Friday, October 3, 2008

The Aftermath

It's been about a month since I found out the results of the exam.

I got the first high-pass in recent history; it's a rarity that they give them out. One professor, who is now my dissertation adviser, told me that he used my exam as a resource for designing the syllabus for the grad class he is teaching this semester. That is pretty heavy. I got to read some of the gradesheets for the exam and see what people thought about the answers... There was some nitpicking, but whatever. It's over. I sent some of my study guide to the two people who are taking it next, told them to start studying now, and now I try not to think about it too much. Even when I talk about it now to other people, I get anxious. It's like I have PTSD or something. It's one of those things where I have no idea how I managed to do that, but I did it, and there's no reason to dwell on it.

One of the hardest parts has been the transition into life after the exam. It was hard to study and get into that kind of mindset. It was hard to take it, and deal with the immediate stress of the waiting. And now it's been hard to get beyond it. I feel like a character out of a novel some days. I ran my course, I accomplished my task, I managed to destroy the One Exam and now I should be ferried out to the West. Having to go back to thinking about the whole entirety of my career after being so intensely focused on one thing hasn't been easy. Right now, I'm working on two papers, my dissertation, I'm teaching SOC 101 next semester so I'm working on my syllabus for that class, which means coming up with assignments, picking a textbook, and all that jazz, and then on top of all of that I am presenting at a conference in November, another in April (I hope), and then it's off to the job market, which is a whole other ball of wax. One of my friends on the market now has applied to 40 jobs. Another, 55. If I was on the market right now, I'd be looking at potentially moving back home, or to Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston, St. Louis, multiple cites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Maine, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, both Carolinas, Texas, and California.

Suffice it to say that going from being intensely focused on one single goal to being intensely focused on multiple things at once. In a sense, it's really cool -- I mean, how many people get to do this with their lives? -- but on the other hand, I desperately need a vacation, and I'm not going to get one until December, and even then, I'm going to be spending a good chunk of my time doing teaching prep (which, by the way, I found a genius way of reducing by not trying to cram everything from the textbook onto the syllabus and instead letting the students pick topics they'd like to go over in more detail. And now I just need to decide what movies, if any, I want to show.)

So, yeah, that's where things are now. Crazy, I feel sick a lot, but hey, the light is at the end of the tunnel. Right?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The home stretch

The exam is about three weeks away, and at this point, all I have left to do is keep memorizing articles and keep thinking about how everything hangs together. I've been doing this for the past two weeks -- talking to myself in the car, in the shower, in bed, to the dog -- so in other words, I'm in a holding pattern. I should write some practice questions to get the timing and time management aspects down, but I'm not completely concerned about that anymore. Really, I just want to get this over with.

I can talk about every major theory -- social learning, social disorganization, social bonds/control, self control, strain, labeling, conflict -- in terms of where it is, where it's been, where it's going, how each relates to the others. I can talk about peers, parents, communities, chronic offenders, gender, race, class, age, the life course, terrorism, onset, escalation, persistence, desistence, and how all of the theories above can inform these topic areas. I can talk about what constitutes high risk youth theoretically and empirically in terms of the 4/5 biggest factors in academic terms and the most important factors in layman's terms. I can talk about what we can do about it, I can talk about where the field has been going and where I think it will be going.

What I have neglected to include is research methods and social deviance, but there has never been an exam where 3 of the questions were methods & deviance related. If I am unfortunate enough to have two of those questions on the same day, I'm not entirely screwed because I have substantially beefed up my research in other areas. In looking at previous exams, I have gone from exams where there were only 2-3 questions I was 100% confident on and the remainder being a series of gambles to having 4-6 questions I am 100% confident on and the remainder being questions I can and would immediately write off (deviance or methods).

This has been an intense year building up to this, and it's hard to believe that it's so close. This definitely hasn't been what I expected it to be, and at this point all I can do is keep on keepin' on and hope that I get some good questions. That's one thing that is driving me crazy -- I know that there are going to be questions about the life course and I'm 95% sure I'm going to get something about gender, but the rest is up in the air. That's what the Tums are for, I guess.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One month

One month from right now, right this second, I will be done with my prelim and hopefully the next time I deal with this it will be to either tell the next group of people that "everything will be okay", or to sit on a committee at my next school and be on the advising and grading side of it.

This blog was a great idea, it's helped me keep my thoughts organized in spite of everything, and my posts about parent,s peers, and the community all helped me contextualize my thoughts. I have way more information that I haven't put on here, but nonetheless, its helped.

I really want this to be over with. I know it's ultimately not that difficult of a situation and that plenty of people have dealt with plenty worse in their lives. Still, that doesn't always comfort me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

38 days

Looking through past exams for the 100,000th time today, and I decided that I'm not going to touch any question related to either methods/measurement or deviance. Methods, it's too bland of a subject, I don't feel that I have enough citations for any of the possible questions, and I would fall into the trap of talking about things with my own opinions instead of saying what the literature says. Deviance, it's a fun topic, but it's not a major area of interest, and I don't want to go to the trouble of remembering 10 specific citations for one possible question.

What this means is, I've gone back in and brought up two other questions that've been asked before that I can answer. One lists 10 past Presidents of the American Society of Criminology and asks why they deserved to be President. This is just a matter of looking at some of the more obscure people and adding citations to my reading list that will be valuable elsewhere. The other question is about conflict theory, which is what I was trained in at my previous university and have since completely turned my back on. I decided to revisit this literature today because a) I'm familiar with it and b) it's easy to trash it.

So, by bringing these two topics in and discarding methods and deviance completely, I'm gambling a little, because in the unlikely chance that there are 2 methods questions and 1 deviance question on the same day, then I'm totally fucked, but there's now literally no other question I'm not comfortable with. And to be honest, I can also do a little bit of methods anyway, so it's not like I'd be trying to answer a question I didn't completely understand, it's just something I'm not focusing on.

These are the questions I would answer on both days, ideally:

1) Life course
2) Gender
3) Why are people bad?
4) Nature of theory

Day 2:

1) Family
2) Peers
3) Communities
4) 5 biggest causes of delinquency

I would destroy both of those days. I can also talk several other subjects, but this is what I would absolutely love to have.

I am so hungry.

Monday, July 7, 2008

45 days

Made myself sick with stress.

Spent parts of yesterday and today going through an old theory book to get concise summaries and criticisms of different theories. Great idea, because the author is a major theorist himself (Akers), and it helped me find some good things to talk about as far as comparisons/contrasts are concerned. Horrible idea because it's impossible to know everything, and this book throws out all kinds of citations I don't have and hadn't considered. Sucks.

I also went through some of the old exams again to see how the questions look this time, with an emphasis on some of the old juvenile delinquency exams. There's literally questions that say "list the four/five biggest causes of delinquency." Which is easy: age, learning, parents via self-control, parents via social bonds, strain, communities via collective efficacy, and communities via spatial/structural measures. Easy as pie.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Bad dream

I had a dream last night that I went in to take the exam and decided to write all of my answers out by hand. Each answer was about 1/3-1/2 of a page long and I only cited 1 or 2 sources per answer, and most of it was just my opinions and rhetoric on the subject.

That dream sucked.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Was sitting here kind of pissed because I can't find much good recent stuff about strain theory, and then I realized, I'm an idiot, I have all of the resources from three other people from past exams on top of what I've collected on my own. So I went back through the original massive study guide that I used to construct my own approach to the entire exam, and I've found some great material on this theory that I'd overlooked and can use now.

Today is July 1st. The exam is on August 21st. 51 days until the end.

The plan

I've written about almost all of the main topic areas I've got to cover for the exam here in some way, with the exception of a few minor things and one major thing (race). My plan is to try and tear through the minor stuff -- labeling, methods, maybe something on corporate crime and conflict theory -- and then start rewriting some of my earlier posts just to keep things fresh in my mind.

Monday, June 30, 2008


18 unique citations in the gender post.

Back in Black + Gender and Crime

Took about a week off to go on vacation, though I did do some studying up until Wednesday night. Just not enough to warrant writing about. I think my plan is to finish going over my notes this week, and start writing practice questions next week. Whether or not I actually turn them in to get faculty opinions on them, I don't know.

I am actually surprised at how well I can talk about gender. I thought it was going to be one of my weak spots, but it turns out, I actually know it pretty well. Gender is interesting because there are articles about process as much as theory, meaning that I can talk about the gender gap historically, I can talk about prejudices in deviance and the way girls are treated by the criminal justice system, and then I can also talk about differences in the ways in which the specific mechanisms in theories operate differently for men and women.

Gender in crime is a pretty interesting debate, because there are some people who think that we should have separate theories of crime for men and women, and there are some people who think that we don't need to take gender into consideration whatsoever. Both arguments are only partially valid, because they deny the validity of the other side. Essentially, both groups are arguing to throw the baby out with the theoretical bathwater.

