Age and Crime
The curvilinear relationship between age and crime is one of the most consistent findings in criminology, and it has been referred to as a “resilient empirical regularity” (Brame & Piquero, 2003, p. 107) and “one of the brute facts of criminology” (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1983, p. 552). Social statisticians as early as Quetelet in the 1800s (Steffensmeier, Allan, Harer, & Streifel, 1989) identified a strong relationship between age and crime that has come to be known as the age–crime curve. The general form of the relationship between age and crime is not much debated. In aggregate studies, the age–crime curve is unimodal, with official crime rates rising in adolescence to a peak in the late teenage years and then declining rapidly through adulthood. It is also apparent that the age–crime curve peaks somewhat later for violent crimes as compared with property crimes. Although much research examining the age–crime relationship has relied on official data and age-specific arrest rates (Marvell &Moody, 1991),Moffitt (1993) noted that the general curvilinear pattern also holds true more generally for conduct disorder, antisocial behavior, and childhood aggression. Farrington (1986) and Hirschi and Gottfredson (1983) have commented that although scholars agree on the general form of the age– crime curve, there is less agreement on its meaning and implications. Read more about Age and Crime.
Aggression and Crime
One of the most consistently documented findings flowing from criminological research is that approximately 5% to 6% of the U.S. population commits more than 50% of all criminal offenses. This small cadre of offenders is often referred to as career criminals or habitual offenders, to capture their prolonged and frequent involvement in criminal offenses. Even more striking than the sheer volume of crime committed at the hands of habitual offenders is their widespread use of physical violence. Compared with other criminals, career criminals are more likely to use serious violence; they also use physical aggression much more frequently. Rape, robbery, assault, and murder, for example, are crimes that are almost exclusively confined to habitual offenders. In all respects, then, career criminals represent the most serious violent offenders, and they also pose the greatest danger to society.
Career criminals are thus very different than all other offenders in terms of their frequent involvement in crime as well as their frequent use of aggression. The questions that come to bear, then, are the following: (a)What are the factors that contribute to the development of habitual offenders, and (b) are these the same factors that contribute to the development of all other types of offenders? The answers to these questions are obviously complex, but rich insight can be garnered by focusing on two intertwined issues. Read more about Aggression and Crime.
Citizenship and Crime
The purpose of this research paper, then, is to remind readers that noncitizens, especially Latinos and other immigrant group members, usually reside in economically disadvantaged communities. Sampson and Bartusch (1998) noted that legal cynicism and dissatisfaction with police were both intertwined with levels of neighborhood disadvantage, an effect that trumped racial differences in attitudes toward the police, even after controlling for neighborhood violent crime rates. Moreover, ecological characteristics of policing also include the use of physical and deadly force at the city level, officer misconduct in police precincts, and slower response times in communities, highlighting research that attitudes toward the police may be a function of neighborhood context. These actions hit young black males harder than others, but the impact on Latino youths is an open issue, as is the impact of recent immigration and the role of immigrant concentration in shaping police encounters. These issues potentially appear to construct a different story with respect to Latinos, violence, and the police.
This research paper closes with suggestions for future research. U.S. society is now composed of multiethnic populations, and the time has come to routinely examine Latinos in police research as well as differences within citizenship status groups, including naturalized citizens, legal residents, and unauthorized migrants. Pioneering research, together with early immigration and crime studies, includes issues relevant to Latinos and the police. Before addressing what we do and do not know about Latinos and police, the consequences of ignoring the Latino population is emphasized. Read more about Citizenship and Crime.
Education and Crime
The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of the topic of education and crime. Although at first glance this appears to be a simple task, there is an inherent complexity to examining such a broad subject. There are many different perspectives from which a discussion of education and crime could develop. Criminologists might assume that a discussion of education and crime would comprise an overview of the impact that an individual’s education level may have on his or her criminal or antisocial behavior. Alternatively, parents might assume it is a discussion of the impact of school violence and crime on the safety and learning of their children, and legislatures might assume it to be a comparison of the monies spent on fighting crime in the United States versus those spent to improve American schools. A novice might be expecting all or none of these approaches.
The research paper begins with an overview of the generally accepted views about the relationships between education and crime. Given the volume of research on this topic, researchers have generally agreed on several basic specifics that they believe reflect the true relationship between crime and education. Next, this research paper attempts to clarify several points that need to be addressed initially. First, several general terms are defined (e.g., education, educational attainment, intelligence, street smarts, and crime) and then discussed as they are used in the study of the connections between education and crime. Finally, a discussion of how these terms intermingle is offered. Read more about Education and Crime.
