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Sociology Criminology
by
Sara Wakefield

Introduction

Criminology is a broad subfield drawing from a number of academic disciplines. Beyond its historically strong ties to sociology, criminology draws from scholars in psychology, economics, law, and political science, among others, and large, interdisciplinary criminology departments have grown more common in recent decades. This review is confined to criminology as practiced within sociology; interested readers, however, should be aware that the study of crime cuts across several disciplines. Sociological criminology encompasses a broad range of topics and includes an emphasis on the causes of crime as well as social reactions to crime. This module provides an introduction to the field and includes (a) a description of the main textbooks, handbooks, and edited volumes suitable for teaching a course in criminology at the graduate and undergraduate levels; (b) a description of common sources of crime and criminal justice data; (c) a description of the top publishing outlets in criminology; (d) a sampling of introductory materials on the relationship between demographic characteristics (age, race, class, and gender) and crime; and (e) an overview of the main theories of crime causation. While criminology also includes a number of topical subareas (e.g., adolescence and delinquency, gang involvement, substance use, sentencing and corrections, and so on), the theories included here are common to most introductory criminology texts.

Textbooks, Handbooks, and Edited Volumes

There are a wide variety of sources for students beginning their study of criminology, as well as for scholars broadening their interests to include criminology; the following resources are both widely read and high quality. For scholars, researchers, and graduate students, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science provide expert-level literature reviews of topics in criminology, law, and corrections. The essays describe the current state of knowledge of a topic as well as commentary on methodological challenges and directions for future research. Several well-regarded readers assemble the most widely cited classic and contemporary research in criminology; among the best are Crime: Readings (Crutchfield, et al. 2007), a reader emphasizing widely cited empirical work in criminology and criminological theory; Criminological Theory, Past to Present: Essential Readings (Cullen and Agnew 2006), a reader focused on historical and contemporary core criminological theories; Crime and Public Policy (Wilson and Petersilia 2011), a reader emphasizing research results in criminology and their public policy implications; and Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory (Cullen, et al. 2006), a series of reviews on the empirical status of criminological theories. Finally, Criminology: The Core (Siegel 2008) is a well-regarded textbook, suitable for introductory undergraduate courses.

  • Annual Review of Law and Social Science. 2005–. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.

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    The Annual Review of Law and Social Science, published annually since 2005, includes expert reviews of research in criminology and law. This volume is more broadly defined than Crime and Justice and includes extensive discussions of law and psychology and law, as well as essays on issues of interest to the core of criminology. Suitable for scholars of psychology and law, as well as graduate students.

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    • Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. 1980–. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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      A volume published annually that includes essays by experts on topics of interest in criminology, law, and the criminal justice system. The reviews include reviews of prior research, descriptions of the state of knowledge on a particular topic, evaluations of methodological rigor in existing research, and commentary on future directions. Suitable for scholars and graduate students (and, perhaps, advanced undergraduates).

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      • Crutchfield, Robert D., Charis Kubrin, George S. Bridges, and Joseph G. Weis, eds. 2007. Crime: Readings. 3d ed. Crime and Society. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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        A collection of the most cited and important studies published in contemporary criminology, last updated in 2007. The reader offers heavily edited versions of classic empirical studies in criminology as well as essays on criminological theory, definitions of crime and deviance, and debates on the measurement of crime. Suitable for advanced undergraduates.

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      • Cullen, Francis T. and Robert Agnew. 2006. Criminological theory, past to present: Essential readings. 3d ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

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        A comprehensive reader of classic essays in criminological theory. Beginning with the “fathers of criminology,” Beccaria and Lombroso, and ending with an expanded discussion of integrated theories of crime, this reader is suitable for an undergraduate course focused on criminological theory.

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      • Cullen, Francis, John Wright, and Christie Blevins, eds. 2006. Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. Advances in Criminological Theory 15. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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        This volume offers commentary on the empirical status of major theories of crime causation. Often, the most well-known proponents of a theory wrote the essays on that theory (some have criticized the volume, claiming these proponents provide expert but less than objective reviews). The essays assess the performance of each theory in empirical research, weakness, and future directions for research. Suitable for graduate students.

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      • Siegel, Larry J. 2008. Criminology: The core. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

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        A highly regarded undergraduate-level criminology textbook. Includes descriptions of core criminological theories and measurement of crime and highlights topical issues and debates in criminology. Suitable for introductory undergraduate courses.

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      • Wilson, James Q., and Joan Petersilia, eds. 2011. Crime and public policy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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        The latest edited volume by Wilson and Petersilia, two highly regarded criminologists with strong reputations in public policy arenas. The volume includes commentary by expert criminologists on a sampling of topics (e.g., families and crime, street gangs, and gun control), with particular emphasis on the public policy implications of research findings in the area. Suitable for graduate students.

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      Data Sources

      Data on crime and punishment are available from a variety of sources, and many social- scientific surveys include self-reported crime and delinquency information or ask opinions about the crime and the criminal justice system. The Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) annually, and this is the major source of crime rate information reported in the news media. The UCR is based on information collected from police agencies and includes crimes reported to police, persons arrested, and additional information on crime and police in the United States. Because all crime is not reported to police, and not all crimes result in an arrest, the second major source for national crime data is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is a nationally representative household survey focused on criminal victimization (whether or not reported to the police). Comparisons between the UCR and the NCVS offer insight into the relative seriousness of crime as well as varying levels of stigma attached to criminal victimization (e.g., the gap between the UCR and the NCVS is rather small for auto theft but larger for other types of crime that are less often reported to police). In addition to the NCVS, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) publishes a number of annual reports and studies on the criminal justice system, providing detailed statistics on courtroom processing, sentencing, and criminal punishment. Finally, much of the information from the FBI, NCVS, BJS, and public opinion polls of crime and punishment (e.g., the Gallup poll) are indexed together in the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. These sources, as well as large survey studies on crime and criminal justice, are compiled and available from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data in conjunction with the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Finally, it is important to note that a substantial literature in criminology debates how behavior comes to be defined as “criminal,” as well as the relative utility of “official” versus self-reported crime data (Elliott and Agetan 1980 is a widely cited, classic study of the problem with respect to race and class differences in criminal involvement); as a result, criminological studies draw from a variety of sources.