This is what we do know: men commit more crimes more frequently than women (i.e., Steffensmeier and Streifel, ???; Mears et al, 1998), and that this difference has been consistent throughout history, with only some slight changes to the shape of the gender curve happening in recent years that does not indicate that the gender gap is closing in any way (Steffensmeier and Streifel, ???). This is important, because recent trends seem to indicate an increase in female violence, but research on the contemporary criminal justice system indicates that this increase is an artifact of policy changes that have expanded the definition of female violence; in other words, it is the result of a net-widening effect. Beyond the gender gap in rates of crime, we also know that men and women are treated differently within the system and are perceived to be participating in criminal or otherwise deviant activities for different reasons than men. For example, Gaardner et al. (2004) suggest that girls are treated differently within the criminal justice system because stakeholders and agents within the system do not understand cultural and/or gender-specific programming options and ultimately misunderstand the behavior of the girls whose problems they are faced with. This lack of understanding limits the options available to the girls, because instead of having their true issues addressed, the stereotyping they are subjected to effectively pigeonholes their problems into inadequate solutions. The issue of stereotyping isn't limited to the treatment of girls in the justice system; for example, Leblanc (1999) discusses the true reasons why adolescent girls become involved in the punk subculture; contrary to stereotypes of punk girls which portray them as purely sexual actors, Leblanc shows that girls become involved for a variety of different reasons, including a sense of kinship to other punks, a taste for the music and culture, and the opportunity to become involved in political and social activism.

The debate over whether or not theories of crime should be gender-specific or gender-neutral rose in part because of this stereotyping and lack of consistent understanding about the social and cultural differences between men and women. On one hand, theorists like Chesney-Lind (1989) and Messerschmidt (1993) argue that men and women should be considered apart from one another because of the unique experiences of each sex (Messerschmidt, 1993) and the historical patriarchal structure of society (Chesney-Lind, 1989) which is responsible for the subjugation of women and the propogation of stereotypes of women as purely sexual objects. On the other hand, Adler (1975) argues that because of the women's liberation movement, women are becoming more masculine -- more assertive, more aggressive -- which logically suggests that gender-specific theories of crime are unnecessary because all persons involved in crime and delinquency are doing so for the same reasons. In practice, as I mentioned before, both sides of the argument are valid in their own ways. In spite of the best efforts of leading criminlogical theorists, even the best theories of crime do not explain as much of the variance in the behavior as they purport to (for examples, see previous discussions on social disorganization theory, learning, and self-control.) Many of these theories, in spite of being gender-neutral in their original form, have revealed subtle gender differences in crime by allowing us to assess how the theorized mechanisms operate differently for men and women and boys and girls. This includes, but is not limited to, strain theory, labeling theory, and learning theory.

Agnew's general strain theory (Agnew, 1992) postulates that people commit crime because of the presence (or threatened presence) of some negative stimulus, or the removal (or threatened removal) of some positive stimulus. However, the types of strain experienced differs by gender (Broidy and Agnew, 1999), and the reactions to these experiences differ over time (Hagan and Foster, 2004). In this instance, while general strain theory was meant to be applicable to all persons, Agnew's identification of the relationship between negative emotions and crime allowed future researchers to tease out differences in the way this process operates for men and women.

Matsueda's interpretation of labeling theory from a social psychological standpoint (Matsueda, 1992) suggests that people become involved in crime through negative interactions with persons important to them, such that the experience of being treated as a bad person, regardless of if it is true, will cause the individual to begin seeing themselves that way and will in turn begin behaving that way. Matsueda's take on labeling theory differs from traditional labeling theory, which focuses more on the role of being officially labeled by the criminal justice system and society more generally, and is not necessarily concerned with the interpersonal relationships that help shape our self-concept. However, while Matsueda's argument is supported generally, later research also highlights a significant gender difference in how the process of reflected appraisals works. Specifically, Bartusch and Matsueda (1999?) show that adolescent boys are more likely to be falsely blamed and "labeled" as bad by persons close to them than adolescent girls are, which suggests that adolescent boys are more susceptible to thinking of themselves as bad people than adolescent girls are because of this general difference in their interactions with their parents. Note that this difference also speaks to gender stereotyping; perhaps boys are more likely to be falsely accused because of stereotypes that all boys are going to be bad in some way, or perhaps this higher rate of accusation is due to stereotypes about girls being too innoncent to be involved in crime and delinquency. Nevertheless, Matsueda's important recognition of the role of the self-concept allowed future research to identify a crucial difference in the way the development of the self-concept influences future involvment in crime for men and women.

Finally, social learning theory and the theory of differential association (Burgess and Akers, 1966; Sutherland, 1947) both suggest that people learn to be criminal through interactions with and imitation of the behavior of their peers; this line of thinking suggests that relationships where antisocial behavior is normative will cause all parties involved to become antisocial themselves. However, more recent research has suggested that this process works differently for boys and girls because girls are more likely to critically evaluate the behavior of delinquent peers and take a moral stance which bars them from becoming involved in similar activities (Mears et al., 1998). Therefore, while both adolescent boys and girls are exposed to the same criminogenic condition, they do not necessarily respond the same way. This difference may not have been realized unless this gender-neutral theory was tested for gender differences.

There is also a body of research which suggests that some theories are gender neutral; however, this research also notes that while some process may explain criminal behavior regardless of gender, these processes seem to explain more male deviance than female deviance, which by definition speaks to some underlying difference in the way the process is operating. For example, Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) General Theory of Crime suggests that criminality is the result of low self-control, and that this should explain criminality for all persons regardless of sociodemographic factors. More recent research (Burton Jr et al, 1998; Tittle et al., 2003) has shown that self-control does indeed explain both male and female deviance, but it is a more powerful explanatory factor for men than women. Tittle et al. (2003) show that the power of self-control varies across combinations of sub-categories, including gender, and that its power depends on how it is being operationalized. This variation in the validity of the measure seems to suggest some difference in how self-control influences criminal behavior for men and women, in spite of the findings that suggest that it is an important characteristic for each group.

In sum, I do not agree with either side in the argument about how gender should be studied in criminology. Both sides, as I have shown here, have their merits. Gender specific studies allow us to see differences in the experiences of men and women (Leblanc, 1999; Gaardner et al, 2004) and the unique factors of both femininity (Chesney-Lind, 1989) and masculinity (Messerschmidt, 1993). Extensive testing of the processes originally hypothesized by gender neutral theories have also allowed us to find differences in the way these mechanisms work for men and women (Broidy and Agnew, 1999; Bartusch and Matsueda, 1999; Mears et al., 1998), which doesn't devalue the theories themselves, but rather necessistates that future research acknowledge these differences in discussions of the processes proposed by the original theorists. While it is necessary for criminologists to conceptualize society as more static than dynamic, it should not be necessary for us to treat our theories the same way, and therefore there is no need to completely disregard some idea in spite of its merits when it is easier and more benefical to incorporate new ideas into our theories so that both specific and general theories of crime can be allowed to contribute to the field at large.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


1) Sutherland (1947)
2) Burgess & Akers (1962)
3) Haynie et al (2004)
4) Haynie & McHugh
5) Haynie & Payne
6) Weerman and Smeenk
7) Kreager
8) Kreager
9) Rebellon


1) Gottfredson & Hirschi
2) Demuth & Brown
3) Apel & Kaukinen
4) Wright & Beaver
5) Pogarsky et al
6) Nofsinger
7) Hay et al
8) Simons et al
9) Hagan, McCarthy and Gillis


1) Burgess
2) Thomas & Znaniecki
3) Shaw & McKay
4) Sampson and Groves
5) Sampson and Raudenbush
6) Sampson, Raudenenbush and Earls
7) Morenoff and Sampson
8) Stark
9) Bursik
10) Kubrin & Weitzer
11) Mears & Bhati
12) Griffiths & Chavez

Life course:

1) Sampson and Laub
2) Moffitt
3) Sampson and Laub, 1997
4) Sampson, Laub and Wimer, 2004
5) MacMillan
6) MacMillan and Hagan
7) Hagan and Foster, 2001
8) Hagan and Foster, 2003
9) Giordano, Cernkovich and Rudolph, 2004
10) Giordano, Cernkovich, and ?
11) Burton, Allison and Obedellah, 1997


1) Lemert
2) Becker
3) Matsueda
4) Bernberg and Krohn
5) Bernberg, Krohn and Rivera
6) Lanctot, Cernkovich and Giordano


1) Merton
2) Agnew, 1992
3) Agnew, 2001
4) Broidy and Agnew
5) Thaxton and Agnew
6) Cernkovich, Giordano, and Rudolph
Woo. Personal life intervenes, and made studying very difficult.

Fortunately, part of being able to do this is constantly thinking about different topics, even when the notes aren't right in front of you. For example, being able to bust out a discussion of power-control theory at the bar, or going to bed with criticisms of labeling theory racing through your head.

This is my life. At least, for now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Been a rough couple of days, during which I didn't get much done in the way of studying. I ABANDONED MY SON! I ABANDONED MY BLOOOOOOOOOG!


Today, I have been going through a lot of the life course literature as a means of doing a lit review for a paper I am working on aside from studying for this exam. This lit review is helpful, because the life course is by far the dominant perspective in criminology presently, and so putting together a fairly comprehensive lit review about it also helps me prepare for the exam, since I am guaranteed to be asked either a question about the importance of the life course in general, or the relationship between age and crime. I already am very familiar with this literature, but looking at it again -- especially looking at Sampson & Laub and the various Giordano & Cernkovich iterations -- is a good idea. I'd write about it now, but I am invested in the U.S. Open and I want to spend some more time reading this stuff.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I hate days like this

Took a break yesterday and today to do some work on other projects. Mainly, I did this because of a conversation I had with a friend on Monday...Tuesday morning? (Is this this a weekday? What day is this?) about how the anxiety and anticipation building up to the exam only gets worse, that it's a good sign I'm already this prepared, but that preparation is going to drive me insane BECAUSE I JUST WANT TO TAKE THIS FUCKING THING ALREADY.