Employment and Crime
Employment has long been observed to be a correlate of criminal behavior. For example, Belgian criminologist Adolphe Quetelet, in an 1831 publication analyzing French crime statistics titled Research on the Propensity for Crime at Different Ages (cited in Beirne, 1987), remarked that individuals who were unemployed or employed in “lowly occupations” were more likely to commit crimes (Beirne, 1987, pp. 1153–1154).Thus, the study of crime and the economy is a long-standing tradition in criminology.
To maintain a sufficiently narrow scope, this research paper focuses on individual-level theories of, and observational research on, the relationship between employment and crime. It thus omits a review of employment–crime studies at the macro level and experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations of employment interventions. The first section in this research paper comprises a theoretical overview of the relationship between employment and crime. The second section reviews the empirical literature on the employment– crime connection, the third section identifies empirical challenges that must be overcome in employment–crime research, and the final section offers some concluding remarks and outlines future directions. Read more about Employment and Crime.
Families and Crime
This research paper brings together research and theory from criminology, psychology, family science, and sociology regarding the role of family processes in the etiology of delinquent and criminal behavior. Theory and research in the area of crime and delinquency have increasingly emphasized the importance of family processes in explaining the development of deviant behavior. Hirschi’s (1969) social control theory, Sampson and Laub’s (1990) life course perspective, Akers’s (1973) social learning model, and Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) general theory of crime, for example, all identify parental behavior as a cause of delinquent behavior. Furthermore, criminologists have begun to focus on family- related issues such as marital violence, child abuse, and the manner in which romantic partners influence each other’s involvement in antisocial behavior.
For the majority of Americans, the cultural ideal of the family emphasizes affection, consensus, harmony, and caregiving. There is, however, another side to families. Although families often function as an important source of nurturance and support, it is also the case that many categories of criminal and antisocial behavior are rooted in family processes or are directed toward family members. Most people have some awareness of this fact. Indeed, if asked why some individuals commit crimes, the average person is likely to provide an explanation that focuses on how the deviant individual was parented while growing up. Read more about Families and Crime.
Gender and Crime
The study of the nature and extent of crime has largely been the study of the nature and extent of male crime. The results of largely male-based studies have been used to craft programs, interventions, and punishments that would be applied to all offenders. These male-based interventions have historically been merely used to respond to girls’ and women’s crime on the basis of the assumption that a one-size-fits-all model of crime, punishment, theory, and intervention works for both genders. Researchers in the 20th and 21st centuries, though, have challenged the notion that female offenders are the same as male offenders, that the two commit crimes for the same reasons and should be treated in exactly the same manner by the criminal justice system.
The subject of gender and crime is complex, multifaceted, and certainly worthy of serious scholarly attention. For the sake of cohesiveness and general education, this research paper focuses on women and crime; specifically, it outlines the historical lack of specific focus on female criminality and the complications this paucity of attention has thus created for female offenders. Attention is paid to important theoretical perspectives informing the field of gender and crime; female pathways to crime; recent trends in female criminality; and, finally, women’s experience of the criminal justice system, including important trends in the imprisonment of girls and women. Read more about Gender and Crime.
Guns and Crime
Compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has higher rates of violent crime, both fatal and nonfatal, and a higher rate of gun ownership (Kleck, 1997, p. 64). These facts have led many people to conclude that America’s high rate of gun ownership must be at least partially responsible for the nation’s high rates of violence, or at least its high homicide rate. This belief in a causal effect of gun levels on violent crime rates has in turn led many people to conclude that limiting the availability of guns would substantially reduce violent crime, especially the homicide rate.
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most intensely awaited decisions in its recent history, holding that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms, and not merely the right of states to maintain armed militias (see Cottrol, 1994, for a good overview of the constitutional issues linked with the gun control debate). The decision, minority opinion, and supporting briefs all cited dozens of scholarly studies bearing on the links between guns and violence. This research paper summarizes that literature. Read more about Guns and Crime.
Immigration and Crime
Concerns about the connection between immigration and crime have a long-standing history in the United States, dating back to colonial times. Increased immigration was believed to be associated with increased criminal activity. Negative perceptions of new immigrants were exacerbated by the fact that the British frequently shipped convicts on a large scale for white servitude in certain colonies where labor was needed. The colonists were also disturbed by people who fled to United States to escape the consequences of misbehavior committed in their homeland; these undesirable free immigrants were believed likely to become troublesome citizens. As the practice of transportation of convicts by the British came to an end with the Revolutionary War, new concerns arose regarding European immigrants who came to the United States after experiencing hunger and hardship of long wars in their country of origin. In addition, belief remained that several European governments continued sending felons to the United States. Thus, perceptions arose that new immigrants disproportionately engaged in crime because they belonged to the criminal class or because they were unable to adjust to new conditions of American life.