      • Elliott, Delbert, and Suzanne S. Agetan. 1980. Reconciling race and class differences in self-reported and official estimates of delinquency. American Sociological Review 45.1: 95–110.

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        A classic study of race and class differences in estimates of crime across self-reported survey estimates and official statistics, reflecting the often-noted pattern that race and class disparities in criminal involvement tend to be larger in official statistics (e.g., arrest or incarceration rates) than in self-report survey data.

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      • Uniform Crime Reports. 1929–. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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        Major source of “official statistics” on the crime rate in the United States, published annually by the FBI and including crimes reported to police and those arrested.

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        • National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.

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          The UCR, NCVS, and thousands of large and small survey studies of crime and punishment are centrally located at the NACJD. Many data sets are publicly available, and many others are available to researchers through restricted data agreements. An excellent source of secondary data on crime and punishment for graduate and scholarly researchers.

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          • National Crime Victimization Survey.

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            Nationally representative household survey of criminal victimization in the United States. Provides insight on crimes not reported to police as well as more contextual information about criminal events relative to the UCR. For example, the NCVS provides information about the relationship between victim and offender, as well as the time and locations of criminal events.

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            • Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics. 1973–. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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              A compilation from more than 200 sources on crime, the criminal justice system, and public opinion regarding crime, punishment, and the law. Compiled and managed by the Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center at the State University of New York-Albany, the Sourcebook is an excellent source of crime data for undergraduates as well as expert researchers in the area.

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              Journals

              Because of its multidisciplinary character, criminological studies are published in a wide variety of outlets. Studies of crime and punishment have appeared in the top disciplinary journals of sociology, law, economics, and psychology as well as in journals devoted to criminology. The following are top-ranked criminology journals, but one should be aware that the best criminological work often appears in top disciplinary journals (e.g., the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology). The main professional organization for research-based criminologists, the American Society of Criminology, publishes two journals, Criminology and Criminology & Public Policy. Criminology is devoted to high-quality empirical research, often but not exclusively quantitative, on a broad array of topics in criminology, law, and corrections. Criminology & Public Policy integrates empirically based research with explicit policy recommendations. Similarly, Justice Quarterly is devoted to empirical research on the criminal justice system and is edited by members of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Theoretical Criminology: An International Journal, published by SAGE, is devoted to debates and advancement of criminological theory, linking empirical research with discussions of social, political, and criminological theory. Finally, an edited volume published annually, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, provides empirical reviews and discussions of a variety of topics in criminology and law.

              Demographic Characteristics and Crime

              The relationship between crime and demographic characteristics is both stark and contested. While criminal offending and victimization is most certainly concentrated among the young, criminologists have fiercely debated the role of age and aging as an explanation for crime (see, for example, Hirschi and Gottfredson 1983 and the titles cited under Life Course, Developmental, and Integrated Perspectives). Similarly, the concentration of criminal involvement among men is very clear, but female offending is increasing. The reasons behind the increase remain unclear: Is it that girls are committing more crime, or are they merely more likely to be arrested for delinquency today relative to previous eras? Heimer and Kruttschnitt 2006, an edited volume, provides a number of essays from experts on gender and crime, providing commentary on the increase in female offending and patterns of victimization among women and intimate partner violence, as well as offering theoretical perspectives on women’s offending. The relationships among race, class, and crime are particularly complicated; minority groups are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, but racial differences in criminal involvement tend to differ across official and self-report studies. Also, the extent to which racial disparities in the criminal justice system are explained by differential involvement versus being subject to differential police surveillance is unclear. Race and class are commonly linked; Sampson and Wilson 1995 discusses racial differences in criminal involvement with reference to urban inequality. Class or poverty status remains, however, an important, contested, and complicated cause of crime; many note the concentration of street crime among the poor, for example, but scholars interpret this quite differently. Sampson and Wilson 1995 links race and poverty quite clearly, while critical or radical scholars point to the importance of power in the definition of behavior as criminal, noting that the poor lack the power to avoid criminal labels (see Conflict, Critical, and Feminist Theories for more detail). Still others argue that the emphasis on street crime obscures substantial harm and costs associated with white-collar crime, a form of crime that remains difficult to study and measure well. The earliest statement on white-collar crime, Sutherland 1985, is still widely read by scholars and undergraduates alike.

              • Heimer, Karen, and Candace Kruttschnitt. 2006. Gender and crime: Patterns of victimization and offending. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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                A compilation of empirical research and theoretical essays on the relationship between gender and crime. The essays adopt a variety of theoretical perspectives and cover a wide variety of topics. The essays vary in degree of difficulty, but the book as a whole would be well suited for a graduate seminar on gender and crime.

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              • Hirschi, Travis, and Michael R. Gottfredson. 1983. Age and the explanation of crime. American Journal of Sociology 89.3: 552–584.

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                A sophisticated and elegant explanation of the age–crime curve across time and social space, emphasizing its relative invariance and the importance of an accounting of age in any criminological theory. Available online for purchase.

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              • Sampson, Robert J., and William Julius Wilson. 1995. Toward a theory of race, crime, and urban inequality. In Crime and inequality. Edited by John Hagan and Ruth D. Peterson, 37–54. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                A widely cited theory of race differences in criminal involvement across social space. Sophisticated enough for scholars but suitable for advanced undergraduates.

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              • Sutherland, Edwin Hardin. 1985. White collar crime. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                The classic statement on corporate crime, including a theory of white-collar crime and case studies.

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              The Consequences of Crime and Punishment

              An active research literature in sociological criminology has developed around the widespread use of incarceration as a response to crime (and significant racial disparities in the likelihood of imprisonment). This area is notable for several reasons; first, the effect of punishment on reductions in the crime rate is moved to the background, eclipsed by concerns about the (in-)efficiency with which it does so and the staggering inequalities that often result. Indeed, a number of scholars in this area argue that imprisonment at current levels may now be creating more crime than it prevents. The focus of this emerging line of research describes connections between the criminal justice system and other important domains of social life (e.g., racial equality, family formation, earnings, and civic engagement). The field is also notable in that it has drawn the attention of non-criminologists and introduced concerns common to the core of criminology to a wider network of sociologists; the best example is that of Bruce Western, who is the most well-known of scholars in this area, although prior to this he was not well known to criminologists. Finally, the work cited here links racial disparities in incarceration to other domains (such as earnings, health, and voting), rendering visible previously unrecognized influences of the prison on society. Garland 2001 provides an excellent theoretical explanation for the growth in incarceration in the United States; the work also includes an empirical analysis and is among the best in linking crime control policy to the maintenance of racial inequality. Pettit and Western 2004 provides the demographic foundation for concerns about racial inequality in the prison system. The remaining works represent the best of the field, detailing the consequences of widespread incarceration on work (Pager 2003, Western 2002), civic engagement (Manza and Uggen 2006), childhood mental health (Wildeman 2010), and physical health (Massoglia 2008). Finally, Wakefield and Uggen 2010 provides a recent overview of the area, both theoretical and empirical, and details a number of remaining questions to be answered.