I'm pretty frustrated right now. The project that should be working for me now isn't. The project that is, I can't do anything more than stay the course until August 21.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Previous exam #1

Here are the questions from the most recent exam. These are from the first day, which is the general criminology day. My thoughts are in parentheses:

1. In the last decade researchers have increasingly sought to understand crime and deviance as life-course phenomena. One idea coming out of this perspective is that there are multiple trajectories of deviance as people move from childhood, into adolescence, and then adulthood. Of particular interest are potential "turning points" in the life course, and desistance from deviance in adulthood.

a. Compare and contrast the leading theoretical perspectives that have been proposed to explain the desistance process, including an evaluation of their relative strengths and weaknesses.

b. Which perspective [do] you find most useful? Why?

(The first part of the question is meant for a discussion on the merits of Moffitt vs. Sampson & Laub. One says desistance happens because people never intended/did not have it in them to be lifetime criminals, the other says it happens via life course transitions. The second part, I'm siding with S&L because of two articles they wrote (1997; 2006) and a litany of other life course research that shows how trajectories can be altered (Macmillan 2001, Macmillan and Hagan 2004, Hagan and Foster 2001, Hagan and Foster 2004); this research reflects the complexity and fragility of life course trajectories)

2. Emile Durkheim suggested that deviant behavior is functional for societies, citing as evidence the fact that no society lacks it.

a. Identify those forms of behavior that are newly being perceived as deviant and that are losing their deviant label.

b. Is there any pattern to the types of behavior that are newly labeled deviant and to those that are losing their deviant label?

(This question is taken directly from the final exam in the Deviant Behavior seminar, and I think I answered this one when I took that class, but I'd have to double check. The best way to approach this question is to talk about smoking as an example of something that is becoming deviant and homosexuality and mental illness as behaviors whose deviant label is disappearing. Environmentalism is an anecdotal example of something no longer considered deviant. I do not know the citations for this research off the top of my head, and need to study it further. The second part of the question speaks to social class differences in moral crusading because movements that begin at the bottom of the class ladder and attempt to work their way up inevitably fail, while top-down movements are the most successful.)

3. Larry Siegel has suggested that "the discovery of the chronic offender [has] revitalized criminological theory."

a. What do we know about the chronic offender?

b. What don't we know?

c. What research questions flow from emphasizing the distinction between sporadic and minor vs. frequent and serious levels of involvement?

d. What theories best explain serious and persistent patterns of criminal activity?

(This is a strange question, because we never talk about Larry Siegel in any seminar. The pieces of the question by themselves are not much of a problem, but the phrasing suggests we need to see what Siegel said, and who knows what he said. It also requires some research into chronic offenders, but the thrust of the question near the end is asking for something about Moffitt's life course perspective and/or Gottfredson and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime.)

4. Despite their centrality to virtually all of social life in America, race and ethnicity have occupied a curious place in criminological research. Although certainly not ignored, it is fair to say that race and ethnicity rarely have assumed center stage as major forces in their own right, on par with such variables as social class and neighborhood environment.

a. Do you agree with this assessment? If you do agree, why do you think this has been the case?

b. If you disagree, provide evidence from the theoretical and empirical literature that shows race and ethnicity to be major structuring and/or contextualizing forces in the causation of crime and delinquency.

c. What directions should future research take to understanding criminal inequality across racial and ethnic groups?

(This is a tricky one, this question gives you miles of rope to hang yourself with. The way I think I would answer it is to agree with the first part and talk about the dangers of associating race with class and biological deficiencies the likes of which were responsible for the eugenics movement. Skipping part B, the last part of the question you could talk about both social disorganization theory and the life course perspective, possibly even working GST in there as well. It's important here to talk about race-related research that has been conducted and the ways in which it can be expanded upon and future research questions coming from it)

5. Crime and deviance research faces a number of methodological issues, including (but not limited to) the following: multicollinearity, appropriate unit of analysis, selection effects, longitudinal vs. cross-sectional designs, the reliability and validity of official measures vs. self-report measures, and missing data. Select three (3) of these issues and discuss:

a. What is the concern/debate with this particular methodological issue?

b. How can scholars best overcome/deal with this issue?

(This is a straight methods questions that doesn't require too much in the way of citations. I'd talk about longitudinal vs. cross-sectional data, the reliability and validity of official measures vs. self-report measures, and probably appropriate units of analysis. There's plenty of research to use as examples of these issues, and I'm not too concerned about this one.)

6. The following scholars are among those who have been elected as President of the American Society of Criminology over the past 20 years: Robert Bursik, Julie Horney, Francis Cullen, John Laub, Ronald Huff, David Farrington, Margaret Zahn, James Short, Freda Adler, Delbert Elliot, Albert Blumstein, John Hagan, and Joan McCord. Choose any three (3) of these scholars -- what important contributions have each of them made to the discipline of criminology during their careers that might warrant their election to the presidency of ASC?

(Laub, Farrington, and Hagan would be the ones I would talk about, because each has done significant life course research and that is unquestionably the dominant position in criminology today. That said, I wouldn't answer this question).

Of these, I would answer 1, 2 or 3, 4, and 5. And I think that I'd have a good chance of passing this exam.

The Terrorism Question

In preparing for the exam, we're allowed to see copies of every exam the department has ever given, dating back to the 1970s. Obviously, most of the exams from the 70s and 80s aren't any good to me, aside from seeing where the field was back then. Anyway, the main purpose of looking at the most recent exams (the prelim is given 2-3 times a year, so I'm only going back to 2002) is to get an idea of what questions are going to be asked as well as to identify questions and/or topic areas that you aren't going to study. In general, I know what questions are going to be on both days of the exam, and I know that if I get one of these curveballs, I'm not going to answer it.

One such curveball question that we've been kind of joking about because its a topic we've never discussed in any seminar before is this one, which I am copying directly from a past exam:

"During a period when government resources are being diverted from traditional 'crime fighting' to a 'war on terrorism', academic criminology has only begun to respond to this change in focus. Write an essay on the relevance of criminology to the study of terrorism. Include in your essay the theories and research methods that seem most appropriate to such a study."

I used to think this was a ridiculous question, mainly because we never talk about terrorism, our focus is explicitly on crime in America and other western nations. And then, at about 1:30 this morning, I realized that this question isn't impossible at all; its actually a freebie.

On its face, any attempt to apply criminological concepts to the study of terrorism seems absurd. The events of September 11th, 2001 coupled with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created in us an image of terrorism that is explicitly Islamofascist; because we're still experiencing the aftershocks of 9/11, it is difficult not to think of this subjectively. However, once we set aside our personal and political beliefs, a study of terrorism should be no different than a study of crime. After all, we know that every 16 year old male living in the inner city isn't a violent drug dealer, so it is also unfair to assume that every 16 year old male living in the middle east is a terrorist. Furthermore, the events of the past 7 years have made us forget the very real threat of domestic terrorists; for example, the Oklahoma City Bombing was masterminded and perpetrated by three white male U.S. citizens. Once we recognize our own prejudices, it becomes clear that criminological theories can inform the study of terrorism in a number of ways, qualitatively and quantitatively, nationally and cross-culturally.

The ways in which terrorist organizations function may be ascertained via qualitative research methods similar to the work of Anderson (1994) and Bourgoise (1999). Hypothetically speaking, social scientists who can gain access to these organizations could be able to improve our understanding of how they operate internally. Both Anderson and Bourgoise were able to interact with extremely violent individuals over a period of time, and in Bourgoise's case, were allowed to see how their criminal enterprises operated, so it is not completely unrealistic to believe that similar research may be conducted among terrorist groups. This method can be applied both to domestic terrorist and pseudo-terrorist groups as well as international groups as a means of comparing how these groups function within the society they exist, how they operate internally in regard to methods of recruitment, discipline, family structure and functioning, gender roles, social class status, and so on. This type of research is at the heart of sociology; it is studying the way in which these unique facets of society operate within the larger context.

Beyond using qualitative methods based in grounded theory to better understand how these organizations function, quantitative methods that draw upon a litany of criminological theories can help us better understand the social forces that are associated with involvement in terrorist activities. For example, social learning theory and the theory of differential association (Burgess and Akers, 1966; Sutherland, 1947) would help us determine how important peer relationships are with regard to recruitment into and continued involvement with terrorist organizations are concerned. Conversely, social bond theory (Hirschi, 1969) would likely reveal that individuals participating in these groups are those that are poorly bonded to conventional society and have higher levels of attachment, committment, involvement, and belief in these antisocial activities than prosocial ones. It is also possible that Merton's theory of anomie (1938) would show some economic motivation, but more likely, Agnew's general strain theory (1992) would demonstrate the relationship between political and religious fanaticism and involvement in terrorist organizations. Further still, the life course perspective may be able to help explain lifetime involvement in (i.e., Moffitt, 1993) or desistance from (Sampson and Laub, 1990; 1997) terrorist activities. Finally, social disorganization theory may help us understand the importance of physical and social structure in regard to communities that produce terrorists; as Thomas and Znaniecki (1927) and later Sampson and Raudenbush (1997) suggested, breakdowns in community social structure via agreement on norms and a decrease in collective efficacy may influence involvement in terrorist activities; it is also reasonable to think that community structure (Burgess, 1925) and the physical and social relationships between communities (i.e., Mears andBhati, 2006) also impact terrorism in some way.

