BEYOND ADOLESCENCE-LIMITED CRIMINOLOGY: CHOOSING OUR FUTURE—THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CRIMINOLOGY 2010 SUTHERLAND ADDRESS∗

FRANCIS T. CULLEN
School of Criminal Justice University of Cincinnati

KEYWORDS: adolescence-limited criminology, criminological paradigms, organization of knowledge, sociology of knowledge For over a half century, criminology has been dominated by a paradigm—adolescence-limited criminology (ALC)—that has privileged the use of self-report surveys of adolescents to test sociological theories of criminal behavior and has embraced the view that “nothing works” to control crime. Although ALC has created knowledge, opposed injustice, and advanced scholars’ careers, it has outlived its utility. The time has come for criminologists to choose a different future. Thus, a new paradigm is needed that is rooted in life-course criminology, brings criminologists closer to offenders and to the crime event, prioritizes the organization of knowledge, and produces scientific knowledge that is capable of improving offenders’ lives and reducing crime. Born in 1951, I grew up at a time of major transition in American society. I spent my childhood in the relative peacefulness of the 1950s, attending a predominantly Irish-Catholic elementary school in Boston. With hand over heart and a small carton of milk in hand, we pledged allegiance to the flag flying just to the side of a photo of President Dwight Eisenhower—drinking

At least in my case, it has taken a village to make a Sutherland Award winner—and so my sincere gratitude is extended to my family, friends in the field, current and former students, and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, I have space to thank by name only those scholars who have been most instrumental in shaping my thinking on the ideas in this address. They include Michael Benson, John Eck, Bonnie Fisher, Colin Goff, Daniel Nagin, Pamela Wilcox, John Wozniak, and John Paul Wright. Direct correspondence to Francis T. Cullen, School of Criminal Justice, P.O. Box 210389, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0389 (e-mail: cullenft@ucmail.uc.edu). doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2011.00224.x

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our milk once we finished chanting “with liberty and justice for all.” But in the eighth grade, in the fall of 1963, life changed. While sitting in class, we heard that our hero, John F. Kennedy, had been shot. Worried and in disbelief, we all marched across a boulevard to St. Gregory’s Church where we prayed he would live; he did not. In 1968, news of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and then of Bobby Kennedy dashed what hopes remained that a Great Society might be possible. My college years brought protests against the Vietnam War and events such as Kent State and Attica. I heard about President Nixon’s resignation, due to the Watergate scandal, while standing in the Columbia University library checking out books. My life story is of little concern, but it did have two consequences on how I came to see the criminological world—effects, I suspect, shared by a number of those in my scholarly generation. First, the unique intersection of biography and history sensitized me to the need to have, in C. Wright Mills’s (1959) words, a “sociological imagination.” In its broadest sense, I was alerted that we were all prisoners of our narrow, taken-for-granted social worlds. Thus, I came to realize that much of what I had believed— about trust in authority, the goodness of corporations, religion, gender roles, facial hair and hair length, dress and music, and on and on—had been dramatically transformed in the space of a year or two. For some reason unknown to me, I had the key insight that, at least in my case, these changes in politics, culture, and cherished beliefs were not carefully thought-out positions based on rational reflection but virtually inevitable responses to the social experiences that enmeshed the bodies and psyches of my generation. I achieved what Alvin Gouldner (1970) called “reflexivity”—the ability to see oneself as a social product. Second and closely related, in this context, I was receptive to the message that social realities are not immutable and completely objective but rather are socially constructed. Members of my academic cohort learned from Richard Quinney (1970) the relevance of this insight for understanding crime; Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966) broadened the message to include social reality generally. Most importantly, it became apparent that science itself was vulnerable to external influence. We had been schooled to believe that science was a realm in which experiments produced findings that allowed for the incremental advance in knowledge toward objective truth. Now we were being told by Thomas Kuhn (1970) and others that we had been duped. Nothing should be easily taken for granted. Again, as Gouldner (1970) cautioned, we needed to contemplate why we, as scholars, thought as we did—how our theoretical beliefs and academic practices were shaped by social context. Kuhn’s (1970) work was critical because he supplied a construct— “paradigm”—that allowed us to organize and understand the operation of our scientific worlds—for me, the worlds of sociology and criminology.

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To be honest, I am not quite sure that anyone, including Kuhn who used the term to refer to multiple things, really knows what “paradigm” means precisely (Lakatos and Musgrave, 1970). We can perhaps begin to grasp its meaning by noting that it is not a synonym for “theory” or “model”—as in labeling theory or strain theory. Rather, in a Kuhnian sense, the gist of a paradigm is that it defines for us ways of theorizing, ways of collecting data and testing theories, and ways of organizing our knowledge. It involves a set of normative standards that tells us what is good research and what is worthy of publication in our leading journals. As a result, it controls, implicitly at least, a discipline’s reward structure because adherence to paradigmatic norms brings publication, status, and career advancement. The lessons of my academic youth thus have prompted me to be sufficiently reflexive to take a step back and consider whether our field has a dominant paradigm—and, if so, what that might be. Some scholars might claim that the very theoretical diversity of criminology argues against any one dominant paradigm. But I will beg to differ. I will try to outline the components of a way of doing business and producing knowledge that I believe has dominated criminology for a half century or more. Those not part of this paradigm thus often speak of being on the periphery of criminology and of top journals not welcoming their work. The details aside, they are correct in that they do exist in the margins of the field—however invaluable their scholarship is. Indeed, their complaints are evidence that an implicit or unrecognized paradigm rules our scholarly universe. Unlike some scientific fields, paradigms in social sciences such as criminology are not manifest—they have to be drawn out to become apparent. As a result, there often is not a self-awareness that we are part of the same general enterprise. If anything, we emphasize our differences: I am a control theorist; you are a social learning theorist. I think that birds of a feather flock together; you think that if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. These differences are real and perhaps worth fighting over—as Travis Hirschi and Ronald Akers have done cordially over the years. But in my view, they are arguments that occur within the same overarching paradigm. My purpose, then, is to begin by identifying what I see as our discipline’s core paradigm, something I call adolescence-limited criminology. Of course, I am borrowing from Terrie Moffitt’s (1993) typology that includes adolescence-limited antisocial behavior. My general thesis is that this paradigm coalesced in a particular social context—the 1960s and its aftermath—and largely merged the criminologies of Edwin Sutherland and Travis Hirschi. I then argue that this paradigm, although producing enormous good, is now bankrupt, even if we do not realize it. Recent Sutherland Award addresses have hinted at this very fact, identifying key omissions in how we now do criminology. I am less clear on where criminology should head, for in many ways this is the task for the next generation to solve.

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But like a criminological Dear Abby, I will give some advice on what I see as promising avenues to pursue. Most importantly, I will urge us not to continue doing more of the same but to think more boldly and choose a different criminological future.