              • Garland, David. 2001. The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                The most widely cited theoretical explanation for the increase in punitiveness that led to “mass incarceration” in the United States and, to a lesser extent, the UK. Garland also provides a framework for understanding racial inequality in punishment; most notably, Garland argues that mass incarceration has resulted in the systemic imprisonment of whole groups (in this case, low-education black males).

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              • Manza, Jeff, and Christopher Uggen. 2006. Locked out: Felon disenfranchisement and American democracy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                Well-known work on the rise in felony convictions and civic disengagement through widespread felon disenfranchisement laws. The treatment provides compelling evidence that felon disenfranchisement laws were racially motivated, and demonstrates that they have served to influence the results of a number of major political elections. Most notably, the work links increasing punitiveness to an undermining of the American political system. Suitable for undergraduates.

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              • Massoglia, Michael. 2008. Incarceration, health, and racial health disparities. Law & Society Review 42.2: 275–306.

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                Recent study linking spells of incarceration to declines in physical health. The piece also shows that differential incarceration by race is implicated in continuing (and vexing) racial disparities in physical health. Suitable for graduate students. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Pager, Devah. 2003. The mark of a criminal record. American Journal of Sociology 108.5: 937–975.

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                Experimental audit study of employment showing that criminal records reduce the employability of ex-offenders, and that the effect is stronger for black men. Most notably, Pager finds that white men with a felony conviction are called for a job interview at roughly the same rate as black men with a felony conviction. Suitable for undergraduates. Available online for purchase.

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              • Pettit, Becky, and Bruce Western. 2004. Mass imprisonment and the life course: Race and class inequality in U.S. incarceration. American Sociological Review 69.2: 151–169.

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                Demographic analysis detailing racial inequality in the likelihood of imprisonment. In an astonishing and widely cited finding, low-education black males are more likely than not to spend time in prison by the time they reach the age of thirty. The authors describe imprisonment as a “normative life event” for black males with low educational attainment. Suitable for undergraduates. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Wakefield, Sara, and Christopher Uggen. 2010. Incarceration and stratification. Annual Review of Sociology 36:387–406.

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                Review of theoretical and empirical research on mass incarceration and social stratification. The piece describes the origins of the research area, reviews major empirical works, and details future directions for research. Suitable for advanced undergraduates and scholars. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Western, Bruce. 2002. The impact of incarceration on wage mobility and inequality. American Sociological Review 67.4: 477–498.

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                Widely cited analysis and one of the first empirical pieces to causally link imprisonment to declines in wages and earnings. The article is notable for its rigorous attention to selection bias and the stark racial disparities in the effects of imprisonment that emerge from the analysis.

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              • Wildeman, Christopher. 2010. Paternal incarceration and children’s physically aggressive behaviors: Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Social Forces 89.1: 285–310.

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                Recent study linking parental incarceration to behavioral problems in young children. The article shows that parental incarceration is largely harmful for children, except in the case of a history of domestic violence, and is excellent in its discussion and treatment of selection bias. Suitable for graduate students. Available online for purchase.

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              Theories of Crime

              Theories of crime causation are varied within criminology, but many find their home in classic sociological conceptions of human behavior and emphasize structural differences throughout society (e.g., strain, social disorganization, learning, and control theories). Other theories draw from psychology (trait-based theories) and economics (deterrence and rational choice), with more contemporary work integrating structural perspectives in sociology with psychological and biological work on crime causation (e.g., life course and developmental theories of crime). Finally, a number of theories of crime (especially in sociology) are not theories of crime causation per se; instead, they focus on how crime is defined (labeling and critical theories), how reactions to crime may produce more crime (labeling and reintegrative shaming), and how the punishment of criminal offenders influences society. The following describe the main theories of crime. While not every theory is described in detail, those included can be found in any undergraduate or graduate criminology textbook.

              Classic Works

              The classic origins of contemporary criminology are found in the writings of Cesare Beccaria on deterrence and utilitarianism (see Beccaria 1995, and Bentham 1907 for more classic descriptions of utilitarianism); the biological determinism of Cesare Lombroso (Lombroso 2007) in the work of sociologist Emile Durkheim (b. 1858–d. 1917, see Durkheim 1965); and conflict criminology, in the work of Karl Marx (b. 1818–d. 1883, see Marx and Engels 1998). Classical criminology in the 18th century presumed that crime results when rational actors see the benefits of crime outweighed by its costs. The 19th century was distinguished by a number of biologically based theories of crime, and the early 20th by the development of place-based as well as person-based sociological theories of crime, best represented by sociologists of the “Chicago school” (see Shaw and McKay 1972). Contemporary versions of learning and strain theories also developed in the early 20th century, with the work of various sociologists, notably Sutherland, et al. 1992, Merton 1938, and Cloward and Ohlin 1960 (cited under Strain/Anomie Theory). Finally, Huff 2007, on the evolution of criminological theory, from demonic possession to critical theories of crime, is an excellent introduction for new students to criminology.

              • Beccaria, Cesare. 1995. On crimes and punishments and other writings. Edited by Richard Bellamy. Translated by Richard Davies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                Classic description of deterrence theory, emphasizing that punishment be certain, swift, and severe to successfully deter crime, and conceiving of crime as the product of cost-benefit analyses and free will.

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              • Bentham, Jeremy. 1907. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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                Utilitarianism and the hedonistic calculus as the classic conception of deterrence theories. First published in 1789. Available online from the Library of Economics and Liberty.