Each of these theories can be used to help further our understanding of how terrorism functions domestically and internationally, in terms of how social structure and relationships impact involvement in terrorist activities on both the individual and community level. Furthermore, qualitative research can also further our understanding of how these organizations function internally and the ways in which their members view themselves and their work. However, because these types of organizations are not as common and widespread as other types of crime, it would be difficult to conduct meaningful quantitative research on terrorism because it would be difficult to collect a useful sample. However, if we broaden our definition of terrorism beyond the current media image of violent Islamofascism and make it a larger study of social, political, and religious fanaticism, then useful research may be done.

(Three pages, 14 citations, none of which were developed in any way and could have easily been expanded on to fill another two pages. I just answered a prelim question.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What I know so far

Some areas are stronger than others, but check this out!

Labeling theory: Started off as official labeling directing societal reaction, recent research has shown informal labeling via reflected appraisals are important as well. Official labeling still important because it has negative mental health consequences (Lanctot et al) and introduces people to deviant networks they wouldn't otherwise know (Bernberg, Krohn and Rivera)

Strain theory: Started off as purely economic strain (Merton), which argued ability & desire to achieve normative economic gains dictated whether or not someone would become involved in crime. Has evolved into General Strain Theory (GST) which takes emotions into consideration; GST argues introduction of negative stimuli or threat or removal of positive stimuli can cause crime.

General Theory of Crime: Self-control has consistently been proven to be related to criminality; however, recent research suggests that it may be biological, it may have to do with the self-control of the mother, and it may not be as stable and enduring as people was originally believed.

Social Learning Theory: Crime is learned from associations with peers via the establishment of deviance as normative, imitation of the behavior, excess of non-normative definitions, and differential reinforcement. The idea that peers are important began with the work of Sutherland (1942) and later Burgess and Akers (1966). Recent research has focused both on developing the idea of "friends" or "peers" to include siblings (Haynie and Mchugh, 2005), romantic partners (Haynie et al, 2004), and best friends (Weerman and Smeenk, 2005); the role of race and gender (Haynie and Payne, 2006; Mears et al, 1998); network placement (Kreager, 2005) and the mechanisms by which "definitions" work (Kreager, 2007; Rebellon, 2005).

Social Disorganization Theory: This theory originally argued two separate points: that crime is the result of the physical makeup of a city (Burgess, 1925) and that crime is the result of a breakdown in the social structure of a community (Thomas and Znaniecki, 1927). Since these ideas were originally formulated, research has shown that the physical structure of the community can influence its social structure (Shaw and McKay, 1942; Sampson and Groves, 1994), which in turn influences crime (Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls, 1997; Sampson and Raudenbush, 1999). Criticisms of this theory (Stark, 1987; Bursik, 1988, Kubrik and Weitzer, 2003) argue that social disorganization theory needs to recognize that communities to not exist in a vacuum and need to take into consideration the ability of the theory to explain group-level differences; these criticisms are reflected in the work of Morenoff and Sampson (1997), who show that black-white differences in exposure to crime may be due to the inability of poor African-Americans to adequately "escape" from violent neighborhoods; by Griffiths and Chavez (2004), who show that neighborhoods are not simply violent or non-violent and that actions (i.e., violence) in one neighborhood influences reactions (i.e., defensive diffusion) in adjacent neighborhoods; and by Mears and Bhati (2006) who show poverty-driven-violence in one neighborhood impacts violence in spatially and socially proximate communities.

The Life Course Perspective: Life course criminology originally took two forms. The first, proposed by Sampson and Laub (1990) suggested that everyone develops more or less equally as offenders but the accomplishment of certain age-graded transitions, namely stable employment and marriage, acted as motivating factors to desist from crime and delinquency. On the other hand, Moffitt (1993) argued that individual offenders could be categorized as either life-course persistent or adolescent limited offenders. This version of the theory argues that the majority of offenders are only involved in delinquency during adolescence; this is a way for most people to establish their adult identities without ever seriously intentionally becoming invested in a lifetime of crime. Their counterparts, the life-course persistent offenders, are those people who are involved in crime throughout their lifetimes and may have some cognitive or functional deficit driving their behavior. These people serve as models of deviancy for the adolescent limited offenders to impersonate. However enticing this theory may be, it has received little support (Sampson and Laub, 1997), as it appears that all offenders gradually desist over time, and that marriage (Sampson, Laub, and Wiemer, 2006) is an important factor in this process. Recent research on the importance of the life course has looked at adolescent victimization (Macmillan, 2001; Macmillan and Hagan, 2004), exposure to violence (Hagan and Foster, 2001), and the importance of both gender differences and the differential role of emotions (Giordano, Cernkovich, and Rudolph, 2002; Hagan and Foster, 2004). Recent research has also looked at the influence of other roles and characteristics over time; for example, Giordano et al (2008) show that religiosity is not related to criminality over the life course, while Maclean and Elder (2007) show that combat veterans have worse life course trajectories than noncombat veterans and nonveterans overall; this includes criminal activity, martial status, and socioeconomic attainment, the latter two being important because multiple theories have shown them to be important barriers to criminal involvement.


Last night sucked. The meeting itself was kind of reassuring -- we get some leeway on the citations, which is reassuring, but in some ways that I can't quite put my finger on I came away feeling a little nervous about it. I don't know how I'll react if I fail.

Should be working on compiling my reading list into one file, but instead, here are the citations from labeling theory that I'm going to use:

Lemert (1952)
Becker (1963)
Braithwaite (1989)
Matsueda (1992)
Steffensmeier, Ulmer and Kramer (1998)
Braithwaite (2002)
Bernberg and Krohn (2003)
Zhang and Zhang (2004)
Bernberg, Krohn and Rivera (2006)
Lanctot, Cernkovich and Giordano (2007)

The quick summary of this theory is that the importance of official labeling isn't really considered to be as important as it once was (though recent research does show that it is important), but that informal labeling through personal relationships has a greater influence on crime and delinquency.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Strain theory cites

This post will be edited in the future. These are the citations, I believe, I will use for my review of strain theory. I am less concerned with making this one as strong as the previous three, because this is a body of literature that I think is incorporated more broadly into some questions and I do not expect a question that says "what is strain theory?" as much as I do something like "talk about parents and peers".

Merton (1938)
Agnew (1992)
Broidy and Agnew (1997)
Cernkovich, Giordano & Rudolph (2000)
Agnew (2001)
Broidy (2001)
Messner & Rosenfeld (2001)
Thaxton & Agnew (2004)
Hagan & Foster (2004)
Baumer & Gustafson (2007)

On follow-up

That last entry: 5 pages, 12 unique citations. I am on a roll.

I am way ahead of schedule on this. I might spend the next couple of days just reading stuff instead of writing another piece, though I'm not sure. Tomorrow I'm going to be on campus doing a lot of work for another project, but that should only be a couple of hours of work, I think. Friday afternoon I have that meeting, so that might turn out to be a big day. We'll see, I guess.

The point is, I am way ahead of schedule and have done way more in a few short weeks than I expected I would. I feel competent to talk about the life course, peers, parents, strain, and social disorganization off the top of my head, which makes up a good chunk of potential questions.

What I have left to cover:

Corporate Crime/Conflict theory (I might skip this, I don't know if I want to answer a question like this)
Labeling theory
Self-Control theory (covered in part already in the discussion on parents)
Strain theory
Methods & Measurement

And then, after that, I need to shuffle it around. I'm going to start pulling questions from past prelims and writing practice answers directly from them sooner than I thought I would.

Social disorganization theory - pt. 3

Social disorganization theory is one of the oldest and most enduring theories of crime. In contrast to theories that seek to explain individual behavior using psychological measures, social disorganization theory argues that individual behavior is the result of the structure of the community or neighborhood the individual lives in. Community structure has traditionally meant two different things in this line of research, and not surprisingly, two distinct research tracts have developed from these definitions. The work of Burgess (1925) and Thomas and Znaniecki (1927) can be credited as creating the foundation of social disorganization theory. Burgess (1925) argued that the physical structure of cities were such that criminal activities would be the most prevalent in what he termed the "zone of transition". This is the part of any city where expanding industry meets residential areas; because of the inevitable encroachment of industry, housing in these areas is often inexpensive and poorly maintained, which in turn causes a high rate of residential instability. This instability makes it impossible to develop or enforce prosocial norms and allow criminal behavior to go unpunished. While Burgess' work does speak to the development and enforcement of norms within the community, his primary concern is with the physical structure of the city itself, and his research should be viewed in that regard. Burgess' concentric circles hypothesis was tested by Shaw and McKay (1947), who found support for this idea. Shaw and McKay found that neighborhoods with high crime rates were most often characterized by their economic disadvantage, high rates of residential turnover, and ethnic heterogeneity. These authors also argued that a decided lack of prosocial institutions in these neighborhoods helped perpetuate their anti-social climate. These hypotheses and conclusions were again tested by Sampson and Groves (1994). These authors found support for their hypothesis that friendship networks, unsupervised teen groups, and family disruption mediated the relationship between economic disadvantage, ethnic heterogeneity, and residential instability on crime, though they did caution that their measurements were not perfect. This research suggests that the physical structure of the community creates, in part, its social structure, and that the social structure is what creates crime in the community.

