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Theory and Methodology of Criminology

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Theory and Methodology of Criminology

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Theory and Methodology of Criminology

The theory of modern criminology has existed and developed in a rapidly changing world. The criminology is an interdisciplinary science because many specialized branches of science are incorporated in it. The psychological intelligence and methodology, as well as sociology and philosophy, are constituents of criminology as a science. Notwithstanding, many researchers during the long history of criminological studies faced the issues of the inaccuracies in criminological theory and methodology, as rapid development of modern society requires the improvement of existent methods and theories. One has to take into consideration that the profundity of modern world is reflected in the changing character of subject in the criminology.

Nowadays, the world is different from that which produced the growth of modernity and even postmodernism. The old saying claims that time waits for no one, and the criminological theory is definitely no exception to the rule. One may assume that the practice of criminology originated in the early Middle Ages, when there existed a tendency to burn people. According to the historical development of society, globalization, and other worldwide changes, views on crime and punishment altered. At the time of its foundation, the criminological theory was restrained by the scopes of sociology, while the significance of contributions of psychology, anthropology, or biology was disrespected. Thus, as mentioned above, in the late 20th century, it became an interdisciplinary science and the idea of theoretical integration was proposed. This social empirical science is aimed at exploring crimes, victims, criminals, methods of gun control, social environment, behavioral prognosis, and penal treatments of delinquency. The criminology is developing rapidly, providing a plentitude of various theoretical explanations for a crime (Burke, 2009, p.48). The scientists, relying on several surveys and long studies, pointed out some problems of the theory of criminology as the most important ones: the lack of theoretical integration; the theory of criminology was claimed to be irrelevant to the practice; criminology was not scientific and empirical enough.


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Concerning the lack of theoretical integration and the issue that criminology has to be more scientific, the elaboration of theory of criminology was criticized and described by scientists as discursive until 1950. The anxiety seemed to refer to deficient empirical tests and measurement data set issues. Therefore, the accurate examination, observations, and application of scientific up-to-date methods are recommended instead. The claim that theory of criminology is too narrow and empirical means the excessive dependence on quantitative methods only and intent to neglect qualitative ones (Leavitt, 1999, p. 395). The problem is that theories, which are formulated around such a bounded range of variables and with such narrow and restricted injunctions, are unfinished and present biased images of reality. As a result, they produce inaccurate and indecent policies. In order to avoid it, all domains of knowledge and contributions are required to be taken into consideration. The science is the important and legitimate part of understanding in the theory of criminology. The most essential point is that the primary purpose of criminology has to be the empirical search for the reasons of criminal behavior, and this scientific matter has not been chosen in relation to the crime control issues (Garland & Sparks, 2000, p.92).

From the scientific point of view, criminology is aimed at explaining the etiology of crime and criminal behavior as well as the distribution of crime in society. This is a considerably liberal and complicated task, which proves that criminology has a unique position among other social sciences.

In the middle of 18th century, criminal behavior was considered as an outcome of genetic or individual characteristics. It was based on the personal issues, claiming the idea of crime as a rational choice. During that time, offenders were regarded from the view of people who were free to choose the way they wanted to live and act. The behavior of such people was supposed to be the result of internal and external impacts, which were beyond their control, going through the positions of empirical evidence in atavistic criminal tendencies (Wikstrom, 2008, p. 256).

The perception and, consequently, the consideration of crimes and criminals’ behavior and punishment are interconnected with historical background, political situation, and social environment. The globalization gives rise not only to the technological progress but also to the chances for criminals to commit new kinds of crimes, which could not take place, for instance, in the 19th century. For example, such notions as cyber crimes are popular now, and criminologists have to collect data and use modern technologies in order to prevent them and find a proper punishment for cyber offenders. That is why it is expedient to examine the methodology of criminology in terms of its historical background, existing problems, and their solutions (Garrison, 2009, p. 9).

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Criminology is a complex study, which has undergone a long history of development and changes. Scientists elaborated several theories of criminology. The most popular of them are classical, integral, positivist, critical, feminist, peacemaking, and social control theory. Therefore, one may prove that some of them are usually combined or imply the use of the ideas and attitudes of others. These theories and methodological choices of criminology are influenced by different internal and external factors. Considering its main target to prevent crimes, such integral requirements as proper instructions of law enforcement officers, modern equipment, and accurate system of citizens consulting and assistance have to be mentioned during the methodological elaborations of secure policies. The external components of the problem of methodological choices include the social, historical, and political environments.

With the change of times, values, and attitudes, these contributions and their purposes are altering simultaneously. Examining the recent studies and articles, one may discover that the choice of proper methodology of criminology is one of the most urgent and debated problem.

Qualitative research is a superior tool for leading a successful research in criminology. Its numerous benefits provide a depth of comprehension of crime, criminals’ behavior, and functioning of the justice system. Qualitative research gives possibility to examine all these aspects more deeply than by dry statistical analysis, although discrepancies in data collection and analysis may also occur. Taking this into account, it becomes clear that the data obtained through qualitative investigations is more informative and presents stronger comprehension compared to that which can be gained via quantitative research.

On the other hand, quantitative research seems to be the more scientific. It is aimed at applying particular interpretations of certain variables mean and concepts. Early studies of crime started with qualitative observations, almost removing the quantitative research. On the contrary, modern researches were conducted by scientists, who wanted to gain the comprehension of crime and criminality and thus applied qualitative methodologies. These two methods do not completely exclude each other; that is why it would be important to use the combination of them in order to fulfill a successful research (Lukas & Henry, 2009, p.36).

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The future and success of criminology depends on the scientists, who are responsible for elaboration of up-to-date secure policies, using the combinations of theories and taking into account internal and external influences. The innovative research methods and unique technologies, such as neuropsychological measurements and time-space budgets, have to be applied. In order to reduce the damage of crimes and criminals to the society, which is one of the main purposes of criminology, the proper punishment system has to be devised. It has to include different probation programs and be aligned with modern society demands and necessities. Therefore, the theory of criminology has to be more elaborated and theoretically integrated.


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