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              • Durkheim, Emile. 1965. On the normality of crime. In Theories of society: Foundations of modern sociological theory. Edited by Talcott Parsons, Edward Shils, Kaspar D. Naegele, and Jesse R. Pitts, 872–875. New York: Free Press.

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                Well-known early sociologist, best known in criminology and deviance for his argument that crime was functional for society and that no society could be crime-free. Durkheim’s writings on anomie (or “normlessness”) and its link to societal disorder form the basis for more contemporary strain theories of crime. First published in 1895.

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              • Huff, C. Ronald. 2007. Historical explanations of crime: From demons to politics. In Crime: Readings. 3d ed. Edited by Robert D. Crutchfield, Charis Kubrin, George S. Bridges, and Joseph G. Weis, 10–20. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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                A historical overview of the transition from criminal behavior as the product of demonic possession to political theories of crime more focused on who defines behavior as criminal. Excellent treatment for undergraduate students.

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              • Lombroso, Cesare. 2007. Crime: Its causes and remedies. Translated by Henry P. Horton. Eastbourne, UK: Gardners.

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                Criminal anthropologist, best known for biological determinism theory of crime and the use of cadavers in the study of crime. Early example of positivism in the study of crime. First published in 1911.

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              • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1998. The communist manifesto. New York: Signet Classics.

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                While Marx wrote relatively little on crime, his ideas form the basis for much of contemporary conflict criminology and emphasize power and status differentials and their role in defining and punishing behavior as criminal. First published in 1848.

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              • Merton, Robert King. 1938. Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review 3.5: 672682.

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                Extended application of Durkheim’s conception of anomie to crime and the classic foundation for contemporary strain theories of crime. Merton located the causes of crime in a disjuncture between culturally prescribed success goals and differential access to the means to achieve them.

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              • Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1972. Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                Classic 1942 study associated with the Chicago school and the development of social disorganization theory. In contrast to earlier scholarship on crime, social disorganization theory locates the cause of crime outside the individual and presents an ecological theory of crime, emphasizing disorganized communities and the breakdown of social controls.

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              • Sutherland, Edwin H., and Donald R. Cressey, and David F. Luckenbill 1992. Principles of criminology. 11th ed. New York: General Hall.

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                Early statement of a “differential association” or social learning theory of crime, describing the process through which people learn to become criminals, and based on the assumption that crime is not a “natural” impulse. First published in 1924 as Criminology (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press).

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              Deterrence and Rational Choice

              Deterrence and rational-choice theories emphasize crime as a choice and deterrence of crime through swift, certain, and severe punishment, finding its origins in classic work by Beccaria and Bentham and more recently in numerous treatments in criminal law, economics, and sociology. Becker 1968 is a classic statement in economics, and the other authors included here (Clarke and Cornish 1985, Nagin and Pogarsky 2001, Stafford and Warr 1993) are well known for producing a variety of work on deterrence and rational-choice theories, or have produced particularly good reviews on the topic (McCarthy 2002).

              • Becker, Gary. 1968. Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy 76.2: 169–217.

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                Classic and widely cited statement in economics outlining a rational-choice model of crime causation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Clarke, Ronald V., and Derek B. Cornish. 1985. Modeling offenders’ decisions: A framework for research and policy. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 6. Edited by Norval Morris and Michael Tonry, 147–185. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                A description of the decision-making process in a rational-choice model of crime causation; widely-cited in work expanding on traditional deterrence models. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • McCarthy, Bill. 2002. New economics of sociological criminology. Annual Review of Sociology 28:417–442.

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                Excellent review of research on deterrence and rational-choice criminology, and notably unique given its sociological emphasis. In general, sociology traditionally has been critical of rational-choice conceptions of human behavior; this piece reviews rational-choice and game-theory approaches to criminal behavior and details the ways in which the approach might be combined with sociological perspectives on crime. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Nagin, Daniel, and Greg Pogarsky. 2001. Integrating celerity, impulsivity, and extralegal sanction threats into a model of deterrence: Theory and evidence. Criminology 39.4: 865–892.

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                An excellent example of attempts to expand deterrence theory to include extralegal sanctions (such as stigma, shaming, etc.) as well as an example of studies that evaluate the relative influence of Beccaria’s certainty, celerity, and severity requirements of criminal punishment on deterrence. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Stafford, Mark, and Mark Warr. 1993. A reconceptualization of general and specific deterrence. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 30.2: 123–135.

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                Another excellent example of attempts to expand deterrence theory beyond its classic formulation, focusing on the distinction between general deterrence (punishment that deters all) and specific deterrence (punishment that deters only the offender). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              Biological and Trait-Specific Perspectives

              While the work of Cesare Lombroso—who believed indicators of criminality were physically apparent and worked with cadavers in order to isolate them—is no longer taken seriously in criminology, a number of contemporary works point to genetic factors, personality traits, and other biological characteristics as important for understanding crime. Far from the biological determinism of the past, biological and psychological theories focused on individual traits are now often integrated with sociological and environmental causes. The book Crime and Human Nature (Wilson and Herrnstein 1998) combines biological and psychological theories, locating the causes of crime to fundamental personality traits (impulsivity), genetic factors (low IQ), and environmental factors (poor parenting). Perhaps the best-known psychologists studying antisocial behavior (see also Life Course, Developmental, and Integrated Perspectives), Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi have written scores of studies on personality traits, genetic predispositions, and environmental influences on crime (Caspi, et al. 1994 is one excellent example). Behavioral geneticist David Rowe’s Biology and Crime (Rowe 2002) presents an overview of biological perspectives on crime. Finally, Guo, et al. 2008 provides a recent example of an integrated perspective, accounting for genetic propensities, personality traits, and sociological causes of crime. This work, in particular, represents cutting-edge work in criminology and reflects a recent trend toward theoretical integration and interdisciplinary scholarship.

              • Caspi, Avshalom, Terrie E. Moffitt, Phil A. Silva, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Robert F. Krueger, and Pamela Schmutte. 1994. Are some people crime-prone? Replications of the personality–crime relationship across countries, genders, races, and methods. Criminology 32.2: 163–196.