This idea of the social structure of the community being responsible for the amount of crime that community experiences can be traced to the classic work of Thomas and Znaniecki (1927) in their study of the Polish peasantry. These authors studied the importance of generational transmission of values, and found that two forms of social disorganization result when there is generational dissonance or disagreement on what the communities social norms should entail -- this dissonance leads to an increase in crime and deviance because there is no longer a consensus on what is and is not acceptable behavior, and there is a breakdown of social solidarity among members of the older generation and those who wish to adhere to the traditional norms because situations inevitably arise which those norms were not intended to address. In essence, Thomas and Znaniecki demonstrate how broad cultural shifts can create a widespread breakdown in social structure which, in turn, can result in an increase in crime and deviance. Though they never use the phrase "collective efficacy", I believe this is what these authors are referring to; disagreement on social norms and a lack of social solidarity must reduce collective efficacy, which decreases a communities ability to combat crime. This is the theme of the work of Sampson, Raudenbush and Earls (1997) and Sampson and Raudenbush (1999). In each of these articles, the authors find that low levels of collective efficacy are associated with high levels of crime after controlling for all possible structural variables; Sampson and Raudenbush (1999) take this a step further by dispelling the broken windows hypothesis; here, they show that the relationship between public disorder and crime is spurious with the possible exception of robbery.

Social disorganization theory has faced a lot of criticism over the years, much of which is reflected in modern adaptations of the theory. For example, Bursik (1988) argues that social disorganization theory is flawed because it assumes that the social networks of people living in any given community are restricted to other members of the same community, and that by studying communities using cross-sectional data assumes that the physical and social structure of the community will remain stable over time. Furthermore, Kubrin and Weitzer (2003) argue that social disorganization theory acts as if every community exists in a bubble and suggest that future research that draws upon this theory include, somehow, measures of the larger cultural context and the urban political economy, both of which clearly impact community structure. These criticisms are reflected in the work of Griffiths and Chavez (2004), in their study of spatial and temporal changes in neighborhood violence, and by Mears and Bhati (2006), in their study of the impact of neighborhood violence on spatially and socially proximate communities.

The work done by Griffiths and Chavez (2004) is similar to classic research in social disorganization theory because it speaks directly to physical structure, but where Burgess (1925) was focused on his concentric circles hypothesis and Shaw and McKay (1942) studied the characteristics of individual communities in these zones of transition, Griffiths and Chavez (2004) take the entire city of Chicago into consideration. This study of spatial and temporal changes in neighborhood violence expands on traditional concepts of social disorganization theory by not focusing solely on high-crime neighborhoods, but recognizing that there are also communities characterized by mid-range levels of violence that act as buffers between communities with high and low levels of violence. These authors find that levels of violence are not as stable over time as previous research has suggested, though much of the variation involved communities characterized by low and mid-range levels of violence. These authors also identified what they termed "weapon substitution" and "defense diffusion" effects, whereby rates of violence changed throughout the city with the rise of gun violence, including in communities with low levels of violence, where the authors hypothesize residents bought guns as a means of defending themselves from people living in more violent areas.

Another study that reflects the criticisms of Bursik (1988) and Kubrin and Weitzer (2003) is the work done by Mears and Bhati (2006) on the impact community violence has on spatially and socially proximate communities. Here, the authors recognize that social networks are not bound to the communities that people live in, citing other research on social networks which suggests that networks typically comprise people similar to the individual. Therefore, spatially proximate communities are those that are physically adjacent to the community in question, while socially proximate communities are those that have similar characteristics to the community in question. The authors' hypotheses that neighborhood violence will increase violence in each type of community is supported, and, as predicted, it has a greater effect in socially proximate communities than for spatially proximate communities.

Another criticism of social disorganization theory unlike those of Bursik (1988) and Kubrin and Weitzer (2003) was levied by Stark (1987). In his work, Stark revisited many of the core propositions of social disorganization theory and suggested that future work utilize this theory as a means of explaining group differences in violence. This suggestion is apparent in the work of Morenoff and Sampson (1997), who studied black and white differences in population movement in response to violence. Morenoff and Sampson found that the presence of violence is associated with longterm decreases in both black and white population, but that changes in this rate are associated with a decrease in white population and an increase in black population. The authors conclude that this surprising finding speaks to the problem of urban ghettos and the inability of blacks to escape spatially proximate violence.

Social disorganization theory has developed substantially since first conceptualized by Burgess (1925) and Thomas and Znaniecki (1927). Recent research has demonstrated how the physical structure influences the social structure of a community (Sampson and Groves, 1994), how this social structure influences collective efficacy and its impact on crime (Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls, 1997; Sampson and Raudenbush, 1999), while redefining the importance of the physical properties of a community by looking at its placement in the broader context rather than at its own makeup (Griffiths and Chavez, 2004; Mears and Bhati, 2006). Furthermore, social disorganization theory can account for group differences in response to crime (Stark, 1987; Morenoff and Sampson, 1997). Taken together, this recent body of research shows that while this theory has developed substantially over the past 80-plus years, there are still many ways in which it can inform future criminological research.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Social disorganization theory - pt. 2

Just a run down of the citations for my own benefit. There are 12 in total:

Burgess (1925) -- Presents the concentric circles idea, wherein crime is the result of expansion and located in areas close to industry will have the highest crime. These areas are characterized by high rates of mobility, which makes it impossible to establish and/or enforce norms, which results in crime.

Thomas and Znaniecki (1927) -- Study of polish peasants. Generational value dissonance results in socially disorganized communities because there is no longer an agreement on norms and values and a decrease in social solidarity among the older generation due in part to the rise in situations/conflicts which the old rules/norms did not forsee. These happen simultaneously in many instances.

Shaw and McKay (1942) -- The authors test Burgess' (1925) concept of concentric circles. They find high rates of crime in areas characterized by economic disadvantage, residential mobility, and ethnic heterogeneity. They also argue that the lack of social institutions in these neighborhoods helps to perpetuate the problems in the neighborhood.

Stark (1987) -- Revisits propositions of social disorganization theory, reconceptualizes the field into five concepts that address four areas: These concepts are (1) population density, (2) poverty, (3) mixed use neighborhoods, (4) transcience, and (5) dilapidation. His areas of interest are how these concepts impact: (1) moral cyncism among residents, (2) increased opportunities for crime and deviance, (3) increased motivation to deviate, and (4) diminished social control. Stark offers 30 propositions of this revised theory of ecology that he feels can explain both how crime rates remain high in spite of population turnover as well as group differences (race, gender, region) in crime.

Bursik (1988) -- Bursik discusses 5 major criticisms of social disorganization theory: (1) aggregate data do not explain individual behavior, (2) cross sectional data assumes stability, (3) the theory assumes closed social networks, (4) official data may be biased, and (5) the theory assumes consensus of norms is achievable and fails to explain other types of crime (i.e., white collar). Argues that individual data should be integrated with aggregate data and that victimization surveys should be used as well as official data.

Sampson and Groves (1994) -- Test Shaw and McKay's (1942) conceptualization of social disorganization theory and extend it to include friendship networks, unsupervised teen peer groups, and low organizational participation as variables that may potentially mediate the relationship between low SES, ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, family disruption and urbanization on crime. They do mediate this relationship. With some measurement caveats, the authors note the power of Shaw and McKay's original work because the present study is conducted on a British sample.

Morenoff and Sampson (1997) -- Neighborhoods with a high level of crime lost both black and white population over time. Changes in the levels of homicide, homicide diffusion, and economic disadvantage was associated with a decrease in white population but an increase in black population. Authors suggest that this is due to blacks inability to escape spatial proximity to violence.

Sampson, Raudenbush and Earls (1997) -- Collective efficacy mediates the relationship between concentrated disadvantage & residential instability and violence.

Sampson and Raudenbush (1999) -- Collective efficacy explains lower crime rates and observed disorder. It also accounts for lower rates of violence once the reciprocal effects of violence are controlled for. It also shows that the broken windows hypothesis is spurious; the authors find no link between public disorder and crime with the exception of robbery.

Kubrin and Weitzer (2003) -- Suggest social disorganization theory is flawed because it acts as if neighborhoods exist in a bubble; argue for the inclusion of culture (that is, do these neighborhoods embrace oppositional culture? Or have they become moral cynics?), the role of formal social control, and the impact of the greater urban political economy (i.e., what happens outside of the neighborhood politically, socially, and economically can have an impact on the actions in the neighborhood).

Griffiths and Chavez (2004) -- Examine spatial and temporal changes in neighborhood violence, with a focus on gun violence. By using this approach, the authors identify a type of neighborhood characterized by mid-range levels of violence that serve as a buffer between the small percentage of neighborhoods that were characterized by high levels of violence and those communities with low levels of violence. There are no instances where a high-level area borders a low-level area. The authors also identify what they call a "weapon substitution" effect, whereby increases in gun homicides are associated in a decrease of other types of violence, and a "defense diffusion" effect, where gun violence in mid-range and low-level communities increases as residents in those areas purchase guns for defensive purposes (likely to defend themselves from those residents in neighboring mid-range or high-level violence areas).