WHAT IS ADOLESCENCE-LIMITED CRIMINOLOGY?
As the name suggests, adolescence-limited criminology focuses most of its attention on those in adolescence—a period in life that is defined as ranging from puberty to maturity or as being in between childhood and adulthood. Roughly, adolescence spans the ages of 12 to 20 years. By implication, adolescence-limited criminology pays little attention to childhood and adulthood. There is no explicit statement that these times in life are unimportant. If anything, there is an assumption that what is being witnessed in adolescence might have started in childhood and might continue into adulthood. It is just that no data are collected on children and adults, and events unique to these time periods are not mentioned or accorded any theoretical salience. Even longitudinal studies tend to occur within adolescence, allowing us to control for delinquency at time 1 when examining delinquency at time 2. To constitute a paradigm, however, adolescence-limited criminology must do more than study adolescents. In fact, it is marked by five core features. For the sake of convenience, I will occasionally use the acronym ALC to refer to adolescence-limited criminology. First, ALC is sociological in orientation. Individual differences in offenders—“heterogeneity”—are ignored, downplayed, or said not to exist. Efforts to show that offenders have criminogenic traits are viewed with suspicion. Attributing such traits to biology is prima facie evidence that the scholar is racist, classist, sexist—or some “ist,” which is not a good thing. Second, ALC rejects identifying risk factors and the epidemiology of crime in favor of applying and inventing new theories. Mapping out facts about crime and criminals is not criticized but neither is it privileged. The weak knowledge we have about the nature of crime and criminals is ignored or incites little worry. By contrast, novel theories, especially if they identify unsuspected or ironic causes of crime, are valued. Hagan (1973) called this the “sociology of the interesting.” Third, ALC proposes that the hallmark of great criminology is testing new and/or rival theories. There is the assumption that these tests, which focus on the amount of variation explained by theoretical variables, decipher good from bad theories. There is the assumption that the global effect of individual studies writ large—that is, when they are all taken together—is to tell us which theories merit our allegiance and which should be discarded. I suspect, however, that these assumptions are false.

ALC scholars talk about how much we need to do field work. He played an instrumental role in defining criminology as a discipline that was. In addition. It owes its basic orientation to Edwin Sutherland. and its policy orientation to the social context of the sixties. 2011. 1991). but then they typically proceed to download another data set that uses self-report methodology.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 291 Fourth. THREE SOURCES OF ADOLESCENCE-LIMITED CRIMINOLOGY For a half century. Sherman. it offers no concrete prescription for how to solve crime. Fifth. Such derogatory labels are used because working on behalf of the state to lower crime may make its power more legitimate and effective. SUTHERLAND: THE TRIUMPH OF SOCIOLOGY AND THEORY Contemporary criminologists are well aware of Edwin Sutherland’s enduring contributions to the field—in particular his differential association theory and his coining the term “white-collar crime. ALC embraces the use of self-report surveys as the standard technology for testing theories. the argument could be made that adolescence-limited criminology was theoretically vibrant. ideologically important. on a single survey instrument. Scholars who attempt to reduce crime through pragmatic methods at times are termed “administrative criminologists” or “reactionaries” (Clarke and Felson. advancing social justice is the only true solution to crime. however.” As John Laub (2004. Beyond trying to reduce state intervention into offenders’ lives. its focus on and technology for theory testing to Travis Hirschi. There is a general belief that “nothing works” to change offenders or to prevent criminal behavior. it was—and to some degree remains—a powerful paradigm. In the end. first and foremost. and capable of generating tons of research. ALC embraces social justice and is profoundly skeptical that anything the state does—especially mass incarceration—controls crime. it may implicitly acquit an unjust social order of its role in producing crime. Sutherland’s influence was even more profound (see also Laub and Sampson. 1993). Independent and dependent variables thus can be measured simultaneously—that is. Accordingly. 2006) pointed out. We thus turn next to how each of these factors contributed to the rise of ALC. . These surveys allow individuals—mainly adolescents who are old enough to complete surveys and congregate in places (mainly schools) where surveys can be filled out—to answer questions that measure theories and to report how much crime they commit. sociological and theoretical.

Edward C. proceeded to survey the extant criminological research. 2007. . Lippincott would publish his 643-page Criminology. At this point. Then editing the Lippincott Sociological Series. 1988. however. this volume “was the first attempt by an American sociologist to present a systematic and sociological examination of criminological thought. Sutherland (1956 [1942]: 14) admitted that his “principal theoretical interest in criminology . Lombroso’s ideas might have faded in importance.” It established Sutherland as a major scholar and. Hayes invited his younger colleague to author a criminology text for the series. whose title was changed to Principles of Criminology in subsequent editions. was the controversy between heredity and environment. Sutherland devoted little of the first part of his academic career to the study of crime. 1972). 1988: 53). Snodgrass.292 Becoming a Criminologist CULLEN Contrary to what might now be anticipated. 1983. J. not knowing much about crime. in the estimation of his colleague Karl Schuessler. Sutherland agreed and. Embarking on this new scholarly journey.” during his six years at William Jewell College. “had the effect of binding Sutherland to the field of criminology. conducted his dissertation research on unemployment and employment agencies (for accounts on Sutherland. 1979. Gibbons. Sutherland would come to grapple with two central issues—the resolution to which would push criminology in a distinctly sociological and theoretical direction: Do defective or pathological traits in individuals cause crime? And. as his book project was starting. 2011. after all. . In 1921. B. Geis. Hayes was Sutherland’s chair at the University of Illinois and the eleventh president of the American Sociological Society (whose acronym later led to the word “Society” being changed to “Association”) (Sutherland. He took one criminology course during his graduate school days at the University of Chicago and then taught one criminology course annually. is a sociological theory of crime possible? The Triumph of Sociology First. he had. until moving to the University of Illinois in 1919. Little evidence existed that Sutherland was destined to be the most influential criminologist of his generation (Gibbons. As a faculty member. 1979). not in criminology. called “Charities and Corrections. Geis and Goff. see Gaylord and Galliher. Sheptycki. At that time. but “Neo-Lombrosian” theories emerged that linked crime to other supposed individual defects (Sutherland. Sutherland . this concern was understandable. As Gibbons (1979: 47) noted. his career—and ultimately the field of criminology—took a dramatic turn. Goff and Geis. 1949: 103). which he cultivated until his death” (quoted in Gaylord and Galliher. In 1924. 2010. he published only a single article.” As a sociologist. 1929).

CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 293 (1956 [1942]: 14) observed that “the inherited factor had shifted somewhat from morphology. Instead. Sutherland prominently attacked scholars seeking to blame crime on individual defects. and ‘deteriorated’ families” (Sutherland.” he quickly asserted that “there is no clear-cut evidence that it will affect crime rates. he embraced individualized treatment.” Finally. For example. psychopathic deviations. he pointed out that theories must be incorrect that link crime to “characteristics associated with poverty. With seemingly restrained delight. Although Sutherland (1939: 618) conceded that the “policy of sterilization may be desirable on general grounds.” including the offending of “business and professional men” (p. rehabilitation. which Lombroso had emphasized. Offenders were not born criminals so defective as to be beyond redemption but rather were social creatures worthy of saving (Sutherland. These perspectives are flawed because they are incapable of explaining “vast areas of criminal behavior of persons not in the lower class. and inherited psychopathologies were beginning to claim more attention. Tenn. his work on white-collar crime offered another opportunity to drive a stake into the heart of trait theorizing. In short. His critical analyses also undermined the nasty policy implications of the more extreme versions of Neo-Lombrosian thought. which Goddard was emphasizing. of 85 out-patients from Boston hospitals. 1940). Sutherland became increasingly hostile to biological and individual trait theories. In so doing. to feeble-mindedness. but unfortunately it makes little contribution to the explanation of criminal behavior” (1956 [1939]: 278. and 82 others (some of them members of the militia and other patrons of a bathhouse in Boston). slum neighborhoods. and prevention. 1).” As his career progressed.” With rapier wit. he created intellectual space for the growth of a sociology of crime. he concluded that Hooton’s book “is a monumental work in size.000 persons with 313 noncriminals”—a sample that consisted of “146 firemen (in Nashville. which included eugenics. Sutherland thus helped to legitimate liberal reformist policy views that would reflect . These sentiments were echoed in his Principles of Criminology where Sutherland (1939: 116) concluded bluntly that the “Neo-Lombrosian theory that crime is an expression of psychopathy is no more justified than was the Lombrosian theory that criminals constitute a distinct physical type. 1939). see also Merton and Ashley-Montagu. including feeblemindedness. He offered withering criticism of the data sets—which typically compared a large number of inmates to convenience samples drawn from the community—used to claim that offenders and nonoffenders differed in meaningful ways.” He also doubted that capital punishment or prisons had any deterrent effects. Criminality as such cannot be inherited. 1940: 1). Sutherland (1956 [1939]: 275) offered a critical analysis of The American Criminal in which Earnest Hooton purported to show the physical inferiority of offenders by comparing “approximately 4.).

Sutherland came to embrace the need for a greater level of abstraction in the explanation of crime.” Initially. 2008. His specific strategy for theory development was influenced by Alfred Lindesmith. and city dwellers all have relatively high crime rates: What do these three groups have in common that places them in this position?” (1956 [1942]: 15). “any concrete . First. which he termed a “tentative theory of criminal behavior” and which we have come to call “differential association theory. In particular. Sutherland (1956 [1932–1933]) rebutted their one-sided assessment. he worried that establishing empirical associations did not illuminate why this was so. That is. among others. he was prodded to this view by the so-called Michael–Adler report. 1956 [1942]: 14). who advocated the methodology of analytic induction (Laub and Sampson. helped to shape its development. his sociology colleague at Indiana University. however. the difficulty with a multiple-factor approach is that each factor is not associated with crime in every case. some do not. if it does not fit the facts. some do not” (1956 [1942]: 19). modify the hypothesis or else redefine the universe to which it applies. 1956 [1942]. For example. In part. young-adult males. an hypothesis should fit every case in the defined universe. “some Negroes commit crimes. Three circumstances. and try it on another case. some people who reside in delinquency areas commit crimes. 1956 [1932–1933]: 231).294 CULLEN standard criminological thinking for the next two decades and. his review of the evidence for the first edition of his textbook led him to document the known correlates of crime and. In Sutherland’s view. 2011. But Sutherland ultimately was dissatisfied with what we would call today a “risk-factor” approach. and so on for case after case. to embrace a “multiple-factor theory” (Sutherland. who asserted that “criminological research has not yet achieved a single definite conclusion” (cited in Sutherland. and the procedure to use is: State the hypothesis and try it out on one case. The Triumph of Theory Second. in turn. beyond that time. “Negroes. Laub. A more general theory was needed. Sutherland (1939: 4) took on the challenge of developing a distinctly sociological explanation of crime. in some ways. but eventually he was moved to admit that criminology could not advance without a higher level of abstraction that involved a general theory capable of accounting for all crime (Sutherland. Thus. a scathing critique of criminology authored by legal scholar Jerome Michael and philosopher Mortimer Adler. As Sutherland (1956 [1942]: 17–18) explained: According to this conception. 2006). see also Goff and Geis. 1991).

an essential factor because differential association required at least two “different” cultures with which to associate! The larger point is that Sutherland’s ties to the sociological community at Chicago provided him with the scholarly capital to use in developing an abstract general theory of crime. Not surprisingly. 19). and finally through enduring personal relationships. Sutherland was intimately linked to the University of Chicago.” which refers to a local intellectual community that produces and distributes a set of theoretical ideas. 15). his search for abstract explanatory principles led him to conclude that “learning. In this regard. and communication were the processes around which a theory of criminal behavior should be developed” (1956 [1942]: 19). and that culture conflict was the context in which such influence—toward one pattern or another—occurred (pp. he must be trained in personal association with those who are already professional thieves. Sutherland had conveyed three hypotheses stating that individuals could be trained to follow “any pattern of behavior.” For Sutherland. who Sutherland gave the alias Chic Conwell when they collaborated on their 1937 life-history.” that doing so depended on consistent influence. “cannot be a cause of crime” (p. the year after the publication of the second edition of Sutherland’s text. The Professional Thief: By a Professional Thief (see also Snodgrass. Third.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 295 condition is sometimes associated with criminal behavior and sometimes not”—and. Sutherland would propose that differential association is this universal cause and thus constitutes a general theory of crime. interaction. This led Sutherland to conclude that “the only way to get a causal explanation of criminal behavior is by abstracting from the varying concrete conditions things that are universally associated with crime” (p. “There. in turn. He referred me to pages 51–52 of my book” (p. Sutherland’s views on crime were further reinforced by his association with Broadway Jones. Sutherland was “surprised” when “Henry McKay referred to my theory of criminal behavior” (1956 [1942]: 15). In 1935. 19). “I seemed to see in magnified form the process that occurs in all crime” (p. this insight had large implications. 1972). Prodded by McKay and others. Sutherland added “culture conflict” to this list. first as a doctoral student. as Sutherland (1956 [1942]: 29) readily admitted. serendipity played a key role. second as a faculty member. Sutherland’s theorizing was intimately shaped by his “cognitive micro-environment. According to Sutherland (1956 [1942]: 17). “my theory of differential association has been produced by my own differential associations. Second. 17).” he observed. Because Sutherland was not aware that he had a theory.” In Merton’s (1995: 5) terms. he “asked him what my theory was. 15–16). Sutherland devoted the first chapter of the third edition of Principles of Criminology to a “theory of . Jones impressed him that “a person cannot become a professional thief merely by wanting to be one.