The perception about the positive relationship between immigration and crime also appears to be motivated by anti-immigrant, xenophobic sentiments. Negative stereotypes of newcomers often ensue from periods of increased immigration, in particular during economic downturns or when new immigrants differ substantially from the natives in cultural, racial, and/or ethnic backgrounds. Read more about Immigration and Crime.
Intelligence and Crime
Definitions of human intelligence generally point to at least three characteristics. First, intelligence is best understood as a compilation of brain-based cognitive abilities. According to 52 eminent intelligence researchers, intelligence reflects “a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience” (Ellis & Walsh, 2003, p. 343).
Intelligence is the most studied human characteristic in the world. Since World War I, millions of individuals across virtually every continent have taken intelligence tests. The information garnered from these tests has been subject to intense debate over the validity of the results and the interpretation of the patterns found. IQ (intelligence quotient, a score on any of several standardized tests), it seems, is an important predictor of life outcomes, such as the level of education one achieves and the amount of money a person will earn over his or her lifetime. IQ, however, is also linked to a number of social problems. IQ predicts the use of welfare and other social safety nets. It predicts the number of births one will have out of wedlock and, more important, it predicts criminal involvement. For these reasons, and more, it is fair to say that no other variable has generated as much debate or as much criticism as has IQ. Read more about Intelligence and Crime.
Mental Illness and Crime
Crime and disorder are often associated with deviation from the traditional norms and values of society. To ensure that the norms and values are met and respected, laws are instituted that govern behaviors of individuals and prohibit deviant behaviors. These deviant behaviors are often associated with crime. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the term mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders: conditions that result in alterations of thinking, mood, and behavior. These alterations often cause deviations from normal behavior and thus are often classified as crime. Couple this with the estimated 5% of the U.S. population that have a mental illness, and the problem of mental illness and crime becomes apparent.
Individuals with mental illness typically access the criminal justice system through law enforcement, courts, and corrections (jail, prison, community corrections, and probation). At the time of arrest, mentally ill offenders begin the journey through the criminal justice system. This flow through the system comprises the following five steps: (1) arrest; (2) booking (jail); (3) court; (4) prison, jail, or probation; and (5) release. Read more about Mental Illness and Crime.
Neighborhoods and Crime
The typical point of departure for understanding crime is to investigate differences between individuals to discern what characteristics distinguish offenders from nonoffenders, high-rate from low-rate offenders, and persistent from less persistent offenders. It is often the case that psychological, family, biological, social, and environmental factors are front-runners for explaining why people commit crimes. Reinforcing this type of thinking are the media and other news outlets, which often discuss how biological insults and family problems, among others, lead to a particular criminal’s behavioral patterns or explain why he or she committed a particular crime. Although much has been learned about why individuals offend, much has also been learned about the striking patterns of crime across geographical entities. As such, focusing only on the individual may not generate an extensive portrait of what explains crime. A neighborhood or community is one geographical example of place that can be considered an explanatory source of crime and is the focus of this research paper. Read more about Neighborhoods and Crime.
Peers and Crime
Peer relations have long been central to the study of delinquency, and for good reason. Adolescents spend much time with their friends, attribute great importance to them, and are more strongly influenced by them during this period of the life course than at any other time. During adolescence, friends become the primary role models, and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to peer dynamics. Thus, it is not surprising that one of the most consistent and robust findings in the criminology literature is that adolescents with delinquent peers are more likely to be delinquent/criminal themselves. This finding dates back to the 1930s with Shaw and McKay’s (1942) discovery that more than 80% of juveniles appearing before court had peer accomplices. More recent studies have found that the relationship of peer delinquency to self-report delinquency is more important than that of any other independent variable, regardless of whether the focus is on status offenses, minor property crimes, violence crimes, or substance use.
Although prior research establishes that adolescents are likely to behave in a manner consistent with their friends, it has only recently begun to incorporate the network structure of friendship relations into empirical models. By ignoring the underlying social structure of friendship patterns, prior research has failed to adequately measure peer delinquency and to incorporate the structure in which peer processes operate. Read more about Peers and Crime.
