Evaluating Theories of Crime - University of Minnesota Duluth
Evaluating Theories of Crime What is a Theory? A statement of set of statements about the relationships between 2 or more events In criminology? Theories of crime Theories of how the criminal justice system operates
A theory predicts what will happen, not how the world should be How do you know a good theory when you see one? Akers 6 criteria for evaluating a theory 1. 2. 3. 4.
5. 6. Logical Consistency Scope Parsimony Testability Fit with Empirical Evidence Usefulness of Policy Implications Logical Consistency Clearly Defined Concepts Concept = symbol/label that we apply to an abstract image
Examples? Concepts must fit in a logical manner BAD LOGIC: All crime is caused by imprisonment SCOPE (not the mouthwash)
DEPENDENT variable How general is your explanation? Specific forms of crime/deviance? All crime? All crime, deviance, sin, and recklessness? All else being equal, Wider is Better Parsimony
INDEPENDENT (predictor) variables How complex is your explanation? Parsimony: Low self-control is single cause of crime Not: Crime caused by a combination of poverty, inequality, average daily temperature, intelligence, hair color, weight, daily stress
All else being equal, more parsimony is better! Testability A valid theory can be falsified Non-falsifiable theories? Tautological arguments (crime causes
crime) Vague and open-ended statements (Freud) Must be observe/measure concepts (little green men) Is the theory correct? Survive empirical scrutiny Few theories are entirely correct or false To what degree is the theory supported? Preponderance of evidence support?
Incorrect theories must be modified or discarded Policy Implication All crime theories attempt to identify the causes of crime. Can the causes be reversed? Does the theory translate into practice?
Example: Marxist theory of crime Flow Chart for Evaluation NO = Useless, stop here Falsifiable? Logical? YES Yes Empirical Evidence?
Evaluate the Following: Scope Parsimony Policy Implications NO: Modify/Discard Correlation and Causation For Social Sciences (Probabilistic): X (the cause) must precede Y (the effect)
X must be related to Y The correlation cannot be spurious Ruling out Spuriousness Most commonly is the use of Statistical Control Observe/measure factors that might render relationship spurious Include these factors as control variables in a statistical model Problems with this?
Methods for Studying Crime Experiments Survey Research Cross-sectional Longitudinal Experiments
Experimental Control is better that statistical control True Experiment Random Assignment In criminology? Typically quasi experiments Rehabilitation based on theory Manipulate criminal justice system Survey Research
Typically cross-sectional Usually high school students Recent trend = longitudinal Establish cause-effect ordering Stability of criminal offending
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