1972: 255). and politicians who used the mask of respectability to hide their victimizing conduct. in the safety of their studies. and engage in many other wicked deeds” as an “abomination. Sutherland made theory construction the sine qua non of criminology. causing Kornhauser (1978: 201) to quip that he described the “slum boys who become delinquent” as “nice friendly lads. his differential association theory implicitly normalized traditional criminals. 1983).296 CULLEN criminal behavior” that specified seven principles. Sutherland and Broadway Jones. Second. Sutherland’s importance is not simply that he trumpeted a sociological approach to the explanation of crime. devoting years to measuring offenders’ physical and psychological defects was merely an exercise in uncovering “concrete . By comparison. In a sense. My review of the evolution of Sutherland’s criminology was not inspired by the occasion—the Sutherland Address. unscrupulous business managers. Rather. The fourth edition of his text would list nine principles—the version of the theory passed down to future generations. my concern is to argue that Sutherland played an instrumental role in shaping the discipline’s development toward adolescence-limited criminology. corresponded with one another. after Sutherland left Chicago” (Snodgrass. 2007. including one that stated that “differential association is the specific causal process in the development of systematic criminal behavior” (Sutherland. Sutherland legitimated a hostility toward so-called NeoLombrosian theories that sought to locate crime in some defective individual trait. available for indoctrination into the delinquent subcultures” but the “rich who violate antitrust laws. Geis and Goff. In fact. Although he wore the breastplate of a value-free scholar. In fact. He did dislike. his professional thief. the challenge for scholars was to develop a theoretical perspective that could rival differential association theory. are immune to grimy-collar crime” (p. Sutherland had a varying affinity for different kinds of offenders (see Geis. 1939: 5). however. they were not pathological but on the wrong side of the culture conflict. Many criminologists would come to embrace Sutherland’s sentiments. First. Notably. and made occasional visits. members of the professions.” She then chided Sutherland and others in his crowd by saying that such views “are a luxury affordable only by professors who. it became a disciplinary truth that Lombroso was a hack and that subsequent efforts to resurrect his brand of criminology—one that attempted to study individuals carefully in hopes of finding traits that differentiated offenders from nonoffenders—was fruitless and signified that the scholar harbored a distaste for the poor and for minorities. 201). “eventually became friends. Following Sutherland. fraudulently advertise their products. but that he simultaneously discredited efforts to link offending to intractable biological or psychological factors.

there has been no other criminologist who even begins to approach his stature and importance” (p. Most important. this neglect meant that the Gluecks’ insistence to start the study of crime in childhood and to extend it into adulthood could be comfortably ignored. as we will see shortly. their model of systematic data collection on various aspects of criminals’ lives was not imitated by scholars. The Gluecks received three minor citations. Instead. whom he depicted as exemplars of the multiple-factor approach that was atheoretical and devoted to looking for individual-trait correlates of crime. By implication. leaving unexamined what occurs before and after this stage in life. Put differently. Gibbons’ slim but informative history of the “criminological enterprise” devoted nearly 20 pages to Sutherland’s criminology and concluded that he “was the most important contributor to American criminology to have appeared to date. and barely five pages were devoted to “psychological correlates of criminality” due to the “paucity of attention that this question has received in criminology” (p. the neglect of their contributions likely had opportunity costs for criminology. along with that of Lombroso and the Neo-Lombrosians.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 297 conditions” that either were not criminogenic or were mere correlates of wayward conduct. however. Sutherland easily won the conflict as criminology became an integral part of sociology and the Gluecks’ work for years was relegated. HIRSCHI: PUZZLES AND TECHNOLOGY Sutherland was not an adolescence-limited criminologist. he took special pains to critique the work of Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck. Sutherland not only shaped what criminology would become but also effectively knifed off alternative avenues for disciplinary development. writing little about juvenile delinquency because its origin “was simply one aspect . Regardless of the merits of specific contentions put forward by the Gluecks. Crime in the Making). Indeed. 65). In the end. Sutherland sent the message that theorists should occupy the most prominent places in our books and in our status hierarchies. In 1979. 216). Sutherland’s Enduring Legacy As Laub and Sampson (1991) argue. large-scale studies in which differences between offenders and nonoffenders would be meticulously catalogued would not be necessary to publish in the field’s top journals. Theory was the only way to explain crime and make criminology a true science. For one thing. The enmity between Sutherland and the Gluecks was mutual. Perhaps most salient. to the criminological dustbin (where their work would have stayed had not Sampson and Laub rediscovered the Gluecks’ data and used them in their 1993 classic. the field narrowed its focus to the study of adolescence.

1949). he created fertile ground for the inception and growth of adolescence-limited criminology. were exemplars in sociological theorizing on delinquency. bereft of hard data. . bandits and outlaws. scholars will search for alternative paradigms that can provide researchable ideas. His major contributions focused on adults— professional thieves and white-collar offenders (Sutherland.” Nonetheless. Kuhn’s work thus suggests that criminological inquiry is shaped not only by the pursuit of knowledge but also by crass career interests (see also Cole. Here is where Travis Hirschi arrived in 1969 with his Causes of Delinquency. his interest in adult criminality was eclectic. In fact. no scholarly activity can take place. including subcultures and gangs. and Schuessler. In so doing. smuggling. Although about a half century old. Lindesmith. Put another way. In short. for the typical criminologist. did not mean that most scholars could simply run out and try to author classic theoretical treatises! Something else was needed—a strategy for doing theory in a way that. When this occurs. was within reach and capable of earning publications. the field’s concern turned decidedly in the direction of delinquency. Hirschi provided both a rich treasure trove of puzzles to be solved and the technology that could yield publishable products. kidnapping. With no puzzles—or research questions—to be explored.” Miller’s (1958) attribution of gang delinquency to lower class culture. in the decade after his death in 1950. publications. I must confess that thanks to Professor Hirschi. 1975). however. Sykes and Matza’s (1957) essay on “techniques of neutralization. 2004). Sutherland “also kept files and in some instances wrote on such esoteric subjects as lynching. riding this brand of criminology up the academic ladder! Studying Theories of Delinquency As Kuhn (1970) alerted us. Indian-land frauds. The mere existence of these works. As Snodgrass (1972: 227) notes. circus griffting. These works. 1956: 129). and Cloward and Ohlin’s (1960) Delinquency and Opportunity. and piracy. 1937. I became an avid participant in ALC. due to the publication of Cohen’s (1955) Delinquent Boys. most remain staples of virtually all textbooks and readers in criminology. a central function of a paradigm is to provide puzzles to be solved. and ultimately professional reward and advancement. paradigms that cannot guide publishable investigations will lose adherents in favor of those that can. Matza’s (1964) Delinquency and Drift would appear shortly thereafter.298 CULLEN of his search for a general theory of causation” (Cohen. a work that I believe defined the essence of modern criminology (see also Laub. 1940.