Mears and Bhati (2006) -- "No Community is an Island", suggest that violence in one community has an effect on those neighborhoods that are spatially and socially proximate to them. Greater levels of resource deprivation was associated with higher levels of violence; both hypotheses about spatial and social effects were supported, though social proximity had a larger effect than spatial proximity.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Social disorganization theory - pt. 1

I just finished reading through my material on social disorganization theory. This is the most daunting of all of the pieces I'm going to have to write (several times) in preparation for the exam, because outside of theories of biology and rational choice, it is one of the oldest and most written about theories of crime. Major studies on this subject have come out of Chicago, Poland, and most recently, Great Britain, dating as far back as 1927. The difficulty, then, is narrowing it down to about a dozen citations that adequately and accurately sum up the entirety of the theory & the research that has been conducted on it.

So, I went through my notes and was a little unhappy with how it looked, because everything conducted recently is scattered and only focuses on little twists and nuances without looking at the larger body, more or less. To address this, I went through a couple of syllabi from classes I'd taken over the past couple of years to shore it up, because one class I had explicitly spent two weeks on the theory, and that shored it up nicely. Now I can cite those classic studies in Chicago and Poland, and I can cite the more recent stuff in England, and I can cite the the major conceptual and methodological changes done recently. Pretty good start to this.

In other news, the faculty meeting is finally scheduled for this Friday. We'll see how that goes. I don't know that I have high expectations for this.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Next week

Spent Friday just doing some unrelated research stuff, in part because the database where I download my articles from was down, so I couldn't do much on that front. Met with the new chair of the program to talk about the prelim and his suggestion for my studying plan was exactly what I had been doing already; when I told him what I'd been doing, he said it sounded like I was doing great so far.

Had a great night out last night that warrants an emo-blog post, but I don't think that will be coming. At least, not here.

This week:

1) Read my notes on social disorganization theory
2) Read my notes on race
3) Reread my notes on strain theory
4) Write about strain theory
5) Begin writing about social disorganization theory

I'm not sure how much I can get done, just because writing two pieces this week could be difficult. I did start work on strain theory last week and it's pretty straight forward, but social disorganization theory has a longer history, dating back to research conducted in Poland in the 1920s.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

On follow-up

It's only Thursday afternoon, and I have everything I wanted to do this week finished! So tomorrow, I'm going into campus to do some grant work and download and read a couple of articles I used in the previous entry to clarify some things about them.

The previous entry was 6 pages long in Word and had 15 unique citations. So it is basically longer and more in depth than it might need to be on the exam. And, like the entry on parents, I was able to identify some things I need to work on and already have a better sense of how this research hangs together on paper. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The role of peers

The interesting difference between the role of parents with the role of peers is that parents are almost exclusively conceptualized as barriers to criminal activity, be it indirectly through the development of self-control via parental socialization (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990) or directly via social control (Hirschi, 1969?) or monitoring (i.e., Osgood and Anderson, 2004?), while peers are considered a motivating influence that encourages involvement in criminal or otherwise deviant activities.

The importance of peers first came into consideration with Sutherland's (1947) theory of differential association. Differential association argues that people become criminal through their associations (i.e., friendships) with other criminals. Sutherland argues that these relationships will provide the individual with an excess of delinquent or antisocial definitions; in other words, these relationships will cause the individual to develop the same antisocial attitude as their friends. It is through these relationships that individuals learn the techniques necessary to engage in criminal activities as well as the proper reasons for doing so. Sutherland notes that these relationships vary in frequency of contact, duration, priority, and intensity, so merely knowing someone who is engaged in delinquent or deviant behavior does not automatically mean that the individual in question will also become delinquent.

Sutherland's theory was expanded upon by Burgess and Akers (1966), who incorporated the notion of differential association into their concept of social learning theory. Social learning theory is based around four central concepts: differential association, differential reinforcement, definitions, and imitation. Differential association is used here similar to how Sutherland (1947) originally conceptualized it: it is association with delinquent peers leading to an excess of definitions of behavior favoring delinquency; it is an environment where deviant behavior is normative and prosocial behavior non-normative. Differential reinforcement is the balance between the anticipated rewards and consequences of a particular act and the actual rewards and consequences; this suggests that a lack of suitable punishments will reinforce the individuals delinquent identity. This is related to the third concept, definitions. Here, the authors argue that the individual attaches general and specific meanings to the behavior they are engaging in, both from a religious or moral standpoint (general) and a specific standpoint (this may also be considered a symbolic interactionist definition, such that the individual is attaching specific meanings to these behaviors ((Katz, ??)). Finally, the individual must also imitate the behaviors they are exposed to in order to become delinquent themselves. While these propositions may seem intuitive, they do expand about Sutherland's original conceptualization in important ways -- namely, Sutherland argues that merely making criminal behavior normative will cause individuals to engage in these acts. Burgess and Akers include the actual process of becoming a delinquent that Sutherland takes for granted.

Naturally, social learning theory, differential association, and the general perspective that peers influence criminal behavior has evolved since Burgess and Akers first introduced social learning theory in 1966. Recent research on the role of peers has taken three distinct approaches: (1) an assessment of demographic differences, (2) an expansion of the definition of "friends" to include romantic peers, "best friends", and siblings, and (3) reassessing the idea of differential definitions of delinquent behavior.

The work of Haynie and Payne (2006) and Mears et al. (1998) are recent examples of research that has focused on the importance of race and/or gender in regard to the relationship between peer associations and crime. Haynie and Payne (2006) focus explicitly on the ability of friendship network composition to explain racial differences in participation or involvement in violence. The authors also show significant differences between white, black, and Hispanic youth in regard to the effect of friendship network characteristics on propensity for violence. Perhaps most notably, these authors find that network heterogeneity is negatively associated with involvement in violence for black adolescents, but positively associated with involvement in violence for white adolescents.

Gender, specifically the gender gap in involvement in delinquency, is examined by Mears et al. (1998). These authors argue that men and women are effected differently by exposure to similar criminogenic conditions, in this case, association with delinquent peers. Their analysis supports their hypothesis that the gender gap in delinquency exists partially because of men and women attach different moral evaluations to delinquency, in this case, the behavior of their peers. At the very least, these findings qualify the basic premise of social learning theory and differential association; being surrounded by delinquent peers does not have the same effect for all persons, above and beyond Sutherland's (1947) allowing for variation based on frequency of contact, intensity, duration, and priority.

The expansion of the definition of "friends" is another part of differential association and social learning theory that has come into consideration in recent years. Specifically, recent research has looked at the way relationships with romantic partners (Haynie et al., 2005) and siblings (Haynie and Mchugh, 2003) influence involvement in delinquent activity as well as whether network placement, specifically the difference between friends and best friends, impacts involvement in delinquency (Weerman and Smeenk, 2005). Both Haynie et al. (2005) and Haynie and Mchugh (2003) expand upon the traditional conceptualization of friends to include other peers that adolescents normally and reasonably spend time with in varying capacities. Not surprisingly, both sets of authors find that relationships with romantic partners and siblings during adolescence can contribute to the individual's overall participation in delinquency; Haynie et al. (2005) show that romantic partners' delinquency has a unique effect on the individual's participation, net of the roles of their other friends. While romantic partners have more of a direct influence on participation in delinquency, Haynie and Mchugh (2003) show that siblings have an indirect effect on involvement in delinquency. Here, the authors show that siblings have an indirect effect on delinquency via their own friends; that is, if you have a sibling who has delinquent friends, you may be more likely to become delinquent as well via your knowledge of and interactions with this third party. A third approach is taken by Weeman and Smeenk (2005), who ask whether network placement -- i.e., friends versus best friends -- makes a difference in the likelihood that an individual will become involved in delinquency. Here, contrary to what may seem to be an intuitive relationship, these authors find no support for the idea that best friends will have a stronger impact on participation in delinquency than ordinary friends; there is no difference whatsoever. This further complicates the role of peers; romantic partners (Haynie et al., 2005) have a direct impact, siblings have an indirect impact (Haynie and Mchugh, 2003), but best friends do not play a special part.

Finally, a third area of research on the role of peers has focused on reassessing the idea of "definitions" first discussed by Burgess and Akers (1966). This approach, exemplified by the work of Rebellon (2006) and Kreager (2007), argues that delinquency may be a means to an end for some adolescents, instead of being the end result from their existing relationships. Specifically, both authors argue that in some cases, involvement in delinquency is a way for adolescents to attract positively-valued attention from their peers. Of course, this does not apply to all adolescents; Kreager (2007) finds that it is most applicable among young males with low levels of education. Rebellon (2006) also shows that engaging in delinquency to attract peers doesn't necessarily work the way hypothesized by Kreager (2007); here, Rebellon finds no support for a direct effect, but he does find what Burgess and Akers (1966) might call an "imitation" factor, in that those persons the individual is trying to attract socially are more likely to engage in delinquency themselves, indirectly reinforcing the individual's idea that these types of behaviors will make them popular. That being said, participation in delinquency is not always a means of attracting peers; Kreager (?) shows that isolated individuals who have problematic encounters with their peers are more likely to become involved in delinquency. In this case, delinquency is the byproduct of negative relationships with peers, rather than something that is a result of positive relationships with them.

