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Criminology: Intellectual History - Modern Criminology As The Search For The Causes Of Crime

social questions theories lombroso

Criminology today is positivistic in the sense that it studies the causes of crime. But there are really two different methods of studying the causes of crime and therefore two different types of theories in positivist criminology. These can be illustrated with the work of Quetelet and Lombroso. Quetelet initially looked at different areas of France and tried to determine which social characteristics were associated with higher or lower crime rates in those areas. In contrast, Lombroso initially looked at individual criminals and tried to determine which individual characteristics were associated with more or less criminal behavior.

These are two very different approaches to the study of the causes of crime. On the other hand, by the end of their careers, both of these theorists had incorporated elements of the other's approach in their explanations of crime. This suggests that these approaches are not incompatible, but that they represent separate questions: Why are some people more likely to commit crime than others? and Why do some social units have higher crime rates than others? Answering these two questions has been the focus of and enormous amount of theory and research in criminology over the last one hundred years. In general, biological and psychological theories in criminology attempt to answer the first of these two questions, while social theories attempt to answer the second.

Criminology: Intellectual History - Biological Theories In Criminology [next] [back] Criminology: Intellectual History - Positivist Criminology

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