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                Empirical analysis by Caspi and Moffitt, two psychologists strongly associated with personality and crime arguments. Readers may also refer to the edited volume Criminological Theory: Past to Present (4th ed., New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) for a version for undergraduates. The article discusses common criticisms of the personality-crime area (most notably measurement) and presents two empirical analyses linking stable personality traits to crime. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Guo, Guang, Michael E. Roettger, and Tianji Cai. 2008. The integration of genetic propensities into social-control models of delinquency and violence among male youths. American Sociological Review 73.4: 543–568.

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                Best example of recent work using DNA profiles and genetic propensities and incorporating them into larger psychological and sociological conceptions of crime causation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Rowe, David C. 2002. Biology and crime. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

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                An overview of historical biological perspectives on crime and contemporary empirical research in the area. Covers a variety of topics, including psychiatric disorders, sex differences in criminal behavior, and genetic propensities toward antisocial behavior.

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              • Sampson, Robert J., and John H. Laub. 2005. When prediction fails: From crime-prone boys to heterogeneity in adulthood. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 602.1: 73–79.

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                A critique of personality or trait-based developmental theories; this issue of The ANNALS is devoted to life-course/developmental criminology and includes debate between those who view crime as the result of underlying traits or propensities (e.g., Michael Gottfredson and Moffitt and colleagues) and those who view criminal involvement as much more dynamic (best represented by Sampson and Laub). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Wilson, James Q., and Richard Herrnstein. 1998. Crime and human nature: The definitive study of the causes of crime. New York: Free Press.

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                Classic statement combining biological and psychological theories of crime. The book merges conceptions of crime as choice (and decidedly not the result of societal or social factors) with biological arguments about hereditary factors that influence the decision-making process of criminals. A dense book, with extensive reviews of empirical criminological research.

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              Strain/Anomie Theory

              The strain/anomie theory is a sociological theory of crime emphasizing structural conditions that produce varying access to resources among people and, as a result, varying involvement in crime. Here the main theoretical statements are detailed; Durkheim 1965 (see Classic Works) and Merton 1938 are classics, and the others are more contemporary versions or expansions. Strain theory finds its origins in classic work by Durkheim and Merton. Merton’s “Social Structure and Anomie” builds on earlier work by Durkheim to develop a structural strain theory of crime. Merton differentiated between the cultural goals a society espouses and the means through which citizens should achieve them. Anomie results from a disjuncture between goals and means, and Merton described a number of responses to this. One such response is crime (in Merton’s description, criminals are often “innovators”), committed by those who subscribe to socially proscribed definitions of success but lack the legitimate means to achieve them. As a result, such persons “innovate” by pursuing legitimate goals through illegitimate means, often resulting in crime. Differential opportunity theory, explained by Cloward and Ohlin 1960, extends the concept of differential access to illegitimate opportunities. More contemporary versions integrate psychological characteristics into the theory (Agnew 1992, which lays out general strain theory) or macro-level structural constraints (Messner and Rosenfeld 1994). Blau and Blau 1982 is an early and classic application of strain theory at the macro level.

              • Agnew, Robert. 1992. Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology 30.1: 47–88.

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                A contemporary expansion of Merton’s strain theory, designed to address many of the criticisms of the original explication, most notably that most people experience strain and yet do not become criminals. The theory describes a number of sources of strain, deemphasizing Merton’s classic disjuncture between aspirations and means, and incorporates psychological responses to strain into the larger theory. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Blau, Judith R., and Peter M. Blau. 1982. The cost of inequality: Metropolitan structure and violent crime. American Sociological Review 47.1: 114–129.

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                An excellent classic study showing links between levels of inequality in particular places and violent crime rates.

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              • Cloward, Richard, and Lloyd Ohlin. 1960. Delinquency and opportunity. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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                A theory of differential opportunity, positing that just as people differ in their access to legitimate opportunities, so too do they differ in their access to illegitimate opportunities and, hence, crime.

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              • Merton, Robert K. 1938. Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review 3.5: 672–682.

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                Classic statement linking social structure to anomie in individuals. Influenced a number of criminological theories for decades after it was published.

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              • Messner, Steven, and Richard Rosenfeld. 1994. Crime and the American Dream. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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                A contemporary expansion of Merton’s strain theory incorporating differential access to institutions as well as macro-level cultural forces to explain differences in crime rates at the nation level and the link between crime, poverty, and inequality. High crime rates in the United States result from a cultural (over)emphasis on economic success coupled with a high degree of tolerance for innovation.

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              Social Disorganization Theory

              The social disorganization theory emerged largely from the Chicago school of sociology and is a neighborhood-level theory of crime emphasizing disorder and producing a well-known theory of “place,” as opposed to person-based theories of crime. Early versions of the theory conceptualized urban environments as a series of zones, with disorder and social problems concentrated in the city center (Park, et al. 2000). Shaw and McKay 1972 extends the theory more explicitly; social disorganization models are notable for their de-emphasis of individual traits and the arguments that places have the power to create crime, independent of the characteristics of the people who live there. The theory forms the basis for contemporary neighborhood-level studies in criminology as well as useful advances in policing and crime control through the spatial mapping of crime. Social disorganization theory’s best-known contemporary application is the notion of collective efficacy (“social cohesion among neighbors combined with their willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good,” Sampson, et al 1997) and its relationship to neighborhood-level violence. Social disorganization theory is also related to popular policing strategies, most notably “broken windows” policies (discussed in Kelling and Wilson 1982) that attack public order violations in order to prevent more serious crimes. Finally, Rose and Clear 1998 uses social disorganization conceptualizations to link the concentration of incarceration in neighborhoods to increases in crime and social disorder.

              • Park, Robert, Ernest W. Burgess, and Roderick Duncan McKenzie. 2000. The city: Suggestions for investigation of human behavior in the urban environment. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                Earliest statement of social disorganization theory from the Chicago school. This work described cities as organized through a series of “concentric zones,” in which disorder and social problems such as crime tend to be concentrated in the center. First published in 1925.

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              • Rose, Dina A, and Todd R Clear. 1998. Incarceration, social capital, and crime: Implications for social disorganization theory. Criminology 36.3: 441–480.

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                A piece incorporating the influence of concentrations in criminal punishment into a model of social disorganization at the neighborhood level. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Sampson, Robert J., Stephen W. Raudenbush, and Felton Earls. 1997. Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 227: 918–924.

