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.