or less.g. Hirschi was not the first to use a questionnaire to measure theories and/or to measure delinquency (see. strain. he set forth a new perspective—social bond theory— that could be subjected to empirical investigation. 1964. He also demonstrated how to systematically identify and then assess the assumptions of competing theories so as to make a case for which approach earned more. 2002).CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 299 Hirschi’s genius in Causes of Delinquency (1969) was in creating puzzles in four ways. probing virtually every aspect of the subjects’ lives. and Tennyson. As an alternative. Third. he provided a wonderful “how to” display of the technology of theory testing. Hirschi showed the field how to define theories clearly and then how to use survey items to measure these perspectives. As reprinted in Appendix C-1 in Causes of Delinquency. But Causes of Delinquency (1969) was a prodigious scholarly achievement. First. Rivera. he clearly and parsimoniously defined the components of his theory—the four social bonds of attachment. and belief. 1958. and cultural deviance theories and to see how they were associated with self-reported delinquency. 1957. In short. the “High School Questionnaire” extended over 50 pages. 1964. But Hirschi did more than simply create puzzles. 1964). Dentler and Monroe. e. he displayed a technology that could be used to solve puzzles in a way that would result in scholarly publications. In so doing. boys versus girls and African Americans versus Whites) and across social contexts. he identified for fellow criminologists a fertile line of inquiry: testing rival theories against one another. drawing two items from a scale developed by Nye and Short (1957) and four items from a theft scale developed by Dentler and Monroe (1961). . Fourth. involvement. This enterprise was a whole new experience! Indeed. Stinchcombe. Nye. 1965. and perhaps most important. Ironically. he juxtaposed his social bond theory to so-called strain theory and cultural deviance theory. Wilson. nothing like it had appeared previously. Landis and Scarpitti. Short. 1965. He then used items from the survey to measure various dimensions of social bond. Akers. his advisor—was denied (Laub. It was as though one was watching the first Star Wars movie after having had a steady diet of the original television series of Star Trek. empirical support. In Causes of Delinquency (1969). which meant that scholars could explore whether social bonds had the same effects across demographic groups (e. Hirschi inserted a sixitem self-report survey. which was called the Richmond Youth Project.. but his request—communicated by Charles Glock.g. Second. Short. Hirschi had originally hoped to use the Gluecks’ data for his dissertation. Reiss and Rhodes. he argued that he was proposing a general theory of delinquency. commitment. the relative explanatory power of each bond could be assessed. 1961. Accordingly.. Hirschi was able to participate in a 1964– 1965 study of youths conducted by Alan B.

Fourth. Second. studies could be conducted using cross-sectional designs. We could then rely on adolescents—conveniently stored in schools—to complete questions measuring how they stacked up on the theories and how much delinquency they had committed. Third. to talk to active criminals. Because the causes of crime were general. This meant downplaying the study of multiple (risk) factors. Adolescents sitting in a classroom. essentially meaning that students could be surveyed at one point in time— often on a single day. It is really good if this can be done on a new theory that has. Until relatively recently. could tell us all we needed to know about our theories. Completing the ALC Paradigm My thesis is that although working independently and not sharing the same theoretical views. to study offenders in groups. The increasing requirement to use longitudinal data (so as to control for that damn time 1 delinquency!) has complicated matters a bit. criminology was to be sociological and theoretical. develop multiple measures and/or multiple-item measures of theoretical variables. with reasonable effort.300 CULLEN In a real sense. include a defensible (based on previous research) set of items purporting to measure self-reported participation in delinquency. when taken together. The manifest function of ALC was to generate a rash of studies that. employ. to date. a paradigm must also fulfill the latent function “to provide puzzles” and “to stimulate additional scientific work. this approach suggested that there would be no need to know much about the nature and concentration of crime. been under-researched. secure a fairly large sample of adolescents that can be surveyed using a paper-and-pencil instrument during the school day. Sutherland and Hirschi established the central parameters of what I have termed adolescence-limited criminology. the chances for publication—perhaps in a first-tier journal—are high.” Indeed. but the ability to simply download large adolescence-limited data sets . Hirschi established the normative standards for what would constitute quality research. criminology was to focus on the rigorous operationalization of theoretical variables. But again. From Sutherland. Implicitly. silently completing a questionnaire as they would any other test. claim victory for one theory (as Hirschi did) or call for further research (as most of us do). Fifth. From Hirschi. as Cole (1975: 183) noted. ALC would have fallen into disutility if not for the fact that it provided almost unlimited theoretical puzzles and a technology that virtually any scholar could. or to wander around inner-city neighborhoods wondering whether these contexts were criminogenic. First. conduct an analysis that reveals which theory is or is not supported. there was no particular need to study childhood or to study how what happens early in life might affect what happens later in life. could decide which general theory of delinquency was most powerful. If these norms are obeyed.

criminology as a discipline went too far— throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Rothman. criminology increasingly and understandably became a discipline committed to knowledge destruction.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 301 has more than compensated for this bothersome standard. . unjustly. three-strikes laws) and programmatic (e. and students at Kent State and inmates and correctional officers at Attica being shot down by state agents.g. Kennedy’s assassination. In short. the special change in thinking came from viewing the state as an instrument of progressive social welfare to viewing it as an instrument of coercive control. Regardless. A few of us argued—correctly. Currie. scholars schooled in the sixties first attacked policies—especially rehabilitation—based on social welfare ideology (see. ALC remains salient because it supplies a safe way to publish lots of studies and to advance our careers.. and the policy of mass incarceration (see. By the decade’s end. The state was acting badly. and anger. these “grand expectations”—as Patterson (1996) called them— had not only been dashed but transformed into a sense of betrayal. with the Kennedy Administration promising a New Frontier. e. Kittrie. Vietnam War protesters being beaten by law enforcement officers. This cognitive transformation was inspired by a seemingly endless roster of events that showed the state’s willingness to deceive and exert brutal power—from civil rights marchers being attacked by police dogs. a protracted mean season in corrections. 1969. 1980).g. Showing what did not work was important. An unpopular war and the Watergate scandal only served to reinforce the belief that the state was a conduit not for doing good but for inflicting harm. 1971. They were wary of the wide discretion afforded to state officials to “save” deviant and poor populations. For criminologists. Clear. Unfortunately. 1994. 1982). 1985). and coercively.. In this context. and many statutory (e. concerns about too much welfare ideology soon subsided as criminologists confronted the reality of—and did their best to deconstruct the justifications for—a punitive state.g. there were still expectations that a Great Society was possible in which equal opportunity would be extended to all. e.g. boot camps) initiatives were harsh and ineffective.. as it turned out—that a correctional system based on social welfare and treatment was preferable to the alternative: a system that was shorn of any pretense of doing good and that was free to try diligently to inflict pain on offenders (Cullen and Gilbert. mistrust.. Mistrustful of state power. however. Even after John F. Platt. THE SIXTIES: THE EMBRACE OF NOTHING WORKS IDEOLOGY The decade of the 1960s began with enormous hopes. which they believed was used ineptly.

