Criminology: Nature and theories

Criminology: Nature and theories

What is Criminology?

The term criminology can be referred to as use of scientific knowledge in the process of investigating certain case studies or its causes with the help of law enforcement. It can also be considered as a sub group of sociology that implies scientific study of social behavior. While studying criminology various other subjects are put into consideration like biology, physics, statistics as well as psychology. In order to seek a career in criminology, a person needs to obtain a degree of criminology.  The persons engaged in studying criminology are referred to as criminologists. They are dedicated with a job of studying a broad range of topics related to crime scenes. They not only observe the causes of the crime but also analyze the social impact. At the fundamental level, criminologists look at each and every possible angles relevant to the impacts of crime on individual level. Some of the key areas under which the investigation is carried on are number of frequent crimes, location of the crimes, various types of crimes, individual as well as social consequences of the crime.

History of criminology

The word criminology is derived from the Greek word Krino that means crime and logia that means study of. Basically it means management of different causes, control and consequences of crime based case studies. It is an interdisciplinary field that seeks behavioral as well as sociological consequences. It was in 1885, Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo, coined the term criminologia. The theory of criminology has gone through various phases of research like Golden age of research (1900-1930), Golden age of theory (1930-1960) and Turning point for criminology between (1960-2000).

Different school of thoughts of criminology

The fundamental rule of criminology is to determine the main causes of criminal behavior leading to prior prevention of crime. The study of different case studies within the domain of criminology have given rise to various school of thoughts. Some of the prominent ones are discussed below

  • Classical school of thought- This school of thought was propagated by Italian attorney named Cesare Beccaria. He was the first person to embrace to identify the theories of crime based on four basic ideas-
  1. It is the free will of the individuals that determines the range of their choices.
  2. It is general tendency of the individual to avoid pain and seek only pleasure. Being rational and calculative with their decisions, they tend to make the cost benefit analysis while committing a crime.
  3. The probable solution to deter crime is to give punishment. The severity of the punishment needs to be proportional to the crime served.
  4. The two important factors while deterring a crime is swiftness and the certainty of the crime.  
  • Positive school of thought-  The positive school of thought is little bit different from the classical school of thought. In positive school of thought, it provides for a diversion of pleasure – pain notion and seek to establish other factors related to crime scene.  It tries to explain various internal factors that may be beyond the control of an individual behavior. It keeps in view various biological, social, environmental as well as psychological factors. The positive school of thought uses scientific methods in order to study human behavior. It provides added advantages to the field of criminology by identifying it as a respectable scientific discipline. The famous propagator of positive school of thought was Cesare Lombroso. He looked into positivism as a specific psychological feature. He tends to believe that biology can be the pre-condition for people towards criminal behavior. The positivist also believes that while studying criminology environment remains relevant whenever a crime occurs.
  • Chicago school of thought- The Chicago school of thought is also known as ecological school of thought. It was in 1920s the Chicago school was first developed by the sociology department at the university of Chicago. This school of thought stated that human behavior is partially determined by social structure. The Chicago school of thought also believe that environment plays an important role for human adaption. A childhood which is not normal including excessive poverty, emotional break down leads to disintegration of the social structure. This kind of environment deters the positivity around and leads to criminal mentality.
  • Theories of criminology    

The purpose of criminology is to determine how a crime is occurred depending on various circumstances. In order to get consistent results, the criminologists try to study every possible theory related to different case studies. Some of the theories related to criminology are-

    1. Biological theories of crime- This theory of crime seeks to explain human behavior contrary to the societal norms by examining individual characteristics. These theories often come under the positive school of thought while asserting law violating behaviors that are beyond the control of the individuals.
    2.  Criminal justice theories- It is refer to as the intellectual as well as theoretical infrastructure to study the concept of justice in case of studying criminology.
    3. Psychological theory of crime- While examining various case studies related to crime, psychological theory plays a very important role. The psychodynamic theory is basically created on the notion that the experiences perceived during childhood are likely to determine individual cognitive senses.
    4. Self-control theory of crime – Self-control theory is mostly related to the general theory of crime in the paradigms of criminology. It is observed that there are no small or big circumstances so far the diversity in the field of criminology. This model also keeps into consideration of social disorganization, collective efficacy, collective control as well as rational choice.
    5.  Strain theories- Strain theory under the domain of criminology refer to as the theory that states certain strains, or stress related factors during childhood is likely to lead to occurrence of various crimes. For example, severe financial loss, death of a friend, verbal or physical abuse. Because of such factors individuals try to resort to crime in order to escape strains.
    6. Social learning theory- The basic underlying assumption of social learning theory is that social structure, situations as well as interactions produces and induces individuals to deviate from their normal behavior and resort to crime. In the sociological paper established by Burgess and Akers’s 1966 asserted that the criminal behavior in most of the cases depends upon the social structure they reside. The motives and drives of the individuals are very complicated and are to be judged on the amount of learning received in the surroundings.
    7. Routine activities theories of crime- This theory of crime is basically concern with the chronology of the events. The major difference between this and other state of theories is that this theory purely emphasizes upon the fact why and how people commit crime specifically. Although in most of the cases the consequences are not pre conceived yet it provides important insights upon research and prevention of crime.
    8.  Rational choice theory of crime- In the paper forwarded by economist Gary Becker (1968) rational theory choice means that there lies no straight differentiation between criminal conduct and non-criminal conduct. This theory implies that the crime one makes is totally a rational choice and is unaffected any of the internal as well as external factors. Individuals commit crimes because they think committing crime is more rewarding.

Various careers in criminology- There is a range of careers one can pursue after studying criminology. Earning a degree specifically in this field open up doors for various academically rewarding careers. The various careers after pursuing criminology includes forensic psychology, criminal justice career, intelligence bureau, advanced forensic department, police officer, corrections officer in state departments, loss prevention specialist, community and probation control officer forensic computer analyst, social researcher and adult guidance worker.

Areas of study under criminology

Criminology as a domain includes study of various social phenomenon. It deals with different differences as well as similarities among various cultures. Some of the key areas of criminology are crime prevention, crime statistics, criminal behavior, domestic violence, deviant behavior, evaluation of criminal justice. fear of crime, juvenile delinquency, victimology, penology etc.


Studying criminology is not an easy task as one has to delve deeper into various zones of criminology. Starting from observing the behavior and the mental status of one who commits crime is always a challenging task to accomplish. It is still unclear how the mental status of an individual is being affected by various circumstances. Criminology in that case can be an important tool in screening out the instruments for proper judgement and justification. It will also help in making various initiatives through which the nature of crime can be determined.    



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