Sociology of Crime

Griffith University

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Sociology of Crime

  • Host University

    Griffith University

  • Location

    Gold Coast, Australia

  • Area of Study

    Criminal Justice

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    Prior Assumed: HJ11005 Crime and Justice OR JAD1005 Crime and Justice OR 1005CCJ Crime and Justice

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Course Description
    This course introduces the major 19th and 20th century theories of crime, their historical antecedents and ideological dimensions. Attention is given to street crime, white collar crime, and violence between intimates.
    Course Introduction
    Criminology is the social scientific study of crime ? its causes, its effects and the manner in which society seeks to define, understand and respond to criminal activity. In one sense or another, all societies have sought to control crime, and all cultures have explanations as to why crime happens. Criminology, however, is a fairly new historical invention, its origins dating back only a couple of hundred years. Yet even within the social sciences, the disparity between explanations, theories and approaches to crime are broad. There is no singular correct approach to the study of crime. What the social sciences offer more than a ?correct? explanation or theory, however, is method. Like all sciences, the social sciences are governed by the epistemology of the scientific method. Knowledge, in this sense, comes from hypotheses that are tested and retested in order to produce theories about criminal behaviour, causality, and the efficacy of treatments or punishments. This distinction is what more immediately separates criminology from other approaches to or explanations of crime.
    This does not mean that the social sciences are above reproach, or that science itself is infallible. On the contrary, as we will see, the social sciences have offered explanations of crime ranging from the plausible to the absurd. And although much of criminology is oriented towards a social scientific explanation of the origins and effects of crime, other branches take a more critical look at how crime itself is conceptualized, investigated and socially constructed. Yet other branches look at how people make sense of, interpret, and understand crime and social control.
    These three types of investigation "causal, critical, and interpretive" roughly follow three of the major paradigms in sociology, namely functionalism, social conflict, and symbolic interactionism. In the case of criminology moreover, a fourth paradigm exists that overlaps with psychology and medicine. This approach shares with functionalism the assumption of the scientific method as a means to investigate crime, but differs insofar as it looks at specific psychological or physiological traits, and not social structures, as root causes of criminal or anti-social behaviour. Out of these four approaches two (functionalism and social conflict) are considered "macro" approaches insofar as they look at the relationship between crime and larger social structures; and two are considered "micro" approaches insofar as they look at the relationship between crime and individuals or small groups. None of these approaches are more "correct" than the others. Rather, these approaches represent different strategies in terms of the investigation of different type of questions. Some people want to know, for example, why some criminals appear to have no remorse for the harm they cause to others. Other people want to know why ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system; why men commit more crimes than women; or how effective certain policies are in preventing or deterring crime. All are valid questions that utilize different assumptions and paradigms.
    Thus we may say that virtually all of the sociological study of crime is today defined by etiological questions (i.e. the investigation of the origins of causes), by critical questions (i.e. the investigation of power and social control in relation to crime), and by interpretive questions, (i.e. the concept of Verstehen, or the investigation of how people symbolically construct and make sense of their own realities). The scope and breadth of these questions is enormous, and we can only hope to cover a small part of these questions in one class.
    Course Aims
    The primary aim of this course is to introduce students to the major sociological theories of crime from the late 19th century to present day. A secondary aim of this course is also to provide students with knowledge of classical and scientific theories of crime, as they inform the sociological study of criminality. Students will become aware of the ideological dimensions and historical contexts of criminological theories, and they will learn about contemporary applications of the theories.
    Learning Outcomes
    After successfully completing this course you should be able to:
    1 Demonstrate familiarity with and knowledge of the basic theories of sociological criminology, including key theorists of crime and the ideas associated with these theorists
    2 Demonstrate an understanding of the historical contexts of criminological thinking in the 19th and 20th and early 21st centuries
    3 Be familiar with the sociological classification of criminal activity
    4 Demonstrate a range of skills (critical awareness and interpersonal communication) applicable and relevant to developing an understanding of theories of crime
    5 Apply criminological theories to social research on crime
    6 Critically question and analyse "common sense" notions of crime in our society

    Assessment Task

    Weighting/Marked out of

    Test or quiz
    Take Home Test


    Assignment - Research-based Assignment
    Research Essay


    Exam - selected and constructed responses
    Final Exam


Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.