302 CULLEN Thus. Indeed. despite being a “thriving academic discipline. Scholars quickly became resistant to contrary evidence that treatment interventions were effective. and criminologists surrendered the job of prison management to more conservative interests. In corrections.” instead arguing that it should involve the “development of a body of general and verifiable principles and other types of knowledge regarding the process of law. 1993). In fact. The only permissible position was to argue that prisons should be used less often. In a 1993 challenge to such thinking. 1984). 1987). Criminologists were expected to choose sides—not to join the state’s team but to be on the “knowledge destruction. 2010). 2001. Sherman.” To previous generations of criminologists. employing what Gottfredson (1979) labeled “treatment destruction techniques” (see also Andrews and Bonta. Roger Matthews (2009: 357) termed this “impossibilism” (see also Garland. informal social controls were exerted on scholars who wanted to engage in pragmatic efforts to reduce crime and victimization. crime.” criminologists felt that they had “failed” at the very . but only at the expense of acquitting the state of its responsibility for preserving an inequitable. a widespread belief emerged that virtually all state-related crimecontrol interventions were doomed to fail. Lawrence Sherman authored an essay titled. it was argued. criminogenic society. 1). As Garland (2001: 62) noted. nothing works” team. the need to make such an argument would have been inexplicable (Cullen and Gendreau. Scholars also took the implicit position that prisons were beyond redemption and thus that no efforts should be expended by them to make such institutions humane and effective (cf.” He rejected the idea that “criminology” should only be used to refer to the “causes of crime. cooptation was feared: The state would use scholars to legitimate or expand its power to crack down on poor and minority offenders—themselves victims of unjust social conditions. They were not. Rafter. DiIulio. Fine-tuning the administration of crime control might occasionally prevent a few crimes. of course. 2001. the notion that “nothing works” to rehabilitate offenders was metastasized by Martinson (1974) in his famous review of program evaluation studies. and treatment or prevention” (p. 2010. Some of us have called this ideological stance the “nothing works doctrine” (Cullen and Gendreau. Tonry. Sutherland’s (1939: v) very first words in his Principles of Criminology were that “A science of criminology is greatly needed at present both for satisfactory understanding [of crime] and for adequate control. 2001: 321). expanding its hold on the academy and producing more research and publications than ever before. 2010). In particular. “Why Crime Control Is Not Reactionary. Concepts such as “crime displacement” and “net widening” were commonly invoked to show that interventions that seemed to work really did not due to untoward unanticipated consequences (Binder and Geis.

there was a “strong academic bias .” In the policing area—his area of special expertise—Sherman correctly pointed out that research findings that police practices did not reduce crime were heartily applauded. the triumph of the nothing works doctrine was largely separate from the triumph of the crime-explanation side of the adolescencelimited criminology paradigm. In fact. when theories are developed that have a legitimate chance of reducing crime. against police even trying to control crime” (p.” and “similar satisfaction greeted the findings that adding foot patrols to a small number of beats in Newark had no measurable impact on official crime statistics or victimization survey results. I must confess that I find problematic this perspective’s . But there is no need ever to truly change anything—either in our academic world or in the world of crime control. 62). Furthermore. Barlow and Decker. then. Admittedly. Nonetheless. allowed this crime-explanation side of ALC to flourish. which they do persuasively (see.’” Having been reared in the root-causes sociological tradition. Scholars thus are free to devote large chunks of their careers to publishing self-report studies that have little relevance to changing offenders in the real world. Until relatively recently. they risk being critically evaluated by fellow criminologists. e. there were consequences to complying with or defying nothing works normative beliefs.g. “criminology’s basic project—that of discovering the causes of crime and identifying means whereby it might be reduced—was increasingly viewed as having failed to produce anything worthwhile” (p. “that many academics welcomed the results of the Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment. for this “‘politically correct’ orthodoxy has been used to reward some scholarly careers and punish others” (p. 174). They also were found guilty of being politically incorrect—of actually wanting to reduce crime and of thinking that this is possible.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 303 project identified by Sutherland. theorists are called upon to tell us the policy implications of their frameworks.” observed Sherman (1993: 176). The chief criticism was that their focus on crime events diverted attention away from the root causes of crime. As Clarke and Felson (2011: 255) noted. 174)..” For many criminologists. this view of policy and practice had profound theoretical implications that. To wit: If nothing works. “It was with great joy. Thus. “our approaches are often bundled together under the pejorative label of ‘administrative criminology. Sherman recognized not only this failure but also the reality that many scholars embraced the fight against “repression” and being “anti-crime control. Of course. . at least indirectly. this was the fate that befell the use of routine activity theory and bounded rational choice theory to inform situational crime prevention interventions—in particular the work of Clarke and Felson (2011). then there is no pressing need for theories to produce knowledge that can be used to create interventions that reduce crime. 2010). .

There is no demand that theoretically based research must produce findings that direct effective efforts at social control. but collectively environmental criminologists—with their focus on opportunity reduction and situational crime prevention—have likely done more to save people from criminal victimization. “the opportunistic consumer. the triumph of sociological over individual-trait theorizing was a good thing.304 CULLEN disinterest in the sources of criminal motivation and embrace of rationality—the view that offenders are.” Even so. I want to insert the giant caveat that I do not view ALC as a failed enterprise. Richard Cloward—and have been an ardent practitioner of ALC over the past 30 years. Instead of awards. But before doing so. whose attitudes cannot be changed but whose access to social goods could be barred. writing in the American Sociological Review. In short order. to explain self-reported delinquency and privileges efforts to show that state intervention does not work to reduce crime. they have at times been viewed with the kind of suspicion and animus that criminologists typically reserve for James Q. Clarke. Kopp (1936) described her 1935 visit to Germany to inspect their eugenics policies and practices. the United States had passed restrictive immigration laws and the first eugenic legislation in the world (Bruinius. ALC has served four important functions. if we had the Nobel Prize in criminology. Many scholars commented favorably on the “racial hygiene” movement in Hitler’s pre-World World II Germany (Cornwell. just as a person’s life can be well lived. so too can a paradigm’s—even if the endpoint is a kindly death. many criminologists are not aware of the intense prejudice against racial and ethnic groups that prevailed in America during Sutherland’s day. Indeed. as Garland (2001: 129) put it. Felson. First. as a measure of preventative . I was raised by strain theorists—a bit by Robert Merton and a lot by my mentor. There is no commitment to construct systematic scientific knowledge that is capable of changing offender behavior or of lowing crime rates. and their crew should receive it (well. apart from its eugenics aspects. For one thing. including from homicide. I will argue that this paradigm is bankrupt and should be discarded. Thus. 2003). completed by adolescents. at least they should receive the field’s Stockholm Prize!). IN PRAISE OF A BANKRUPT PARADIGM In its most truncated form. She concluded that the “German legislation. Today. adolescence-limited criminology is a paradigm that privileges the use of questionnaires. Wilson. than any other group of scholars. For another thing. is a great step ahead as a constructive public health measure. 2006). Thus. however. I might quibble with them on some points.