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                Contemporary expansion of social disorganization theory detailing the notion of “collective efficacy” at the neighborhood level and its importance in explaining crime rates. In a series of studies, the authors demonstrate how neighborhood-level measures of collective efficacy explain variation in violent crime rates, even when characteristics of individual residents are taken into account. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Shaw, Clifford, and Henry D. McKay. 1972. Juvenile delinquency in urban areas. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                Most widely cited classic formulation of social disorganization theory.

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              • Kelling, George, and James Q. Wilson. 1982. Broken windows: The police and neighborhood safety. The Atlantic Monthly 249:29–38.

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                A social disorganization formulation for policing, widely adopted in the late 1980s and 1990s and a source of continuing debate with respect to its efficacy and as a source of problems between police and racial minorities. The model focuses on the importance of visible signs of disorder as a cause of crime; the policing strategy therefore focuses on reducing visible signs of disorder, such as panhandling or graffiti, to prevent escalation to more serious violent crimes.

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              Cultural Deviance and Learning Perspectives

              Social learning theory, popularized by Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey (see Sutherland, et al. 1992) in the 1940s and expanded by Burgess and Akers 1966 later on, offers a framework through which crime is learned through interaction with others. Sutherland’s theory, originally called “differential association theory,” informs much of the research on the effects of peers on criminal involvement (e.g., Warr and Stafford 1991) and is commonly associated with studies of juvenile delinquency. Learning theories have also been expanded to the macro level, providing a framework for interpreting differences in crime rates across social locations. Learning theories, discussed in Akers and Jensen 2006, are also linked to cultural deviance perspectives that locate the causes of crime in subcultures and explain the concentration of crime in certain places (e.g., impoverished neighborhoods) or social groups (e.g., gangs). More contemporary applications of learning theory incorporate psychological principles of reinforcement (e.g., Burgess and Akers 1966). Cultural deviance theories also prioritize social connections in the adoption of definitions favorable to crime; Delinquent Boys (Cohen 1955) and Subculture of Violence (Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1982) are classic (and controversial) statements on the cultural supports to crime that emerge from structural limitations and blocked access to opportunity and social support.

              See the articles “Social Learning Theory” and “Cultural Theories” for more detail.

              • Akers, Ronald, and Gary Jensen. 2006. The empirical status of social learning theory of crime and deviance: The past, present, and future. In Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. Advances in Criminological Theory 15. Edited by Francis Cullen, John Wright, and Christie Blevins. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                Recent review of the performance of social learning theories as an explanation for crime in empirical research.

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              • Burgess, Robert, and Ronald Akers. 1966. A differential association-reinforcement theory of criminal behavior. Social Problems 14:128–147.

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                Expansion of differential association theory, incorporating psychological principles of reinforcement. Available online or by subscription.

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              • Cohen, Albert. 1955. Delinquent boys: The culture of the gang. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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                A classic subcultural theory of crime integrating Merton’s conceptions of structural strain and Sutherland’s ideas about social leaning. Cohen argues that delinquents lack access to forums for conventional success and develop subcultures that provide alternate definitions of success.

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              • Sutherland, Edwin H., Donald R. Cressey, and David F Luckenbill. 1992. Principles of criminology. 11th ed. New York: General Hall.

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                Classic statement of differential association theory delineating nine principles of crime causation, most notably beginning with “crime is learned.” The process of learning “definitions favorable to crime” occurs through interaction with others and is dependent on the frequency, duration, priority, and intensity of those interactions.

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              • Warr, Mark, and Mark Stafford. 1991. The influence of delinquent peers: What they think or what they do? Criminology 29.4: 851–866.

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                A contemporary test of social learning theory measuring the effect of peer attitudes and behavior on criminal involvement. The study finds, in contrast to Sutherland’s arguments, that peer attitudes toward crime matter less than peer behavior. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Wolfgang, Marvin E., and Franco Ferracuti. 1982. The subculture of violence: Towards an integrated theory in criminology. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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                A classic and controversial description of “subculture of violence” conceptions of crime; this and formulations that came later were heavily criticized for deemphasizing the structural causes of crime.

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              Control Theories

              In contrast to learning theories, control theories assume criminal involvement is normal or natural and must be restrained, as opposed to other theories that see criminal behavior as a (largely) unnatural response to strain or requiring an active learning process. Early control theories, such as social bond theory (Hirschi 1969), focused almost exclusively on social bonds, while more contemporary work emphasizes individual traits such as self-control (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990). Hirschi’s four social bonds were attachment to families, commitment to social norms and institutions, involvement in activities, and the belief that these things are important. Hirschi’s social control theory can be differentiated from his later self-control theory (with Gottfredson 2006) that largely deemphasizes social bonds and blames crime on a lack of self-control in individuals, similar to the personality and crime arguments put forth by psychologists in the Biological and Trait-Specific Perspectives section. Individuals vary in their capacity for self-control, and parents are largely responsible for inducing it. The theory is notable in its assertion that levels of self-control rarely change in adulthood, and in its emphasis on the stability of criminal behavior over time. In contrast to contemporary self-control theory, Sampson and Laub 1990 and Wright, et al. 1999 incorporate informal social controls into a life-course perspective (described in more detail in Life Course, Developmental, and Integrated Perspectives) to explain continuity and change in criminal involvement over the life course. While self-control theories (e.g., Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990) and informal social control theories (e.g., Sampson and Laub 1990) are both based on similar assumptions about human nature (that crime is a response that must be restrained), they differ substantially on the limits and capacities of human beings to change their behavior over time.

              • Gottfredson, Michael. 2006. The empirical status of control theory in criminology. In Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. Advances in Criminological Theory 15. Edited by Francis Cullen, John Wright, and Christie Blevins. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                A recent review of the empirical status of self-control theory.

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              • Gottfredson, Michael R., and Travis Hirschi. 1990. A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                Contemporary classic developing self-control theory. The authors view self-control theory as a “general” theory of crime, capable of explaining variation in crime across time, groups, and social context. Self-control, in this explication, is a largely stable trait beyond early childhood and explains crime as well as other reckless behaviors.

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              • Hirschi, Travis. 1969. Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                Classic statement of social control theory describing four types of social bonds (attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief), and their role in curbing crime.