Of course, while research on the peer effect does show that peers influence delinquency in a variety of ways, Haynie and Osgood (?) caution us about taking the peer effect too far. Their research indicates that the effect of antisocial behavior becoming normative through peer interactions is not as significant as differential association (Sutherland, 1947) would have us believe; that peer interactions do not fully account for the importance of opportunity; and that peer influence does not mediate other influences, including those of age, gender, family, or school. Therefore, the argument can be made that the role of peers is no different from the role of parents -- this group does have a real influence on involvement in delinquency, but not to the extent that they were originally believed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Went to bed around 12:30-1am last night. Fell asleep around 5:30-6am. Major tossing and turning, compounded by a) the idea that I am going to miserably fail the exam, b) an idea I had for my first lecture in SOC 101, whenever that day comes, and c) I hate the heat and I hate early meetings.

So, today was bad.

Did some grant stuff, but I didn't do as much as I could/should have done because by 11:30 this morning, I was dead on my feet. Driving home from campus, I zoned out for about 5 miles and then suddenly realized I was driving 20mph under the speed limit. Got home, wound up sleeping for about an hour, and then loaded up on caffeine and tried to read my notes on strain theory. The treatment strain theory has received in the literature is fairly consistent -- people agree that it applies, they've shown it applies in different circumstances (i.e., one study focuses on the homeless, one focuses on an incarcerated population) and it's shown both economic strain (I want money but I can't get it legally) and emotional strain (This sucks, so FTW) are both real. But, like every other theory, they explain some portion of the variance, but not 100% of it, and there's one article that shows how strain interacts with other factors. Interestingly, the articles I read today barely overlapped with the articles I've read previously -- so these don't include Broidy and Agnew (date? I forget) which shows men and women experience different kinds of strain or Thaxton and Agnew (date? I forget) which shows strain resulting from poor relationships is a better predictor of crime than not being in positive prosocial relationships. So, similar to the effect of parents piece I wrote about earlier, there's this recognized effect of strain, but it doesn't apply in the exact ways that the authors (Merton, 194X; Agnew, 1992) actually stated.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Late night musings

Got nothing done this weekend, aside from the little bit of work I did today. It's easy to fall back into the trap of "I have 3 months or so to still prepare for this exam, so why not take some more time off?", but I can't do it it like that. Doing it that way = fail.

Tomorrow, I have a meeting at 10am, but all I've got to do beforehand is print stuff up for it. Then I need to justify staying their longer, because I'm trying to make it worth my trouble to drive in since gas is so expensive. So, I'll probably stick around for a couple of hours to do some coding, or maybe get a head start on whatever work I'm given for the grant this week. I've got some other things to get done, namely starting to focus on stuff for the grad student organization.

As far as prelim stuff, since it's an abbreviated week, I'm not going to go too insane (I hope). I think that, from here on out, I'm going to be giving myself 5 goals every Sunday night to try and accomplish that week as far as exam prep goes. But, since I didn't do anything today because my wife had the day off and we just hung out, this week I'll make it 4:

1) Finish organizing my notes on the articles I find useful for any potential methods & measurement question;
2) Read my notes on strain theory;
3) Reread my notes on the role of peers;
4) Write something on either strain theory or the role of peers.

Should be doable. I hope. We already have plans for next weekend so there's not much wiggle room on this one, but that's okay. I plan on getting a ton done Wednesday and Friday, if nothing else.

As for the youtube video- I am completely re-immersed in politics again. After the 2000 election, I became completely disheartened -- and this was intensified in 2004. I tried to pretend like it doesn't matter to me, but it does, moreso now than it did then since I have a significant stake in it now above and beyond the basic human condition. I am unapologetically leftist. Deal with it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another wasted Saturday

Going back home today, which is going to basically kill the day because I'm not doing anything productive this morning (blogging, gaming) and I'm not going to be doing anything productive tonight (even I'm not ready to spend a Saturday night studying yet). My family and I have a strange relationship, so things like this are never something I look forward to. At all.

I'm debating either broadening this blog slightly to account for my recent return to studying and following politics again, or starting a second blog for that stuff. It'd just be reaction pieces, so I don't know if its worth it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Great start

I am very proud of the "effect of parents" post. It has 13 unique citations, and if I can improve the way I structure that answer and fit everything together better, I'm going to have a good answer to any question involving the role of parents in delinquency. On top of that, it incorporates both self-control, power-control theory, and social disorganization theory, so I can come at it from different directions. Which is exactly what I need to be doing.

If I am knocking out stuff like this at the end of May, then I think I am in good shape since the test isn't until the middle of August. Granted, I have a lot of material left to cover, and then I have to go over it all again several more times, but still, I'm off to a great start, if I do say so myself.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Under pressure

Yeah. Started working on that post about the role of parents and peers. Got really stressed out about it. Major knot in my neck and shoulder, and I am obsessing over that post because that's how I roll.

Yuck. Three more months of this.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The effect of parents

I have spent the last little while reading through my notes on the differential effects of parents and peers on the development of criminal behavior. These are two very important groups because both have strong and often competing influences during adolescence. Not surprisingly, these are also at the center of the biggest debate in criminology: whether or not people are born good or bad. Persons arguing the former position cite Sutherland's theory of differential association or Akers' social learning theory and say that criminal behavior is the result of relationships and time spent with other delinquents. Persons arguing the latter say tend to cite Hirschi's social bond theory, though more recently it's social bond theory in the life course perspective. This perspective basically argues that strong relationships with other people, especially parents, acts as a deterrent against involvement in criminal or deviant activities. Others, arguing from the self-control perspective, say that because self-control is the direct result of the parenting practices used to raise the individual during their childhood, the parents have the most important role in determining whether or not a person will become a criminal.

Naturally, it's much more complex than that, but for the purpose of this blog, it's okay. Anyway, the interesting thing about the competing roles of parents and peers is that both sides argue that their perspective is 100% dominant and explains the lion's share of the variance in delinquent behavior. Recent research shows that both relationships with both parents and peers do have a significant impact on an individual's involvement in delinquency, neither is the be-all end-all explanatory variable that it claims to be.

Recent research on the role of parents focuses on the following aspects: the relationship between parents with low self-control and their children's self-control, the role that the neighborhood might play in both the development of self-control as well as the effects of high levels of collective efficacy and average rates of unstructured socializing, and the role of family structure (single parent home vs "intact" families). The pattern of these relationships suggest that although the relationship between parent and child is important, the relationship between community and family is also important. For example, Pratt, Turner, and Piquero (2004) show that community structure contributes as much to self control as parental socialization does, such that persons living in disadvantaged communities will likely develop lower self control that persons living in non-disadvantaged areas net of parental socialization. These findings are similar to those of Hay et al. (2006), who found that community disadvantage increases the effect of crime on problems within the family environment, suggesting that crime is more detrimental to within-family relationships in impoverished areas. However, the effect of community structure on the role of parents is not limited to the importance of socioeconomic status. Specifically, the way the residents of a community interact with one another also impacts the effectiveness of parents. For example, Simons et al. (2005) argue that the level of collective efficacy -- the degree to which members of a community believe they are capable of controlling or impacting the community in which they live -- also plays an important role. These authors suggest that collective efficacy is positively associated with authoritative parenting, such that communities that are more efficacious will be more likely to be comprised of families where the parents are more authoritative. Both of these concepts was shown to decrease the likelihood of adolescents associating with delinquent peers; furthermore, these authors also show a moderating effect, in that the deterrent effect of authoritative parenting is greater in areas of high collective efficacy. This study is not the only one to find a relationship of this nature. Osgood and Anderson (2004) find that time spent in unstructured socializing -- that is, adolescent socialization that does not include any parental monitoring or involvement -- has both an individual and contextual effect. These authors argue that time spent in unstructured socializing is associated with involvement in delinquent behavior; they also show that communities with high rates of unstructured socializing also have high rates of delinquency. In other words, no matter how closely parents monitor their own children, the fact that other parents are not monitoring their own kids' behaviors increases the likelihood that their children will become involved in some form of delinquency. This is an interesting relationship, because conventional wisdom suggests that individual parenting methods have a tremendously important impact on adolescent involvement in delinquency, be it through creating self-control through parental socialization (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990) or through monitoring adolescent friendships with potentially delinquent peers (Walsh, 2005).

This body of research overlaps with two other important roles parents play. I have already mentioned the relationship between community structure, parental socialization, and self-control (Hay et al, 2006). Recent research also suggests that parental socialization may not be necessarily as important to the development of self-control as Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) hypothesized. For instance, Nofziger (2008) shows that mothers with low self-control will raise children with low self-control, because their own lack of impulse control inhibits their ability to adequately monitor their children's behavior and consistently punish deviant behaviors. While this line of research suggests that the relationship between parental socialization and self-control may actually be spurious, there are others who argue that the relationship is non-existent. This perspective, taken by Wright and Beaver (2005) , argues that self-control is most likely biologically determined, which, if true, would remove parental socialization from the model completely. These authors cite biological deficiencies such as ADHD which have an undeniable and intuitive relationship to self-control as evidence that biological causes should be taken into serious consideration. In their study, the inclusion of ADHD into the model made the effect of parental socialization weak and inconsistent, supporting their hypothesis that self-control is the result of biological factors. In sum, the relationship between low self-control and parental socialization proposed by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) may be effected in different ways by community disadvantage (Hay et al., 2006), community structure (Osgood and Anderson, 2004; Simons et al., 2005), parental self-control (Nofziger, 2008), and biological factors (Wright and Beaver, 2004).