. at times.g. 2007. As a discipline. Patillo. Not long thereafter. 2010.. mentally and morally unfit.. We also have been one of the few interest groups in society to stand up against mass incarceration and its untoward consequences (see. on some occasions. 1998. It is also the case that ALC theories and studies have. 2011). Sutherland’s theorizing and sociological criminology generally provided a powerful antidote to crass attempts to blame offenders’ natures for their criminality and to justify repressive sanctions. Currie. helped scholars developing interventions to know what risk factors to target for change (see. and Western. ALC has encouraged scholars to value theory and to create a lengthy body of theoretical explanations that fill our books (see. an esteemed Harvard University anthropologist. 2010). It follows that the elimination of crime can be effected only by the extirpation of the physically. e. 1995). the ALC paradigm has allowed criminology to grow and prosper as a discipline. Hawkins et al. opposition to such theories has become ideological. this research suggests the need for a multiple-factor approach to understanding offending rather than for a general theory approach. Cullen.g. Second and related. the ALC paradigm has urged scholars to stand on the side of the poor and minorities in the so-called wars on crime and drugs. But if nothing else. rejecting out of hand the existence of individual differences between offenders and nonoffenders. and Ball. boot camps) do not work (Cullen. criminologists have formed a community that has subjected simplistic trait theories to the organized skepticism they deserved.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 305 medicine. could end The American Criminal with the following words— expressed without second thought: Criminals are organically inferior. 2011. punitive interventions (e.. criminologists have raised the bar that those wishing to advance such views must jump over in order to be taken seriously. 2004. and as a contribution to social welfare” (p.g.. 2005).. Ironically. Tonry. we have shown how many common-sense. 2003).g. Cullen and Agnew. 770).’ ‘organic degeneration. Cullen and Wilcox. Weiman. Fourth. Crime is the resultant of the impact of environment upon low grade human organisms. Simon. we have come to stand for social justice. Admittedly. e. e. Over the years. troubled as they were by his use of “such horrendous catchwords as ‘biological inferiority.’” It is instructive that Hooton (1939: 309). Merton and Ashley-Montagu (1940: 391) felt compelled to provide a detailed analytical and statistical critique of Hooton’s The American Criminal. Third. studies conducted by ALC have produced information that has helped to identify the most salient risk factors for criminal involvement (Andrews and Bonta. Lilly. or by their complete segregation in a socially aseptic environment. In our knowledge destruction roles.’ ‘biological deterioration.

I was not only impressed but also struck by how each one tended to identify something core about criminology that was not being adequately investigated—whether that was emotions. I regularly hear colleagues greet a publication of Criminology with the lament that the articles. When ALC embraced the search for an abstract general theory of crime. Matthews. the academic discipline of criminology has never been healthier.306 CULLEN As noted. Moreover. This reality should not be surprising. context. Put in the . as just noted. knowledge production has expanded steadily and journals have multiplied to meet the supply. The ALC paradigm is intellectually bankrupt. When taken together. I could miss almost two hours of classes. Although more may exist. If I left early and walked slowly back to school after the mass was finished. ALC LEAVES OUT TOO MUCH In reading recent Sutherland Award addresses. it chose to ignore the multiple factors associated with crime identified by the Gluecks and by subsequent researchers. I loved funerals. or some aspect of life-course criminology. Uggen and Inderbitzin. I was not morose. 2007. I do not believe that my assessment is idiosyncratic. We also decry the failure of criminology to be policy relevant—to make a difference in the world (see. It has. ALC also has provided a paradigm in which scholars could find seemingly unending research puzzles that could be explored for publication and reward. 2007). this is a funeral that I am also happy to attend. Gregory’s Church.. 2010). are not so meaningful. It leaves out too much. I will offer four major sources of this collective malaise about our discipline—or at least about adolescence-limited criminology. 2010). we got to leave school. But as an altar boy. although technically proficient. travel across the street to St. We know we are in trouble when we refer to our work as “so what? criminology” (Currie. Well. I do not regret the death of adolescence-limited criminology. these addresses suggest that traditional ALC is deficient in important ways. No. Other fields are illuminating new ways to see crime and new research puzzles (see Nagin. done much good and perhaps fulfilled its destiny. developments outside a pure sociological perspective—from biology to behavioral economics—demand serious consideration in our understanding of crime. e. REQUIEM FOR A PARADIGM: FOUR SOURCES OF CRIMINOLOGICAL BANKRUPTCY As a kid. 2009) or as “antiseptic criminology” (Cullen.g. but it has reached its end. In many respects. and serve at requiems. As a result.

they are still searching for more. But why should this be the case? In its four decades of existence. and Lacey Rohleder) have thus far found 201 studies and 47 dissertations that test social bond theory.. Pratt et al. e. Some of these problems could be inherent in the nature of trying to measure theories and measure crime. Pratt and Cullen. But this does not appear to be the case. Kimberly Kempf undertook a systematic analysis of the extant empirical literature on social bond theory. the anomalies have become so extensive that the paradigm is collapsing. In fact. 2010. or other processes (see. Furthermore. “has not yet determined the capacity of this theory” (p. remains a vibrant part of contemporary ALC. This perspective. now more than 40 years of age. Jennifer Lux.. . This reality is exemplified by the history of Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory. Pratt et al. they concluded that the “amount of variance explained is often very low” and that the “models provide relatively weak explanatory power” (2008: 453). 453). Findings were often weak and inconsistent.g. but this state of affairs was caused by the use of diverse social bond measures and no coherent strategy for how to build the perspective theoretically and empirically. “Criminology. 2006. The other likely possibility.. Weisburd and Piquero’s (2008) examination of “how well criminologists explain crime” is instructive. defective controls. three of my collaborators (Tara Livelsberger. perceptual deterrence. 167). however. We might expect that when a field has produced approximately 250 studies. it is likely the most famous sociological theory of crime in existence. Toward this end. 167). In 1993. is that ALC has reached a ceiling in what the knowledge it produces can explain (see Weisburd and Piquero. nobody—at least to my knowledge—has ever discovered the fifth social bond! I also do not believe that any criminologist can reliably tell me which social bond is most strongly related to delinquency. Based on articles testing theories published in Criminology between 1968 and 2005. 2008). we should know a great deal about a theory in question. Remarkably. 2008). But this enterprise appears to suffer from diminishing returns. social learning. “there is no evidence of improvement over time” (p.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 307 terms of Kuhn (1970). ALC WILL NOT PRODUCE ANY MORE KNOWLEDGE OF VALUE: SOCIAL BOND THEORY AS AN EXEMPLAR ALC research has shown that major theories of crime have likely identified factors involved in criminal behavior—whether that is strain. Weisburd and Piquero. She termed her review of 71 studies “disheartening” (1993: 173) and concluded that “social control theory has not fared well” (p.” Kempf observed. 2000. I am now engaged in a project to decipher this mystery.