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              • Sampson, Robert J., and John H. Laub. 1990. Crime and deviance over the life course: The salience of adult social bonds. American Sociological Review 55.5: 609–627.

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                Early formulation of an “age-graded theory of informal social control” incorporating early social control theories with contemporary life-course perspectives in sociology. The theory was further developed in a series of books and articles.

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              • Wright, Bradley R. Entner Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt, and Phil Silva. 1999. Low self-control, social bonds, and crime: Social causation, social selection, or both? Criminology 37.3: 479–514.

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                A good example of work integrating the Gottfredson/Hirschi and Sampson/Laub models. The work finds that psychological traits such as self-control in childhood (reflecting a social selection model of crime) predict disrupted bonds in adulthood, but that the effect of self-control is largely mediated by social bonds (reflecting a social causation model of crime). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              Life Course, Developmental, and Integrated Perspectives

              The relationship between age and crime is perhaps the most central to criminology. Undergraduate students in criminology quickly become familiar with the age-crime curve, demonstrating (at the macro level) that criminal involvement is largely concentrated among the adolescents and young adults and declines precipitously into adulthood and middle age. The late 1980s and the 1990s were defined, in part, by debate among control theorists about the role of age and aging in the patterning of criminal careers and desistance from crime. Gottfredson and Hirschi 1986 suggests the age effect on crime is largely invariant and therefore not in need of social explanation. (See also similar arguments in various articles, including some in Crutchfield, et al. 2007, cited under Textbooks, Handbooks, and Edited Volumes.) Those who disagree are often termed life-course or developmental criminologists, and their works include Laub and Sampson 2003 in sociological criminology, and Moffitt 1993 in developmental psychology. These works argue that the aging process is strongly related to criminal persistence (and desistance) at the individual level. The area also draws from earlier versions of the “criminal careers” paradigm (see, for example, Piquero, et al. 2003), which emphasizes differing criminal career trajectories (Nagin 1999) and age of onset effects, and supported later work on the social transitions or events in the life course that most influence desistance from crime, most notably employment and marriage. The area is also known for its work integrating prior models of crime causation in both sociology and psychology (see, for example, Thornberry 1987). For those interested in an extensive introduction to the field, Piquero and Mazerolle 2000 is a reader with edited versions of the most important papers in life-course sociology/criminology and developmental psychology.

              • Gottfredson, Michael, and Travis Hirschi. 1986. The true value of lambda would appear to be zero: An essay on criminal careers, selective incapacitation, cohort studies, and related topics. Criminology 24.2: 213–234.

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                Widely read critique of the criminal career (and later, life-course) paradigm. In contrast to life-course and developmental theories that emphasize change in criminal involvement over time, this essay (in addition to arguments presented in the book-length A General Theory of Crime [Stanford, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1990]) emphasizes the relative stability of criminal and antisocial behavior over time. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Laub, John H., and Robert J. Sampson. 2003. Shared beginnings, divergent lives: Delinquent boys to age 70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                Recent book from Sampson and Laub, the best-known developers of a life-course criminology from a sociological perspective.

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              • Moffitt, Terrie E. 1993. Adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review 100.4: 674–701.

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                Moffitt (along with Caspi and colleagues) presents a theory of crime, differentiating between adolescent-limited offenders and life-course-persistent offenders. Adolescent-limited offenders (the larger group of the two) engage in normative delinquent behavior as a result of a maturity gap. Life-course-persistent offenders commit crimes throughout the life span because of neuropsychological deficits and environmental challenges, producing “pathological personalities.” Available online for purchase.

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              • Nagin, Daniel S. 1999. Analyzing developmental trajectories: A semiparametric, group-based approach. Psychological Methods 4.2: 139–157.

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                A methodological approach for analyzing developmental trajectories in criminal and antisocial behavior over time. Available online for purchase.

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              • Piquero, Alex R., David P. Farrington, and Alfred Blumstein. 2003. The criminal career paradigm. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 30. Edited by Michael Tonry, 359–506. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003.

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                Review of research on careers in crime describing relationships between age of onset in crime and later criminal involvement, as well as predictors of desistance from crime.

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              • Piquero, Alex R., and Paul Mazerolle. 2000. Life course criminology: Contemporary and classic readings. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

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                An excellent and exhaustive compilation of the most important classic and contemporary readings in life-course sociology and developmental psychology. Suitable for a graduate-level course in the area, with equal attention paid to theory as well as method.

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              • Thornberry, Terence. 1987. Toward an interactional theory of delinquency. Criminology 25.4: 863–892.

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                One example of an integrated and developmental theory of crime, incorporating elements of control, learning, life-course, and developmental perspectives. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              Social Reaction Theories: Labeling, Reintegrative Shaming, and Symbolic Interactionism

              The perspectives described thus far can all be thought of as pure crime-causation theories. While they may include implicit (or, less often, explicit) discussions of how society should react to crime and delinquency, other theories prioritize societal reactions to crime rather than crime itself. These perspectives, often termed “social reaction theories,” include the various labeling perspectives in sociology and punishment theories involving reintegrative shaming and restorative justice. In contrast to deterrence theories, for example, labeling perspectives emphasize the harm that can result from too much punishment. Braithwaite 1989, for example, distinguishes between stigmatizing shaming, which serves to further isolate offenders from conformist alternatives, and reintegrative shaming, which can reintegrate offenders back into the community. Essentially a labeling theory applied to formal criminal punishment, Braithwaite’s conception distinguishes between deviant labels that are applied to an act relative to a person. Shaming that stigmatizes does so because it labels both an act and a person as deviant; reintegrative shaming preserves the labeling of acts as deviant while withholding labels from persons. In another example along similar lines, Hagan and Palloni 1990 shows that the intergenerational transmission of criminal behavior proceeds largely through labeling pathways from parent to child. Social reaction theories also tend to make few differentiations between criminal behavior and social deviance (e.g., Becker 1963 and Lemert 1967), viewing the boundaries between that which is defined as deviant versus criminal as a subject for study on its own (e.g., Erickson 1962, an essay on social deviance, or Hagan 2007, an essay on crime and morality). Not surprisingly, the most well-known descriptions of labeling and social reaction theories developed during a period of great social conflict and change in the 1960s. Finally, many social reaction theories rely on symbolic interactionist perspectives of human interaction.

