Criminology and its Theory

Criminology and its theory

Author : Hasna Abbas

Criminology is the study of crime from a social perspective and abnormal behaviors of the person who commits the crime and also examining the facts that why they commit them, and how to prevent them. The word criminology is coming from the Latin word ‘crimen’ which means ‘accusation’. The word criminology was first coined in 1885 by the famous criminologist ‘Raffaele Garofalo’ (jurist and Italian professor) as ‘criminologia’. After, French physician Paul Topinard, a similar French word was applied ‘Criminologie’.

Over time, there were various reforms in the criminal law. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the emphasis on criminology was on criminal law reforms, not on the causes of crime. Great progress in criminology was made after the first quarter of the twentieth century. The first American textbook on criminology was written by famous sociologist Maurice Parmalee under the title ‘Criminology’ in 1920. From 1900 through to 2000 the study underwent three significant phases in the United States: (1) Golden Age of Research (1900–1930) which has been described as a multiple-factor approach, (2) Golden Age of Theory (1930–1960) which shows that there was no systematic way of connecting criminological research to theory, and (3) a 1960–2000 period which was seen as a significant turning point for criminology.

Criminologists are persons who conduct researches and working with the details of criminology. They often study the behavior of criminals in order to find out how they commit crimes. They organize researches on it. And develops theories, but sometimes they cannot be solved the crimes. The main tasks of criminologists are to examine all aspects of crime and to find ways to reduce crime and criminal behavior. The job of a criminologist is also, to collect crime statistics and track crime patterns.

A theory is a group of linked ideas intended to explain something. A theory provides a framework for explaining observations. The explanations are based on assumptions. The assumptions follow several possible hypotheses. They can be tested to provide support for, or challenge, the theory. The scientific study of the causes of crime has historically been guided by theories. The scientific theories that we used in the field of study, whether chemistry, mathematics, or criminology tends to have the same characteristics. A criterion that is used to characterize the good theory in mathematics is the same one that we used to identify what makes a good criminological theory.

The goal of criminology theory is to help understand the benefits of crime and criminal justice. Criminology Theories include making and breaking of the law, criminal behaviors as well the patterns of criminal activity.

The kinds of criminological theories are;

  • Biological theories of crime
  • Sociological theory of crime
  • Psychological theories of crime
  • Cognitive theory of crime
  • Criminal justice theories
  • Cultural transmission theory
  • Deterrence and rational choice theory
  • Labeling theory and symbolic interaction theory
  • Routine activities theory
  • Self-control theory
  • Social construction theory
  • Social control theory
  • Social disorganization theory
  • Social learning theory
  • Strain theory

Now we are going through some of the major criminological theories deeply:

Biological theories: –

The biological theories of crime have shown a link between biological conditions and the tendency of offenders to commit crimes. The biological theory of Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso has caused a great deal of controversy as well as great interest in the 1890s. He conducted a study on criminals’ skull and facial features and it led him to the conclusion that serious and consistent criminality was associated with atavism. In mid- 20th century William Sheldon who is a famous American psychologist and physician, won considerable support from various criminologists and psychologists for his theory that, criminal behavior was most commonly seen in muscular or athletic persons rather than thin or small persons.

The biological theory also included that human behavior can be changed from one generation to another generation. The changes in DNA, mental trauma, changes in hormones, addiction to drugs, and alcohols, these things also contributed to committing a crime.

Sociological theory: –

Most of the criminological theories are developed from the sociological aspect. The social environment in which a person lives plays a major role in making him a criminal. Those who do not know the virtue and comforts of upholding social values and treating others with love and kindness are taking the path of crime for their needs. 

Edwin Sutherland an American criminologist who is famous for his development, differential association theory of crime, in this theory he stated that “all criminal behavior is learned and the criminal thought of the individual can be influenced by another. Associating with people who commit crimes can influence a person to commit crimes. The more he interacts with that person, the great the level of that influence.”

Psychological theories: –

Psychologist theories look at individual elements, as well as poor childhood, lack of parenting, and insufficient socialization. psychologists are tasked with studying criminal behaviors that focus on an individual’s personality.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian-Jewish neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, who believed that three central forces shape an individual’s personality. And that is Id (instinctual drives), Ego and Super Ego. An offending behavior is caused by an imbalance between these three factors. After that Erik Homburger Erikson was an American- German psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings, expanded Freud’s theory.

Cognitive theory: –

Cognitive is referred to as the mental process of acquiring or gaining knowledge. The process also includes thinking, judging, knowing, and also problem-solving.  Cognitive theory is one of the many psychological theories of crime. So, psychologists and sociologists often try to understand why this criminal behavior is existing. It focuses on how we see the world around us, and also how we think, and the factors that influence our mental and physical development like our family, friends, living environment, personality, intelligence, etc… These theories help us to identify how we develop thought and how we reach there. For example, if a child is physically abused by his parents, then he has no idea how the parents should teach their Children if he became a father/mother someday he also treats his child in the same way.