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critical criminologists

Researchers who view crime as a function of the capitalist mode of production and not the social conflict that might occur in any society regardless of its economic system.

critical criminology

The view that capitalism produces haves and have-nots, each engaging in a particular branch of criminality. The mode of production shapes social life. Because economic competitiveness is the essence of capitalism, conflict increases and eventually destabilizes social institutions and the individuals within them.

Communist Manifesto

In this document, Marx focused his attention on the economic conditions perpetuated by the capitalist system. He stated that its development had turned workers into a dehumanized mass who lived an existence that was at the mercy of their capitalist employers.

productive forces

Technology, energy sources, and material resources.

productive relations

The relationship that exist among the people producing goods and services.

capitalist bourgeoisie

The owners of the means of production.


A term used by Marx to refer to the working class members of society who produce goods and services but who do not own the means of production.

lumpen proletariat

The fringe members at the bottom of society who produce nothing and live, parasitically, off the work of others.

dialectic method

For every idea, or thesis, there exists an opposing argument, or antithesis. Because neither position can ever be truly accepted, the result is a merger of the two ideas, a synthesis. Marx adapted this analytic method for his study of class struggle.


In the philosophy of Hegel, an original idea or thought.


An opposing argument.


A merger of two opposing ideas.

surplus value

The Marxist view that the laboring classes produce wealth that far exceeds their wages and goes to the capitalist class as profits.


Displacement of workers, pushing them outside the economic and social mainstream.


The process of creating transnational markets, politics, and legal systems in an effort to form and sustain a global economy.

instrumental theory

The view that criminal law and the criminal justice system are capitalist instruments for controlling the lower class.

structural theory

The view that criminal law and the criminal justice system are means of defending and preserving the capitalist system.


To unmask the true purpose of law, justice, or other social institutions.

left realism

An approach that views crime as a function of relative deprivation under capitalism and that favors pragmatic, community-based crime prevention and control.

preemptive deterrence

Efforts to prevent crime through community organization and youth involvement.

critical feminism

Scholars, both male and female, who focus on the effects of gender inequality and the unequal power of men and women in a capitalist society.


A society in which men dominate public, social, economic, and political affairs.

paternalistic families

Traditional family model in which fathers assume the role of breadwinners, while mothers tend to have menial jobs or remain at home to supervise domestic matters.

role exit behaviors

In order to escape from a stifling life in male-dominated families, girls may try to break away by running away and or even attempting suicide.

egalitarian families

Families in which spouses share similar positions of power at home and in the workplace.

power-control theory

The view that gender differences in crime are a function of economic power (class position, one-earner versus two-earner families) and parental control (paternalistic versus egalitarian families)


An approach that considers punitive crime control strategies to be counterproductive and favors the use of humanistic conflict resolution to prevent and control crime.

critical feminist theory

The capitalist system creates patriarchy, which oppresses women. Explains gender bias, violence against women, and repression.

power-control theory

Girls are controlled more closely than boys in traditional male-dominated households. There is gender equity in contemporary egalitarian homes. Explains gender differences in the crime rate as a function of class and gender conflict.

peacemaking criminology

Peace and humanism can reduce crime; conflict resolution strategies can work. Offers a new approach to crime control through mediation.

restorative justice

Using humanistic, nonpunitive strategies to right wrongs and restore social harmony.

reintegrative shaming

A method of correction that encourages offenders to confront their misdeeds, experience shame because of the harm they caused, and then be reincluded in society.

sentencing circle

A peacemaking technique in which offenders, victims, and other community members are brought together in an effort to formulate a sanction that addresses the needs of all.

developmental theory

A branch of criminology that examines change in a criminal career over the life course. Developmental factors include biological, social, and psychological change. Among the topics of developmental criminology are desistance, resistance, escalation, and specialization.

life course theories

Theoretical views studying changes in criminal offending patterns over a person's entire life.

latent trait theories

Theoretical views that criminal behavior is controlled by a master trait, present at birth or soon after, that remains stable and unchanging throughout a person's lifetime.

problem behavior syndrome (PBS)

A cluster of antisocial behaviors that may include family dysfunction, substance abuse, smoking, precocious sexuality and early pregnancy, educational underachievement, suicide attempts, sensation seeking, and unemployment, as well as crime.

authority conflict pathway

The path to a criminal career that begins with early stubborn behavior and defiance of parents.

covert pathway

A path to a criminal career that begins with minor underhanded behavior and progresses to fire starting and theft.

overt pathway

Pathway to a criminal career that begins with minor aggression, leads to physical fighting, and eventually escalates to violent crime.

adolescent-limited offender

Offender who follows the most common criminal trajectory, in which antisocial behavior peaks in adolescence and then diminishes.

life course persister

One of the small group of offenders whose criminal career continues well into adulthood.

integrated theories

Models of crime causation that weave social and individual variables into a complex explanatory chain.

age-graded theory

A developmental theory that posits that individual traits and childhood experiences are important to understand the onset of delinquent and criminal behavior; experiences in young adulthood and beyond can redirect criminal trajectories or paths; serious problems in adolescence undermine life chances; positive life experiences and relationships can help a person knife off from a criminal career path; positive life experiences such as gaining employment, getting married, or joining the military create informal social control mechanisms that limit criminal behavior opportunities; former criminals may choose to desist from crime because they find more conventional paths more beneficial and rewarding.

cumulative disadvantage

A condition in which repeated negative experiences in adolescence undermine life chances and reduce employability and social relations.

social capital

Positive relations with individuals and institutions that are life sustaining.

latent trait

A stable feature, characteristic, property, or condition, present at birth or soon after, that makes some people crime prone over the life course.

