Chapter 21 Review questions answer guidance

1. Which single-factor explanations of crime have dominated the evolution of criminological theory?

Single-factor explanations of crime theorise about the causes of crime, drawing upon a particular perspective rather than a variety of perspectives. The single factor explanations of crime that dominated the evolution of criminological theory are: classicism, positivism, realism and critical criminology.

2. Identify two main groups of integrated positivist theories of crime.

Integrated positivist theories can be divided into sociobiological and social control theories. Sociobiological theories combine biological factors with sociological and environmental influences, whilst social control theories draw upon psychological, sociological, and structural factors.

3. Identify two main groups of integrated risk factor theories of crime.

Integrated risk factor theories can be divided into artefactual and enhanced pathways. Artefactual theories involve quantifiable psychological and sociological risk factors that purportedly predict crime in the future. Enhanced pathways theories are concerned with socio-structural factors and personal constructions, in order to understand individual criminogenic factors, as well as factors supporting desistance from crime.

4. What explanatory advantages do integrated theories have relative to single-factor theories?

Single factor theories draw upon a particular perspective whereas integrated theories combine insights from different perspectives.

A common limitation of single-factor theories of crime has been their single-minded focus on a specific way of explaining crime, whilst ignoring other theories as either potential contributions to their own explanation or potential alternative explanations of crime in their own right. This can run the risk of narrow-mindedness and artificially restricting the usefulness of the theory, if criminologists are too exclusive to develop or reject their own ideas in the face of compelling evidence. Integrated theories provide explanations of crime that mix together concepts, arguments, research methods, evidence, and explanations from more than one criminological theory offering a much broader integration of historical and current theories. Explaining crime by exploring a broader range of possible factors, influences, and interactions has increased the potential of integrated theories to be valid (in the sense of appropriate, relevant, comprehensive, and up-to-date).

5. Could integrated theories be limited in explanatory utility in similar ways to single-factor theories?

The straightforward answer is yes because there is no perfect theory. Integrated theories have their own limitations. More specifically, integrated positivist theories draw heavily on western ideas and focus on the male experience. As a result, they are criticised for being ethnocentric and androcentric, and ignoring other identities’ lived experiences. The integrated risk factor theories have also attracted criticism for their psychosocial bias (see the associations made between psychological, personality and social factors and their contribution to one’s risk of offending) and the difficulties inherent in their methodological tools in terms of predicting a person’s risk of offending.   

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