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Crime in Developing Countries - Explaining Crime In Developing Countries

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Criminologists working in both developed and developing countries occasionally insinuate that crime in developing countries requires a separate explanation. However, such an enterprise contradicts the generally accepted goal of parsimony in theorizing. While every culture in the world has the potential for generating rich insights into the nature and causes of crime, any explanation of crime in developing countries should also be an explanation of crime in the developed countries.

The development of criminology has confined almost all theorizing to the developed world, thereby raising nagging doubts about the generality of its propositions (Beirne and Nelken). But the regional imagery inherent in developmental terminology obscures the complex relationship between theories and places. As with the state of data, the comparative progress of theory testing should not blind us to absolute progress. The tendency is to assume that theories originating in the developed world have received substantial empirical support there, making tests in developing countries the crucial arbiter of generality. In fact, tests in the developed world are neither numerous nor consistently supportive, such that the empirical validity of these theories is still an open—and global—question. For example, Travis Hirschi's control theory, one of the discipline's most influential perspectives, had been tested seventy-one times by 1991, all of them in developed countries. Yet many methodological difficulties had been encountered in those tests, and the validity of the theory has not been definitely confirmed or negated (Kempf). Thus, tests of criminological theories in the varied social and cultural environments of developing countries, while almost nonexistent, are of potentially great value.

An alternative route to theoretical progress, and one that starts by including at least some developing countries, has been the search for associations between diverse measures of development and the rate or type of crime in cross-national samples. Typical variables are urbanization, income inequality, unemployment, and age structure, and findings have varied quite substantially, due to the use of different developmental indicators, different measures of crime, different samples, and different statistical models (Bennett). The heterogeneous crime rates within the developing world, discussed in the previous section, also underline the difficulty of finding robust associations between development and crime.

Using data for forty-nine countries from the ICVS, van Dijk found that higher rates for the most serious household and personal victimizations were substantially accounted for by a greater proportion of the population living in larger cities, a higher proportion of young males who are dissatisfied with their household income, and a lower level of affluence. Victimization rates for all personal crimes were positively correlated with the proportion of young males dissatisfied with household income, the rate of gun ownership, and affluence; and negatively correlated with the average level of education. Studies of homicide tend to find that homicide rates are positively correlated with economic inequality and population growth, negatively related to economic development, industrialization, and urbanization, and unrelated to unemployment, social or cultural heterogeneity, and the proportion of young people in the population (LaFree). Overall, these findings reveal that the correlates of specific crime types are not the same, making it difficult to summarize the impact of development on crime.

Notwithstanding the variability in results, criminologists have attempted to link development and crime through recourse to several theories (Neuman and Berger). A common strategy starts from Durkheim's study of societal change, highlighting the relatively abrupt transition from traditional to modern social systems and the consequent disruption of normative standards. This leads to an argument that increased crime in developing countries results from weakened social controls. Other studies start from Durkheim's concept of anomie and postulate economic stress, or strain, as the primary explanation. Although they work from a different theoretical foundation, Marxist criminologists arrive at a similar hypothesis about the positive correlation between economic inequality and crime rates. Finally, some criminologists have adopted a situational perspective, arguing that development increases the opportunity for most forms of property crime, but decreases the ecological prerequisites for violent encounters.

Unfortunately, researchers are often vague about the theoretical link between development and crime. Probably a major reason for this is that measures of development are operationally distant from the two concepts that dominate criminology's efforts to explain crime: motivation and opportunity. For example, inequality is a measure of the concentration of income in a national population, which indicates nothing directly about the motivation to commit crime. Nevertheless, it has been used as a measure of both normative disruption and strain. Similarly, urbanization has been used as an indicator of both motivation and opportunity. When the same variable can be interpreted in different ways, its theoretical utility is greatly reduced. Given that developmental indicators are limited to those gathered by governments, covering basic demographic, economic, and social characteristics but nothing so sophisticated or abstract as criminal motivation and opportunity, the most that can be expected from the development and crime literature are informed speculations about the causes of crime in developing countries, but not the rigorous evaluation of theory.

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over 6 years ago

Please the web contributors should kindly start defferentiating the infos. people need much in a much easier manner for the benefit of the veiwers

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over 6 years ago

Please the web contributors should kindly start defferentiating the infos. people need much in a much easier manner for the benefit of the veiwers