In addition to the roles of parents I have already discussed, a third factor considered in the literature are family structure and processes. This refers not only to whether or not there is a difference between one and two-parent households, but also incorporates things like the age of the mother at childbirth or the relationship status of the parent if they are not married and living with the other biological parent. This line of research speaks to within-group differences among parents, suggesting that the mere fact of having a parent/being a parent does not have a universal deterrent effect on whether or not you/your child will become involved in delinquent behavior.

The age of the mother at childbirth is an issue raised by Pogarsky et al. (2003). These authors show that children born to young mothers were more likely to be involved in delinquency than children born to older mothers, though this effect was stronger among white and Hispanic families than it was for African-Americans. The authors suggest that this relationship is partially due to the circumstances these children are born into (i.e., unstable family lives), but that this factor doesn't completely explain the "young mother" effect.

Another factor to be taken into consideration is the family structure itself, specifically whether or not the individual in question is presently living in or grew up in a one or two-parent household. This issue is addressed by both Demuth and Brown (2004) and Apel and Kaukinen (2008). Demuth and Brown (2004) show unequivocally that adolescents raised in single-parent homes are more likely to be delinquent than their peers in two-parent homes, and that children raised by single fathers are less delinquent than children raised by single mothers. That being said, these authors also show that the processes by which the family operates and the methods employed by the parents to monitor and discipline their children completely mediate the difference between single mothers and single fathers, suggesting that being a single parent isn't necessarily the important factor, but that the parenting methods employed are. Abel and Kaukinen (2008) tease out the within group differences in two-parent homes, allowing for differences in marital status (married versus cohabiting) and the presence of children from previous relationships. These authors show that adolescents in a home with one non-biological parent are substantially more delinquent than their counterparts, and that there is substantial variation within families centered on the presence of step-siblings and whether or not the parents are officially married. A related issue here is identified by Hagan, Simpson and Gillis (1987) and again by McCarthy, Hagan and Woodward (1999), both of whom suggest that the processes utilized by parents extends not only to their ability to discipline their children, but also the philosophical standpoint of the parents -- that is, are they raising their children in a traditional patriarchal environment, or are they utilizing a more balanced approach? Both Hagan, Simpson and Gillis (1987) and McCarthy, Hagan, and Woodward (1999) show substantial variation between families with two-married parents and single parents in the delinquency of their children based on this philosophical approach. This, coupled with the findings of Demuth and Brown (2004), Apel and Kaukinen (2008) and Pogarsky et al (2003) suggest that, as I said previously, the mere presence of parents in ones life doesn't guarantee a reduction in the likelihood of delinquency.


The post on the effect of peers will be coming tonight or tomorrow. Man, that was rough, and could use some reorganizing, but I am glad I did it because it's going to make the actual answer so much better.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Welcome to the weekend

Actually managed to get more done yesterday than I thought, because I've become surprisingly efficient after four years of this stuff, and part of this is spending time thinking about what you've read and rolling it around and letting it sink in.

Knocked out three more sets of notes, today covering social disorganization/structure/class, corporate crime, and labeling theory/reintegrative shaming, and then I read three articles: South and Messner's (2001) piece on the link between criminology and demography, MacMillan's (2001) article on the economic impact victimization can have in the life course, and Hagan and Foster's (2004) article on the association between violent victimization during adolescence and early entry into adulthood. I also tore through a stack of about 70 articles or so, it's tough to judge, could be more, could be less, from a couple of classes. A lot of them were social psych articles that didn't really apply -- things like the role of self-esteem, identity conflict, etc -- so I pulled out some things that are useful (namely anything related to Matsueda's conceptualization of reflected appraisals) .

Today, I think I might not do anything. Maybe tonight I'll look through some of the notes just to see what's there, since I haven't really had a chance to do that yet. I really don't feel well this morning, so a wasted day might not hurt.

This week, I collect my notes on methods and measurement, I'd like to spend some time reading through my notes on race and gender, I've got a grant meeting on Tuesday morning to prepare for, and I need to look at the model for this paper some more. If I can get a good handle on race and gender by the end of the week and get into parents and peers, I'll be pretty happy, I think.

Another Friday

Spent part of the drive yesterday rolling the notes I read previously on social control theory around in my head to find ways to synthesize it. Basically, Gottfredson & Hirschi (1990) argue that self control is the one & only predictor of criminal behavior; they say self control control is a product of interactions with parents during childhood, it becomes stable and unchanging by age 7, and this process is consistent across race and gender. Research since then has shown that G&H were only partially correct; self control is a strong predictor of involvement in criminal behavior, but it is not stable (parenting practices can modify it in adolescence; other relationships effect it throughout the life course), it also isn't the only component that predicts criminal behavior, as the presence of self-control variables in models doesn't completely mediate the relationship delinquency and other measures. Also, some suggest that maybe parenting isn't as important to the development of self control as G&H argue; for instance, persons born with functional deficits like ADHD obviously have issues with impulse control, and so there is likely a biological component at work here as well.

If only I could remember the citations for some of that off the top of my head.

Right now, I am trying to finish getting my notes organized. The summer "officially" starts Monday, so I have to go in and take care of a bunch of paperwork and get ready for a grant meeting on Tuesday morning. But, if I get these journal notes organized by then, it won't be too much to pull relevant material from my course syllabi to supplement them (there's already a lot of overlap, obviously) and then, well, we'll see.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ain't no hangman gonna throw a noose around me

It turns out the meeting I missed yesterday wasn't my fault; we talked for 45 minutes or so today about the exam, and it reaffirmed much of what I had already assumed/figured out on my own. The funny thing is that it turns out the big meeting I wrote about previously is now on again, because it's department policy so they have to do it. Ha ha ha. So I saved some of my questions I had for today for the next meeting, whenever that is.

The downside of today is that my presentation scheduled for November in STL is...not looking good. I need to do some serious work on that badboy to replicate my original findings. I just had an idea for something I could do for it, so, we'll see. I hope.

Tomorrow I am taking a partial day off to go have lunch with a friend. Friday I finish organizing my notes and preparing for a grant meeting on Tuesday; this weekend, I do as little work as I can and take some time to myself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I am Jack's growing anxiety

I have gone through all four journals I wanted to hit (American Sociological Review, Criminology, Social Forces, and Journal of Research on Crime & Delinquency) and pulled out tons of abstracts from each one. These, in addition to the syllabi for several classes (Juvenile Delinquency, Theories of Criminality, Deviant Behavior, Sociology of Adolescence, Sociology of Interpersonal Violence, and Race and Ethnic Relations) will form the core of my study material, though some of those classes I'm really only pulling one of two things from.

Now I am going through the journal stuff and reorganizing the abstracts into the following categories. Asterisks are what I accomplished as of this post:

Age / The Life Course *
The Role of Parents *
The Role of Peers *
Social Class / Social Disorganization Theory
Strain Theory
Labeling Theory
Self-Control Theory
Issues in Methods & Measurement
Social Class / Corporate Crime

My goal is to have everything done by the weekend, I hope. There are two entries for social class because SES is an interesting beast of a concept that consistently shows no relationship between class status and crime, because it turns out status is associated with different social psychological measures and routine activities that lead to motivations/opportunities for crime, so gang violence is one thing to talk about because it is associated with lower class status, while corporate offending is another thing to talk about because it is associated with higher class status. Social disorganization theory also captures neighborhood context and effects, which isn't something we are necessarily concerned with in regard to occupational and corporate crime. And so on and so forth. There is also a lot of overlap between some of these things, which is good for me in the long run because right now, I'm terrified of trying to synthesize some of this stuff into one coherent response.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I am Jack's throbbing headache

I have finished going through every issue of The American Sociological Review and Social Forces for every article with the keyword "crime" from 1990-2007. I pulled every abstract, and then read every abstract and removed it if it wasn't something I felt I could use on the exam in any way, and if I did keep it, made notes about where I might use it or where else I might encounter it (i.e., ASR has a lot of articles that were used in my Soc of Interpersonal Violence seminar). This came out to be 50 or so more articles that I have to sort through, though not all of them are new to me. I have to go through these again and make another round of cuts and place them in the context of all of the other articles I have already.

I found a couple of really good life course articles, one talking about military experience as a life course transition and another talking about the life course perspective in general. I also found a ton of stuff on race and social dis/organization, which my notes have been lacking on. I also found a good piece on quantitative versus qualitative research, which I needed something in. I think these past couple of days have been very worthwhile, as I have strengthened my resource base in several areas. I have a ton of notes that other people have collected and things like that, but they haven't been very helpful to me thus far. I can only stare at things so much, and it's not helping me to study like that.

Next up, I go through the journals Criminology and Research on Crime & Delinquency for the past 5 years in total and pull everything that might be useful. Then I take everything from these four journals that I've kept plus everything from several classes (thankfully I have brief article outlines that I used as study guides for other exams!), and then it's a matter of organizing everything again and categorizing it by theories of crime and by correlates of crime.

And then I start writing practice answers.

This test isn't until the middle of August.