Race and Crime
The meaning of race has changed significantly over the course of human history. Early theories of race assigned numerous social, intellectual, moral, and physical values to the apparent differences between groups of people. From the 17th through early 20th centuries, the study of race was defined in terms of a hierarchy of putative biological differences. In this era, scholars working from various social and natural science perspectives developed “scientific” justifications that were subsequently used to rationalize the disparate treatment of ethnic, racial, and social groups. In the decades following World War II, the concept of race increasingly came to be understood more as a social and political construction and less as a matter of biology.A considerable body of modern theory regards race as a social mechanism used to preserve unbalanced relationships of power. In this research paper, readers will encounter a brief history of race as a subject for social thought, followed by a review of more recent developments in criminological theory. Last, a discussion of race as a component of social policy with specific regard to its place in American legal history is presented. Read more about Race and Crime.
Religion and Crime
An impressive research literature that identifies linkages between religion and a wide range of attitudes, behaviors, and life events has emerged. This research suggests that religiosity—a cognitive and behavioral commitment to organized religion—is associated with factors such as interpersonal friendliness; psychological and physical well-being; comfort for those who face difficult life situations, such as family problems, divorce, and unemployment; marital happiness; participation in politics and political movements; and volunteering in community organizations. A recurrent theme in this literature is that religion may operate as a social force for reducing negative behaviors and for increasing positive behaviors.
The relationship between religion and crime, however, is not as straightforward. Research on this topic since the 1960s has yielded widely varying results. Whereas many studies have found that religion is significantly related to a host of crime-related factors, others have found no relationship. Read more about Religion and Crime.
Social Class and Crime
The relationship between social class and crime has been a long-standing source of debate in criminology. Specifically, there is considerable disagreement as to whether crime is largely a lower-class phenomenon or is more broadly and equally distributed. The significance of this debate, and thus its longevity, stems from the fact that most established criminological theories are predicated on the belief that there is something about a lower-class lifestyle that is inherently criminogenic. In fact, during the early and middle decades of the 20th century, most new criminological theories began with the assumption that crime was primarily a lower-class phenomenon. More recently, the assumption of lower-class exceptionalism has been challenged by empirical research that has attempted to determine the class–crime relationship instead of accepting it as the starting point for criminological inquiry. Unfortunately, because of disparate findings and inconclusive results, criminologists have yet to establish a conclusive answer regarding the class–crime relationship, a relationship that is further complicated when crimes of the powerful, which normally are excluded from criminological analyses of class and crime, are entered into the equation. Read more about Social Class and Crime.
Victimization is the outcome of deliberate action taken by a person or institution to exploit, oppress, or harm another, or to destroy or illegally obtain another’s property or possessions. The Latin word victima means “sacrificial animal,” but the term victim has evolved to include a variety of targets, including oneself, another individual, a household, a business, the state, or the environment. The act committed by the offender is usually a violation of a criminal or civil statute but does not necessarily have to violate a law. Harm can include psychological/emotional damage, physical or sexual injury, or economic loss.
Victimology is the scientific study of victims. Victimologists focus on a range of victim-related issues, including estimating the extent of different types of victimization, explaining why victimization occurs to whom or what, the effects and consequences of victimization, and examining victims’ rights within the legal system. Different domains of victimization are also of interest. Victimology is characterized as an interdisciplinary field—academics, practitioners, and advocates worldwide from the fields of criminology, economics, forensic sciences, law, political science, public health, psychology, social work, sociology, nursing, and medicine focus on victims’ plight. Read more about Victimization.
Weather and Crime
Although questions about weather and crime, climate and crime, and season and crime are each different, they share a common assumption: that weather somehow influences criminal behavior. Many of the oldest beliefs about an association between weather and human behavior were based on otherworldly causes, ranging from weather gods to the positions of heavenly bodies.Astrology, which dates back 5,000 years, is a classic example of that approach. Other explanations, from Hippocrates some 2,400 years ago to Montesquieu in 1748, have assumed that the climate of specific areas influenced the populations living in those areas—for example, that hot southern climates produced hot-blooded people and cold northern climates produced cold-blooded people. Beginning in the 1800s, criminologists from Adolphe Quetelet to Cesare Lombroso argued that climate influenced the biology of the individual, which could lead the population of a given climate toward higher rates of crime. Most of those assumptions—in fact, pretty well all of them—have been discounted by recent scientific research. However, a number of modern theories of crime provide some well-reasoned arguments as to why weather and, by extension, climate and season, should quite logically be expected to influence criminal behavior. Read more about Weather and Crime.
Browse other Criminal Justice Research Topics.