What Is Criminolgy

Topics: Criminology, Sociology, Crime Pages: 6 (899 words) Published: December 17, 2012
What is It?
Learn About the Study of Crime, Its
Causes and Its Consequences
sociology criminal
justice system criminology
Criminology is most
often associated with
the study of the law
enforcement and
criminal justice system.
A person looking for a
career in criminal
justice will very likely
first seek to earn a
criminology degree.
While criminal justice
and criminology are
certainly related fields,
they are by no means
interchangeable, as so
many people tend to
believe. What exactly,
then, is criminology?
Etymology of Criminology
The word "criminology" itself tells
us that it is essentially the study of
crime. Criminology is derived from
the Latin crimen, which means
accusation, and the transliterated
Greek logia, which has come to
denote "the study of." The field
goes far deeper than studying
crimes themselves, though.
What is Criminology?
Criminology is a branch of
sociology and has, in effect, been
studied in one way or another for
thousands of years. It has only
been relatively recently, though,
that it has been recognized as a
scientific discipline in its own
Criminologists look at a broad
range of topics related to crime.
They are dedicated to studying not
only the causes of crime, but the
social impact as well.
In essence, criminologists look at
every conceivable aspect of
deviant behavior. This includes the
impacts of crime on individual
victims and their families, society
at large, and even criminals
themselves. Some of the specific
areas that criminology focuses on
Schools of Though Within
The end goal of criminology, of
course, is to determine the root
causes of criminal behavior and to
develop effective and humane
means of preventing it. This has
lead to several schools of thought
within the discipline, each of which
looks at different factors involved
in deviant behavior and each
coming to different conclusions
about how best to approach the
The three primary schools of
thought within criminology are the
Classical School, the Positivist
School and the Chicago School.
Classical School
The Classical School of criminology
is perhaps the oldest and best
known. Championed by Italian
attorney Cesare Beccaria, it
embraces concepts and theories of
crime that most people would, at
first blush, tend to agree with. In
essence, the classical school
suggests four basic ideas:
Positivist School
The Positivist School suggests that
there are other factors at work in
deviant behavior besides simple
pleasure seeking and pain
avoidance. Positivism supposes
external and internal factors that
may be beyond the control of the
individual. This includes biological,
psychological and environmental
The positivist school was the first
to apply the scientific method to
the study of human behavior. This
served to advance the field of
criminology as an accepted and
respected scientific discipline.
One of the earliest and best known
proponents of positivist though,
Cesare Lombroso, looked at
physiological features of criminals
such as the shape of their skulls
and the height of their cheekbones
to suggest that biology may
precondition certain people to tend
toward criminal behavior.
Chicago School
Also known as the Ecological
School, the Chicago School was
first developed during the 1920's
in the sociology department at the
University of Chicago. This school
of thought advanced the idea that
human behavior was, at least
partially, determined by social
structure. It takes into account
psychological and environmental
factors in seeking to determine the
causes of deviant behavior.
The Chicago School applies the
theory of evolution to criminology,
particularly the notion that human
beings adapt to their environment.
It suggests that poverty leads to a
breakdown in the social structure,
which in turn hampers the ability
of a society to deal...
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