History of Sociology, 1980


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crim·i·nol·o·gy / ˌkriməˈnäləjē/ • n. the scientific study of crime and criminals.DERIVATIVES: crim·i·no·log·i·cal / ˌkrimənlˈäjikəl/ adj.crim·i·nol·o·gist / -jist/ n.

ecology, urban

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ecology, urban See URBAN ECOLOGY.