Criminology

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CRIMINOLOGY Criminology is an advanced, theoretical field of study. It can be defined as the study of crime, the causes of crime (etiology), the meaning of crime in terms of law, and community reaction to crime. Not too long ago, criminology separated from its mother discipline, sociology, and although there are some historical continuities, it has since developed habits and methods of thinking about crime and criminal behavior that are uniquely its own. Theory is a complex subject in its own right. Criminological theory is no exception; it also tends to be complex. Some definitions of terms might help to understand the field: Criminology - the science of crime rates, individual and group reasons for committing crime, and community or societal reactions to crime.

*Criminologist - a person who studies criminology; not to be confused with a "criminalist" who reconstructs a crime scene or works with crime scene evidence for forensic purposes. *Applied criminology - the art of creating typologies, classifications, predictions, and especially profiles of criminal offenders, their personalities and behavior patterns. *Theory construction - an informed, creative endeavor which connects something known with something unknown; usually in a measurable way. *Theory building - efforts to come up with formal, systematic, logical, and mathematical ways in which theories are constructed. *Theoretical Integration - efforts to come up with grand, overarching theories which apply to all types of crime and deviance. *Theoretical Specification -

efforts to figure out the details of a theory, how the variables work together; usually associated with a belief that many, competing theories are better than integrated efforts. *Theoretical Elaboration - efforts to figure out the implications of a theory, what other variables might be added to the theory; also associated with the belief that theory competition is better than theoretical integration. *Variables - the building blocks of theories; things that vary; things you can have more or less of; e.g., crime rates, being more or less criminally inclined (criminality). Criminologists use words a certain way to indicate relationships between causes (independent variables) and effects (dependent variables). Here are some general guidelines that might help when reading some

actual writing of a criminologist: *"varies with" -- this means things fluctuate together; as one thing goes up, the other thing goes down; usually used to describe a possible inverse relationship but also used to describe a direct relationship. *"where..." -- while not technically a verb, this word usually indicates a feedback relationship, where things go up or down in response to one another. Often, but not always, the case involves an important Z factor which moderates, distorts, or confounds the relationship. Relationals like "varies", "fluctuates", "predominates", "associated with", and "overrepresented by" are usually found when the theorist is dealing with socio-demographic variables, like age, race, or

social class. *"seems to be" -- this wishy-washy language usually means that the theorist suspects a weak relationship, probably way less than 50%. *"tends" -- this might mean, but not always, that there are important Z factors which are antecedent, intervening, or contingent; that is, that come before, in the middle, or after an X and Y relationship. Or, it may be a cojoint relationship. *"is conducive to" -- this usually means that the cause is a mysterious, unknown construct; typically found in highly abstract theories involving words like anomie, relative deprivation, norms, or controls. In some cases, it refers to a confounding or contextual relationship. The HISTORY of criminology dates back to Lombroso, whom many regard as the father of