When people look into criminology, they may initially be surprised by how expansive the field is. Anyone that is at all associated with the scientific study of crime, the relationship between the criminal and his or her environment, and society’s reaction to crime would have some sort of placement within the scene of Criminology. In some instances, criminologists are researchers that are trying to find the common links between deviant behavior and the environment, in order to try to pinpoint what it is that causes or perpetuates crime.
There are currently a number of different theories that attempt to explain, through the process of science, what it is that causes a crime to take place. These theories began to emerge in earnest in the middle of the 1800’s. Over the course of the next 200 or so years, new theories began to spring up and eventually they began to involve genetics, hormones and biological makeup. Previously, theories of criminology rested heavily on society and the environment’s effect on the individual as a source to either push an individual into crime or away from crime.
There are three distinct schools of thought when it comes to criminology. One of the first schools of thought, the Classical school believes that utilitarian philosophy is the supporting notion of criminology. They argue that individuals have free will and can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. The hedonistic, or self-indulgent, side of the body must be balanced against the rational of the individual. When the hedonistic side wins, crime may ensue. Rational is the side of the individual that would consider the penalty of the crime and, if the punishment is severe enough, is believed to be the piece of the individual that would keep them from crime by looking at the costs. Positivists are those who believe that the factors that contribute to the criminal’s propensity to go against the law do not rest within their own control. Rather, elements such as society or the person’s chemical makeup do.
These are things that are considered to be outside the control of the individual, but are still things that may play what Positivists claim as the biggest part of the responsibility when a criminal has committed a crime. In the Chicago school of thought, individuals believe that criminals are a result of the disorganized environments from which they come. Later, this definition was extended to include the belief that older generations taught younger generations about the role of crime. It is then fair to say that these individuals believe that crime is a social occurrence only where the social makeup of the area is broken down and unequal.
Crime is often considered to be a blemish when it comes to the society of an area. It causes people to fear when they should not have to. Criminologists are, in their own way, attempting to determine what causes a crime or instigates that type of behavior in a person in order to limit the amount of crime that takes place.