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Theory in Criminology

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Title: Theory Construction and Evaluation in Criminology Author: Arina Gertseva Last modified by: garina Created Date: 1/17/2006 7:12:07 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theory in Criminology


1
Theory in Criminology
  • 1. What is theory?
  • 2. Theory Construction
  • 3. Theory Evaluation

2
(No Transcript)
3
What is Theory?
  • Theory is a set on interconnected statements or
    propositions that explain how two or more events
    or factors are related to one another

4
Example
  • Children who experienced harsh and inconsistent
    punishment are more likely to become deviant

Harsh Inconsistent Punishment
Violence
5
Two ways to build a theory
  • Deductive Approach (theory, hypothesis, research
    design, observations, empirical generalizations,
    new theory)
  • Inductive Approach (research design,
    observations, empirical generalizations, new
    theory)

6
Examples
Inductive approach
Deductive approach
  • Physical abuse in childhood is associated with
    future violence
  • Is child neglect also related to violence
    perpetration later in life?
  • Survey of a group of incarcerated criminals about
    their childhood experiences
  • Theory about how the impact of child neglect is
    similar/different from child abuse in terms of
    its criminogenic effect
  • How do burglars select their targets? (research
    question)
  • Field study of active burglars
  • Face-to-face interviews with burglars about the
    ways they select the targets
  • Theory about how a household can become a target
    for burglary

7
A Model of the Research Process
THEORY
Deduction
HYPOTHESIS
FINDINGS
Operationalization
Induction
Analysis
DATA GATHERING
RESEARCH DESIGN
Measurement
8
Criteria for Evaluating Theory
  • Logical consistency
  • The scope
  • Parsimony
  • Testability
  • Empirical validity
  • Usefulness and Policy implications

9
Logical consistency
  • Propositions of a theory have to be logically
    stated and internally consistent

10
The Scope
  • The Scope of a theory refers to the range of
    phenomena which it proposes to explain
  • A theory that accounts only for the crime of
    check forgery may be accurate, but it is
    obviously very limited in scope
  • Gottfredson and Hirschi posit that both imprudent
    and criminal behaviors can be predicted by a
    common characteristic lack of self-control

11
Parsimony
  • Parsimony (simplicity of theorys structure)
  • The theory based on fewest assumptions and
    requiring the fewest propositions is considered
    the superior theory

12
Differential Association Theory is based upon
these nine postulates
  • 1. Criminal behavior is learned
  • 2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction
    with others persons in a process of communication
  • 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal
    behavior occurs within intimate personal groups
  • 4. When criminal behavior is learned, the
    learning includes techniques of committing the
    crime, which are sometimes very complicated,
    sometimes simple and the specific direction of
    motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes
  • 5. The specific direction of motives and drives
    is learned from definitions of the legal codes as
    favorable or unfavorable to committing deviant
    acts

13
Differential Association is based upon these nine
postulates
  • 6. A person becomes delinquent because of an
    excess of definitions favorable to violation of
    law over definitions unfavorable to violation of
    the law
  • 7. Differential associations may vary in
    frequency, duration, priority, and intensity
  • 8. The process of learning criminal behavior by
    association with criminal and anticriminal
    patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are
    involved in any other learning
  • 9. While criminal behavior is an expression of
    general needs and values, it is not explained by
    those general needs and values, since non
    criminal behavior is an expression of the same
    needs and values

14
Testability
  • Testability by objective and repeatable evidence
    (theory which are untestable are not scientific)

15
Untestable theories
  • A theory may propose that males who rob banks are
    motivated by an unconscious impulse to resolve
    their guilt over their childhood sexual
    attraction toward their mothers

16
Untestable theories
  • If we find enough bank robbers who fit this
    description, then the theory is supported
  • If research uncover that bank robbers claim their
    only motive is money then that does not mean that
    the theory is rejected
  • Denial of these feeling by robbers supports the
    theory, because the same unconscious impulse that
    motivated them to rob also rendered them
    unconscious of their true motivation

17
Empirical validity
  • Empirical validity means that a theory has been
    supported by research evidence
  • None of the theories is found to be entirely true
    or false
  • The questions is, what degree of empirical
    support does the theory have (weak or strong)

18
Usefulness and Policy implications
  • Every criminological theory implies a therapy or
    policy
  • The better the theory explain the problem, the
    better it is able to guide efforts to solve the
    problem

19
Causation in criminology
  • Causation is a relationship that holds between
    events, objects, variables, or states of affairs

20
Can we observe causality?
  • It is not possible to detect a cause empirically
  • We can rarely directly sense a cause
  • We merely induce their existence from our
    experience of the association of two or more
    events
  • Can we observe how a hard blow to the arm causes
    a bruise?

21
Causality
  • How do we know if A causes B?
  • Time
  • Association
  • No other factor causes both (spuriousness)

22
Time
  • It is usually presumed that the cause
    chronologically precedes the effect
  • In a strict reading, if A causes B, then A must
    always be followed by B.
  • Smoking and lung cancer (What goes first?)

23
Association/correlation
  • Changes in X cause changes in Y
  • For example, football weekends cause heavier
    traffic, more food sales, etc.
  • We must be very careful in interpreting
    correlation coefficients
  • Just because two variables are highly correlated
    does not mean that one causes the other

24
Examples
  • Ice cream sales and the crime rate are correlated
    (both increase during summer)
  • The number of cavities in elementary school
    children and vocabulary size have a strong
    positive correlation

25
Spuriousness?
26
Spuriousness?
27
Spuriousness?
28
Spuriousness?
29
Controversy around causation
  • Not all scholars agree that uncovering
    discovering the universal laws that underlie
    human behavior should be a focus of our research

30
What is different about people?
  • Human beings are qualitatively different from the
    objects of study in the natural sciences (rocks,
    stars, chemical compounds, etc)
  • Humans think and learn, have an awareness of
    themselves and their past
  • These unique human characteristics are the reason
    for the debate how criminology should look like

31
Examples of subjective realities
  • Elephant and four blind men

32
More examples (four temperaments)
  • The same situation
  • evokes absolutely
  • different reactions.
  • How can we apply causation here?

33
Thomass theorem (1928)
  • Another argument against causality
  • If people define situation as real, they are
    real in their consequences
  • This theorem is related to the subjectivity of
    reality
  • Examples?...
  • What do you think of causality in sociology now?

34
How to solve the problem of causality?
  • Interpretative approach does not say that social
    behavior is chaotic
  • There is some pattern in human behavior
  • But this pattern is not due to the causal laws
  • It is created out of the system of social
    conventions people generate during their
    interactions
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