Why Do Criminals Offend?: A General Theory of Crime and Delinquency

Paperback | August 25, 2004

byRobert Agnew

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This book focuses on what is probably the most frequently asked question about crime: Why do criminals offend? Renowned criminologist Robert Agnew draws on a broad range of crime theories and the latest research to present a general theory of crime and delinquency, rich with student-accessibleexamples. The general theory integrates the essential arguments from social learning, social control, self-control, strain, labeling, social support, bio-psychological, and other theories. And it draws on the latest research examining the relationship between crime, individual traits, and the socialenvironment--including family, school, peer, and work environments. Agnew's general theory is concise and written at a level readily accessible to undergraduates. It provides a good sense of the major causes of crime and how they mutually influence and interact with one another to affect crime. Key points are illustrated with examples from qualitative andquantitative research, and each chapter ends with a set of thought-provoking discussion questions. While the book focuses on explaining why some individuals are more likely than others to offend, the general theory is also used to explain group differences in crime rates and patterns of offending over the life course. Further, the theory is used to evaluate current efforts to control crime andsuggest new crime control initiatives.

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This book focuses on what is probably the most frequently asked question about crime: Why do criminals offend? Renowned criminologist Robert Agnew draws on a broad range of crime theories and the latest research to present a general theory of crime and delinquency, rich with student-accessibleexamples. The general theory integrates the...

Robert Agnew is a Professor of Sociology at Emory University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:246 pages, 5.98 × 8.9 × 0.71 inPublished:August 25, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195330463

ISBN - 13:9780195330465

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: A General Theory of Crime and DelinquencyWhy I Wrote This Book and What I Hope to AccomplishThe Questions a General Theory of Crime Must AnswerA General Theory That Answers These Questions Runs the Risk of Being Too ComplexMy Approach to Constructing a General Theory of CrimeWhat the Theory Is Designed to ExplainTesting and Applying the TheoryAcknowledgments: The General Theory Is Built on the Work of Numerous OthersConclusionDiscussion and Study Questions2. Crime Is Most Likely When the Constraints Against Crime Are Low and the Motivations for Crime Are HighConstraints Against CrimeThe Motivations for CrimeLong-lasting and Situational Constraints and MotivationsIs Crime Influenced by Factors Other Than Constraints and Motivations?ConclusionDiscussion and Study Questions3. A Range of Individual and Social Variables Affect the ConstraintsAgainst and the Motivations for CrimeThe Dominant Strategy for Grouping the Causes of Crime Into a Smaller Number of CategoriesAn Alternative Strategy for Grouping the Causes of Crime Into a Smaller Number of CategoriesThe Key Variables in the Five Life DomainsThe Relative Importance of the Life Domains at Different Stages in the Life CourseConclusionDiscussion and Study Questions4. The Web of Crime: The Life Domains Affect One Another, Although Some Effects Are Stronger Than OthersThe Effects of the Self (Irritability and Low Self-Control) on the Other Life DomainsThe Effect of the Family (Poor Parenting and No/Bad Marriages) on the Other Life DomainsThe Effect of School (Negative School Experiences and Limited Education) on the Other Life DomainsThe Effect of Peers (Peer Delinquency) on the Other Life DomainsThe Effect of Work (Unemployment and Bad Jobs) on the Other Life DomainsSummary: The Effects of the Life Domains on One Another Over the Individual's LifeConclusionDiscussion and Study Questions5. Crime Affects Its 'Causes' and Prior Crime Affects Subsequent CrimeThe Effect of Crime on the Life DomainsThe Direct Effect of Prior Crime on Subsequent CrimeThe Effect of Prior Crime on Subsequent Crime Depends on the Reaction to Crime and the Characteristics of the CriminalSummaryDiscussion and Study Questions6. The Causes of Crime Interact in Affecting Crime and One AnotherThe Core Propositions of the General Theory (Up to Now)The Causes of Crime Interact in Affecting Crime and One AnotherGeneral Principle: A Cause Is More Likely to Lead to Crime When Other Causes Are PresentSome Illustrative InteractionsThe Life Domains Interact in Affecting One AnotherSummaryDiscussion and Study Questions7. The Causes Tend to Have Contemporaneous and Nonlinear Effects on Crime and One AnotherEffects Are Largely Contemporaneous in Nature, Although Each Cause Has a Large, Lagged Effect on ItselfEffects Are NonlinearSummaryDiscussion and Study Questions8. The Life Domains Are Influenced by a Range of Outside Factors, Including Biological and Environmental FactorsOutside Factors That Affect the Life DomainsA Note on Larger Social and Cultural InfluencesAn Overview of the General Theory of CrimeSummaryDiscussion and Study Questions9. Using the General Theory to Explain Group Differences in CrimeHow Might the General Theory Explain Group Differences in Crime RatesExplaining Age Differences in CrimeExplaining Sex Differences in CrimeExplaining 'Life-Course Persistent' and 'Adolescent-Limited' OffendingSummaryDiscussion and Study Questions10. Testing the General TheoryTesting the Core Propositions of the General TheorySummaryDiscussion and Study Questions11. Recommendations for Controlling CrimeHow Effective Is the 'Get Tough' Approach to Controlling Crime?How to Make Arrest and Official Sanctions More EffectiveRehabilitation and Prevention ProgramsSome General Guidelines for Rehabilitation and Prevention Programs12. The General Theory as an Integrated Theory of CrimeConsiders a Broad Range of VariablesConsiders a Broad Range of Intervening MechanismsGroups the Specific Causes of Crime Into Clusters Organized by Life DomainArgues That the Life Domains Have Reciprocal Effects on One Another Which Vary Over the Life CourseArgues That Crime Affects the Life Domains and That Prior Crime Affects Subsequent CrimeArgues That the Life Domains Interact in Affecting Crime and One AnotherArgues That the Life Domains Have Nonlinear and Largely ContemporaneousEffects on Crime and One AnotherArgues That Biological Factors and the Larger Social Environment Affect the Life DomainsConclusion

Editorial Reviews

"This is an outstanding book. It is logical in its organization, clearly articulated, empirically informed, and brilliant in its depth of scholarship.... This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the study of crime and criminals."--John Wright, University ofCincinnati