General Theory of Crime

According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, a developmental theory that modifies social control theory by integrating concepts from biosocial, psychological, routine activities, and rational choice theories.

self-control theory

According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, the view that the cause of delinquent behavior is an impulsive personality. Kids who are impulsive may find that their bond to society is weak.

interactional theory

Criminals go through lifestyle changes during their offending career. Crime influences lifestyle and changing lifestyle influences crime.

age-graded theory

As people mature, the factors that influence their propensity to commit crime change. In childhood, family factors are critical; in adulthood, marital and job factors are key.

integrated cognitive antisocial potential (ICAP) theory

People with antisocial potential (AP) are at risk to commit antisocial acts. AP can be viewed as both a long- and short-term phenomenon.

general theory of crime and delinquency (GTCD)

Five critical life domains shape criminal behavior and are shaped by criminal behavior.

differential coercion theory

Individuals exposed to coercive environments develop social-psychological deficits that enhance their probability of engaging in criminal behavior.

control balance theory

A person's "control ratio" influences his or her behavior.

expressive violence

Crimes that have no purpose except to accomplish the behavior at hand, such as shooting someone.

instrumental violence

Violence used in an attempt to improve the financial or social position of the criminal.

violentization process

According to Lonnie Athens, the process by which abused children are turned into aggressive adults. This process takes violent youths full circle from being the victims of aggression to its initiators; they are now the same person they grew up despising, ready to begin the process with their own children.

crusted over

Children who have been victims of or witnesses to violence and do not let people inside, nor do they express their feelings. They exploit others and in turn are exploited by those older and stronger; as a result, they develop a sense of hopelessness.

subculture of violence

Norms and customs that, in contrast to society's dominant value system, legitimize and expect the use of violence to resolve social conflicts.


Behavior within culturally defined conflict situations in which an individual who has been offended by a negative outcome in a dispute seeks reparations through violent means.

gang rape

Forcible sex involving multiple attackers.

serial rape

Multiple rapes committed by one person over time.

acquaintance rape

Forcible sex in which offender and victim are acquainted with each other.

statutory rape

Sexual relations between underage individual and an adult; though not coerced, and underage partner is considered incapable of giving informed consent.

marital rape

Forcible sex between people who are legally married to each other.

marital exemption

The practice in some states of prohibiting the prosecution of husbands for the rape of their wives.

virility mystique

The belief that males must separate their sexual feelings from needs for love, respect, and affection.

narcissistic personality disorder

A condition marked by a persistent pattern of self-importance, need for admiration, lack of empathy, and preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

aggravated rape

Rape involving multiple offenders, weapons, and victim injuries.


In prosecuting rape cases, it is essential to prove that the attack was forced and that the victim did not give this to her attacker. In a sense, the burden of proof is on the victim to show that her character is beyond question and that she in no way encouraged, enticed, or misled the accused rapist. Proving victim dissent is not a requirement in any other violent crime.

shield laws

Laws designed to protect rape victims by prohibiting the defense attorney from inquiring about their previous sexual relationships.


The unlawful killing of a human being (homicide) with malicious intent.


Consideration of a homicide before it occurs.


Planning a homicide after careful thought, however brief, rather than acting on sudden impulse.

felony murder

A homicide in the context of another felony, such as robbery or rape; legally defined as first-degree murder.

second-degree murder

A homicide with malice but not premeditation or deliberation, as when a desire to inflict serious bodily harm and a wanton disregard for life result in the victim's death.


A homicide without malice.

nonnegligent manslaughter

A homicide committed in the heat of passion or during a sudden quarrel; although intent may be present, malice is not; also called voluntary manslaughter.

involuntary/negligent manslaughter

A homicide that occurs as a result of acts that are negligent and without regard for the harm they may cause others, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Endangering or killing an unborn fetus.


The murder of a very young child.


Murder of an older child.


The murder of a senior citizen.

mass murder

The killing of a large number of people in a single incident by an offender who typically does not seek concealment or escape.

road rage

A term used to describe motorists who assault each other.

child abuse

Any physical, emotional, or sexual trauma to a child for which no reasonable explanation, such as an accident, can be found. Can also be a function of neglecting to give proper care and attention to a young child.


Not providing a child with the care and shelter to which he or she is entitled.

sexual abuse

Exploitation of a child through rape, incest, or molestation by a parent or other adult.

acquaintance robbery

Robbers who focus their thefts on people they know.

hate crimes

Acts of violence or intimidation designed to terrorize or frighten people considered undesirable because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.

bias crimes

Violent acts directed toward a particular person or members of a group merely because the targets share a discernible racial, ethnic, religious, or gender characteristic; also called hate crimes.

thrill-seeking hate crimes

Acts by hate-mongers who join forces to have fun by bashing minorities or destroying property; inflicting pain on others gives them a sadistic thrill.

reactive (defensive) hate crimes

Perpetrators believe they are taking a defensive stand against outsiders whom they believe threaten their community or way of life.

mission hate crimes

Violent crimes committed by disturbed individuals who see it as their duty to rid the world of evil.

retaliatory hate crimes

A hate crime motivated by revenge for another hate crime, either real or imaginary, which may spark further retaliation.

workplace violence

Irate employees or former employees attack coworkers or sabotage machinery and production lines; now considered the third leading cause of occupational injury or death.


The aggrieved party does nothing to rectify a conflict situation; over time, the unresolved conflict may be compounded by other events that cause an eventual eruption.


A pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that includes repeated physical or visual proximity, unwanted communications, and/or threats sufficient to cause fear in a reasonable person.

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