Criminology is a term used for the study of criminal behavior including factors and causes of crime. This study also deals with the social impact of any crime of the criminal itself and on the victim and his or her family. There are two major classifications in this discipline of social science. First is classicistic approach while the other is known as positivist approach of criminal study. The positivist approach of criminology is referred to the state in which a person loses its mental control and will commit a crime.
In this discipline the factors of inner and outer circumstances are believed to be responsible for losing control from mind. On the other hand the classicistic approach argues with the factors suggested by positivist. According to this discipline every person has the ability to make a decision under any circumstances this is not to be believed that a person has loses his decision making ability. To understand criminal justice, it is necessary to understand crime.
Most policy-making in criminal justice is based on criminological theory, whether the people making those policies know it or not. In fact, most of the failed policies (what doesn’t work) in criminal justice are due to misinterpretation, partial implementation, or ignorance of criminological theory. Much time and money could be saved if only policymakers had a thorough understanding of criminological theory. At one time, criminological theory was rather pure and abstract, with few practical implications, but that is not the case anymore.
For example, almost all criminologists today use a legalistic rather than normative definition of crime. A legalistic definition of crime takes as its starting point the statutory definitions contained in the penal code, legal statutes or ordinances. A crime is a crime because the law says so. Sure, there are concerns about over criminalization (too many laws) and under criminalization (not enough laws), but at least on the surface, a legalistic approach seems practical.
It is also advantageous to a normative definition, which sees crime as a violation of norms (social standards of how humans ought to think and behave), although there are times when criminology can shed light on norms and norm violators. Every criminological theory contains a set of assumptions (about human nature, social structure, and the principles of causation, to name a few), a description of the phenomena to be explained (facts a theory must fit), and an explanation, or prediction, of that phenomenon.
The assumptions are also called meta-theoretical issues, and deal with debates like those over free will v. determinism or consensus v. conflict. The description is a statistical profile, figure, diagram, or table of numbers representing the patterns, trends, and correlates of the type of crime taken as an exemplar (most appropriate example) of all crime. The explanation is a set of variables (things that can be tweaked or changed) arranged in some kind of causal order so that they have statistical and meaningful significance.
Criminological theories are primarily concerned with etiology (the study of causes or reasons for crime), but occasionally have important things to say about actors in the criminal justice system, such as police, attorneys, correctional personnel, and victims. There are basically thirteen identifiable types of criminological theory, only three of which are considered “mainstream” or conventional criminology (strain, learning, control). The oldest theory (biochemistry) goes back to 1876 and the last four theories (left realism, peacemaking, feminist, postmodern) have only developed in the past twenty-five years.
The following are of the commonly used theories: Learning theories tend to follow the lead of Edwin Sutherland’s theory of differential association, developed in 1947, although ideas about imitation or modeling go back to 1890. Often oversimplified as “peer group” theories, learning is much more than that, and involves the analysis of what is positively and negatively rewarding (reinforcing) for individuals. Control theories in criminology are all about social control. Only those called containment or low self-control theories have to do with individual psychology.
Control theory has pretty much dominated the criminological landscape since 1969. It focuses upon a person’s relationships to their agents of socialization, such as parents, teachers, preachers, coaches, scout leaders, or police officers. It studies how effective bonding with such authority figures translates into bonding with society, hence keeping people out of trouble with the law. Labeling theory was a child of the 1960s and 1970s which saw criminals as underdogs who initially did something out of the ordinary, and then got swept up in a huge, government-sponsored labeling or shunning reaction.
It argues that anyone facing such an overwhelming, negative labeling social reaction will eventually become more like the label because that is the only way out for their identify formation. It points out that sometimes it’s best to do nothing (for minor offending), and that there are few re-integrative rituals designed to help people fit back into their communities. Conflict theory holds that society is based on conflict between competing interest groups; for example, rich against poor, management against labor, whites against minorities, men against women, adults against children, etc.
These kind of dog-eat-dog theories also have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s, and are characterized by the study of power and powerlessness. Radical theories, also from the 1960s and 1970s, typically involve Marxist (referring to Karl Marx 1818-1883) critiques of capitalist society which allows things to exist like millions of billionaires and millionaires while the vast majority of people live in poverty or just get by.
Such fundamental economic disparities reflect basic contradictions in the way work is organized into demoralizing, brutalizing, and oppressive conditions. Crime is seen as a reflection of class struggle, a kind of primitive rebellion with criminals behaving as rebels without a clue. Only through praxis (informed action based on theoretical understanding) will the new socialist society be formed and crime will go away. Theories are assumptions on how people act and react to situations. Each theory differs from each other by the different categories it corresponds to.
Researchers make theories based upon the situation, environment, and the crime. The evidence is consistent and relates to the crime committed and the people who commit it. The different methods that are used to research and assess these theories is past events and crimes that occur. For example, researchers can use the different crime reports and past criminal cases. There are various methods that are used to research all the criminological theories, it just depends on the person researching the subject.