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Old Friday, September 16, 2016
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Introduction to Criminological Theory
Key Concepts
1. Theories are useful tools that help us to understand and explain the world around us. In criminology, they help us to understand the workings of the criminal justice system and the actors in the system.
2. Theories suggest the way things are, not the way things ought to be. They are not inherently good or bad; however, they can be used for good or bad purposes.
3. A theory can try to explain crime for a large social unit or area (macro), or it can attempt to explain crime at the individual or smaller unit level (micro).
4. Because we are dealing with human behavior, the social sciences will never be like the hard sciences. In the hard sciences, the theory of relativity will not change. In the social sciences, however, we deal with probabilities. The social scientist will say things such as, “A severely neglected child will probably commit, or tend to commit, delinquent acts.”
5. To be used for maximum effectiveness, theories must make sense (logical consistency), explain as much crime as possible (scope), and be as concise as possible (parsimony). Most important, the theory must be true or correct (validity). Having met these basic goals, the theory must then have some real world applications and policy implications.
6. Many theories have common traits, but differences among them still exist. Understanding these differences is key to understanding the often contradictory views of crime and deviance they purport to explain.
Psychological Theories
Key Concepts
1. Psychoanalytic theorists believe that criminal behavior is the result of a mental disturbance. From a Freudian perspective, this may have been caused by a conflict between the id, ego, and superego, or it may be the result of an improper fixation during a stage of emotional development.
2. Personality theorists believe that criminal behavior is the result of an improper or defective personality or personality traits. Instead of developing a conforming appropriate-social personality, the criminal has developed a personality based upon conflict, impulsiveness, and aggression. The criminal does not have the ability to feel empathy, remorse, or guilt for his or her actions, and has not developed a sense of right and wrong.
3. Under both of these approaches, the criminal act is not important, in that it is only one of many symptoms of the underlying psychological or personality disorder. Both approaches recommend various forms of therapy and treatment to fix the disorder. When the underlying psychological or personality disorder is addressed, the criminal and deviant acts should cease.
4. Psychological theories are difficult if not impossible to test. One cannot see, identify, or measure the id, ego, or superego. As a result, testing these theories becomes virtually impossible. Similar difficulties are faced when trying to test personality theories, and tautological issues remain a problem.
5. Programs that offer therapy and counseling in attempts to reduce delinquency have not been shown to be particularly effective. While the role of psychology in criminal justice and criminology is indeed important, we have not yet reached a place where the key concepts of psychological and personality theories, along with their recommended treatments, have had a measured impact on criminal activity
Social Learning Theory
Key Concepts
1. As a general concept, social learning theory has been applied to the fields of sociology, psychology, criminal justice, and criminology in an attempt to explain how criminal values, ideas, techniques, and expressions are transmitted from one individual to another.
2. Differential association theory, developed by Sutherland, is a learning theory that concentrates on one’s associates and the normative definitions one learns from them.
3. Akers identified four dimensions of the social structure that can possibly be integrated with social learning: differential social organization, differential location in the social 19 structure, theoretically defined structural variables, and differential social location.
4. Learning theorists believe that deviant behavior can be eliminated or modified by taking away the reward of the behavior, increasing the negative consequences of the behavior, or changing the balance of reward/punishment for the behavior.
5. Just as positive behaviors reinforce positive behaviors, deviant behaviors also reinforce deviant behaviors. Deviant peers who reinforce one another’s behaviors can form fast bonds of friendship. The effects of such a relationship subjects all of the individuals involved to higher rates of future substance abuse and criminal activity.
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