              • Becker, Howard S. 1963. Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York: Free Press.

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                A classic study in the sociology of deviance. It brings together symbolic interactionist perspectives (e.g., Cooley’s conception of the looking-glass self and Mead’s concept of the self as socially defined) with case studies of social deviance. The central point of the work is that deviance is a social creation, independent of any particular act or behavior.

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              • Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, shame, and reintegration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                A theory on the harms associated with punishment and the potential for it to create more deviance than it prevents. The theory forms the basis for many restorative justice initiatives in the criminal justice system.

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              • Erickson, Kai T. 1962. Notes on the sociology of deviance. Social Problems 9.4: 307–314.

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                Erickson’s essay uses Durkheim’s conception as crime as normal to critique the strain and social disorganization theories popular at the time. Erickson makes the point that deviants are “responding to the same social forces that induce conformity in others,” arguing that sociologists should pay attention to why, how, and when “certain members are ‘chosen’ to play the more deviant parts.” Available online for purchase.

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              • Hagan, John. 2007. Defining crime: An issue of morality. In Crime: Readings. Edited by Robert D. Crutchfield, Charis Kubrin, George S. Bridges, and Joseph G. Weis, 3–9. Los Angeles: SAGE.

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                A discussion of crime as a contested act, influenced by morality, with an extended discussion of the limits of law in reflecting or enforcing moral codes. Excellent treatment for undergraduate students.

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              • Hagan, John, and Alberto Palloni. 1990. The social reproduction of a criminal class in working-class London, circa 1950–1980. American Journal of Sociology 96.2: 265–299.

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                An excellent study adjudicating among cultural, structural, and labeling processes to explain the intergenerational transmission of criminal labels. The authors find support for a variety of processes but argue that the labeling process is a consequential and largely misunderstood factor in the intergenerational transmission of crime and punishment within families. Available online for purchase.

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              • Lemert, Edwin. 1967. Human deviance, social problems, and social control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                Another well-known labeling theorist, best known for making the distinction between primary deviance (behavior that violates norms but is not so labeled) and secondary deviance (deviant behavior that is labeled as such).

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              Conflict, Critical, and Feminist Theories

              Critical or conflict approaches to crime are varied, often (but not always) rooted in the work of Karl Marx. The perspectives are defined both by a substantial emphasis on social inequality as well as the ways in which behaviors are defined as criminal (and, related to this, differential law enforcement). The works provided here are a sampling, but readers are encouraged to read more detailed offerings. While Marx wrote very little on crime and punishment, his work and conceptions of social life inform much of conflict, critical, and feminist criminology. Bonger, et al. 2009, for example, was an early developer of a Marxist theory of crime, linking crime to large-scale patterns in poverty and inequality. More recent classics include culture and conflict perspective in Turk 1969 and the discussion in Chambliss 2001 of the politicization of crime and the role criminal justice policy plays in creating and maintaining race and class divisions. Similar conceptions of class are incorporated into feminist theories of crime; Hagan, et al 1985 posits a “power-control theory” that uses class distinctions to explain gender differences in criminal involvement. For those interested in a more general introduction to feminist criminology, Chesney-Lind 2006 and Simpson 1989 offer expert introductions to the field. Finally, critical perspectives in criminology are commonly raised in connection with the rise in imprisonment since the 1970s. Wacquant 2001, by a well-known figure in this area, offers a description of the prison as a surrogate ghetto and describes the current era of mass incarceration as the engine driving sustained racial inequality in the contemporary United States.

              • Bonger, Willem Adriaan, Edward Lindsey, Frank H. Norcross, Henry P. Horton. 2009. Criminality and economic conditions. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar.

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                An early example of the development of a Marxist theory of crime. First published in 1916 (Boston: Little, Brown).

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              • Chambliss, William J. 2001. Power, politics, and crime. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                An account of the politicization of crime in the latter half of the 20th century and the panics created by the media regarding crime. The result has been a significant shift in societal resources from social welfare and supports to the criminal justice system. The book describes the rise of private prisons, the link between politics and crime, and the results these trends have for growing race and class divisions in the United States.

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              • Chesney-Lind, Meda. 2006. Patriarchy, crime, and justice: Feminist criminology in an era of backlash. Feminist Criminology 1.1: 6–26.

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                An overview of feminist criminology and the challenges it faces in the future, with particular emphasis on race-gender-punishment interactions.

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              • Hagan, John, A. R. Gillis, and John Simpson. 1985. The class structure of gender and delinquency: Toward a power-control theory of common delinquent behavior. American Journal of Sociology 90.6: 1151–1178.

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                A class-based, neo-Marxian theory of gender and delinquency. Noting that “class apparently accounts for too much delinquency” and gender “for too little,” the theory explains gender differentials in criminal involvement within and across the class structure with reference to maternal power and control in the household. Available online for purchase.

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              • Quinney, Richard. 2001. The social reality of crime. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                A classic statement on the relationship between power and the definition of crime and enforcement of the law. According to Quinney, “crime is defined by social processes, with those in positions of power defining and enforcing definitions, and those affected by those definitions actively choosing available alternatives.”

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              • Simpson, Sally S. 1989. Feminist theory, crime, and justice. Criminology 27.4: 605–632.

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                An elegant overview of feminist contributions to criminology. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              • Turk, Austin. 1969. Criminality and legal order. Chicago: Rand McNally.

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                A conflict criminology closely related to the labeling perspective in that criminal labels are given to those who lack power and the resources to evade labeling. Focuses on the process of criminalization, prioritizing the interaction between law’s enforcers (police and the criminal justice system), those who are labeled, and the role that cultural conflict, power, and access to resources play in defining some as criminal and others as law abiding.

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              • Wacquant, Loïc. 2001. Deadly symbiosis: When ghetto and prison meet and mesh. Punishment & Society 3.1: 95–133.

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                A good example of a description of the criminal justice system engaged in the production and maintenance of inequality, focusing on the overrepresentation of blacks in prisons in the contemporary United States. Wacquant argues that the contemporary prison serves as the “new ghetto,” perpetuating the connection between race and criminal and obscuring the role of the state in the maintenance of inequality in a post–civil rights era. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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              LAST MODIFIED: 07/27/2011

              DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0010

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