2010.. I suspect that we would be better off as a discipline if we called for a moratorium on studies of social bond theories. we might have reluctantly concluded that this theory had now been falsified and needs to be discarded. the empirical status of theories would somehow become known. 2002). in the least. 1995. regardless of what the data tell us. What does this short history of social bond theory tell us about ALC? I think it means that we have long believed or pretended to believe that if we went out and produced lots of individual studies. is that ALC was never set up to provide policyrelevant knowledge. MacKenzie. McGuire. we might have anticipated that Kempf’s (1993) wise advice would have been followed and valuable knowledge construction would have taken place. “Despite these advantages. As a result. Sherman et al. “equivocal empirical support for the theory is problematic. The difficulty. Or. 2010. Daly. in particular. They admit that the perspective makes “intuitive sense” in that ties to parents and investments in the conventional order would seem likely to restrain delinquent propensities. It is the power and the tragedy of the ALC paradigm that theories can continue to flourish and inspire empirical test after empirical test. Hirschi himself lost his attachment to his own theory and turned to self-control theory—a life-course change perhaps instigated by a quality academic marriage to Michael Gottfredson! ALC WILL NOT ALLOW US TO DO GOOD Given my long-term trumpeting of rehabilitation (Cullen and Gilbert. Stucky.g. It is instructive that after 20 years. neither of these has taken place.” with longitudinal studies in particular failing “to support the notion of a direct causal link between the elements and deviance” (2009: 185). 2001). e. Quite seriously. Theory testing using adolescents and self-report delinquency yields data only loosely coupled to the design of effective interventions.308 CULLEN Many years and many studies later. I see a growing thirst among criminologists to do good in the world of crime—whether this is voiced by left realists and feminists or by those more interested in program evaluation (see. I find it gratifying that the professional ideology of nothing works and impossibilism is losing its grasp on criminology (Cullen and Gendreau. at least among our doctoral students. Kubrin. and Krohn (2009) provided a thoughtful dissection of social bond theory. Matthews..” they observed. Make them do something different. 2010. in saving . DeKeseredy. 1982). But as the fate of social bond theory shows. Of course. 2006. however. this does not seem to be the case. year after year. as scholars embark on public criminology—as they try to make a difference in the world—they will find existing criminology to be only marginally helpful in directing policy and.

In many ways. I will do so only parsimoniously. In fact. e. Contrary .. then feel free to publish away! I may occasionally do so myself. I can offer eight steps to enabling criminology to become more meaningful by moving beyond the prevailing ALC paradigm. This observation leads me to reiterate a core point of this address: ALC has had its day and has served its purpose.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 309 offenders from a life in crime. with the knowledge that each step could easily merit its own essay. It steals time and effort that could be devoted to more meaningful brands of research. Terrie Moffitt is of little help here because “life-course-persistent criminology” has no intuitive appeal. Whatever else they might have gotten wrong. as they say nowadays in official circles. 2007). the best I can do is to offer a working title for a novel paradigm: Cullenology! This is stupid. At this point. Doing more of the same should be discouraged. but also not far-fetched: After all. embracing abstract theoretical principles and the use of secondary data sets that measure most aspects of life with two-item scales having a reliability of .’” Indeed. our field has moved progressively farther and farther away from our subject matter. ‘unfit for purpose.68. Olds. 2010). This reality is thus another reason why the hold of ALC is likely to weaken and why the paradigm is heading toward bankruptcy. Criminology has become. as I have lamented. Roger Matthews (2010: 195) captured my sentiments in arguing that the “steady growth of a criminology lacking policy relevance has created an expanding criminological industry that has become obese and is. Henggeler. Each of the steps I will identify is different. what follows is merely my best sense of where we should head. too antiseptic (Cullen. individual trait researchers—from Lombroso and his Italian positivists to the Americans of Hooton and the Gluecks—had a commitment to studying offenders up close and personal. ALC’S OPPORTUNITY COSTS ARE TOO HIGH I am hesitant to tell others that they should cease publishing ALC studies. Andrews and Bonta. it is instructive that the best models for effective interventions have been invented by scholars outside criminology—especially by psychologists (see. ALC brought criminologists too far away from their subject matter: offenders and nonoffenders. criminologists’ collective investment in ALC is not a good thing. or course. If this activity is enjoyable and advances one’s career. EIGHT STEPS TO BUILDING A NEW CRIMINOLOGY Being a criminological curmudgeon is perhaps the easy part.g. 2010. I have searched in vain for a label that would capture the essence of what this new criminology might be. 1998. Unfortunately. but they share a common theme. Mapping out a coherent vision for the discipline’s future is more daunting. But writ large.

. Current textbooks implicitly are informed by a static. provides a starting point for answering . I would submit that nearly all serious researchers already recognize that LCC is criminology. Sampson and Laub (1993) realized this with regard to social bond theory. but they are not the only ones to have this insight. I suspect that many scholars in this audience have done likewise in their careers. For example. It is not simply another perspective that competes with. prominent questions facing the field. I have taught my students Merton’s (1938) typology of adaptations. Why? It directs no research.” I wish to express John’s point more directly: Life-course criminology (LCC) now is criminology. ALC view of offenders and their careers. ACCEPT THAT LIFE-COURSE CRIMINOLOGY IS CRIMINOLOGY In his 2005 Sutherland Address. alas. 2006). First. it simply means that they should be age graded. Of course. Merton showed that strain does not lead ineluctably to crime or deviance but can have diverse adaptations. 1989. Rather. Second. LCC should replace ALC as the organizing framework for the study of crime causation. say. I am not arguing that other theories do not matter. our textbooks and the way we teach criminology should begin to reflect this reality. EMBRACE BIOSOCIAL THEORY Every year of my academic life. John Laub (2006: 241) “advanced the argument that ‘life-course criminology’ . “Child Criminology”) that allow LCC to gradually take over our pedagogy. More broadly.g. it is obvious that we need to study what happens not only during but also before and after adolescence. Miller and Mullins. Two important observations follow from this assertion. Rather. we need to study the concrete conditions of people’s lives in great detail. not widely understood: That is. if LCC is the organizing framework for theory and research. Its theoretical value is limited—and. if not in this semester. . with the effects of their factors specified contemporaneously by age grade and into the future. strain theory or feminist theory. . strain theory has a lengthy . we need to think about writing books and developing courses (e. since starting at Western Illinois University at age 25. feminists have focused on gendered pathways and on how early physical and sexual abuse can have short-term and long-term criminogenic consequences (Chesney-Lind. most theories would be enriched by being placed systematically within a LCC paradigm. They focus on standard theories and on standard crime types. Although a transformation of the textbook industry will not occur soon. . Accordingly.310 CULLEN to what Sutherland suggested..

and we are far more attuned today to the risks of using biology for racist or repressive purposes. how many of us teach about something that offenders carry with them every day from birth: the human brain? I must confess that I do not.. As Rafter (2008: 251) eloquently expressed this point: Today. Of course. EXPLORE HOW INDIVIDUALS TRAVEL THROUGH CONTEXTS As a sociologist. 1955.g. We can now see that biocriminology itself indicates that ameliorating social environments is the most effective of all anticrime measures. in reality. which then influence the lives that they will help to create. Part of the problem is that context is undertheorized.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 311 history of trying to explain not simply the origins of strain but also the factors that condition or structure differential reactions to it (Agnew. It is a standard practice within ALC. I am not alone in this choice. now we can picture the two as working together so as to achieve gene expression and produce the individual. Cloward and Ohlin. But as we have become more sophisticated in our statistics (e. I am persuaded that social context matters. Although we must be guarded against trait theories being used to blame the victim—to excuse “savage inequalities. 1984). Knowledge about genes and how brains operate is exploding.” as Jonathan Kozol (1991) calls them. But I think more than this is at work. I have assumed that brains and biology did not matter. 1960. however. It never dawned on me that teaching Merton’s (1938) typology of adaptations rather than the brain was indefensible. The reality is that we teach this typology because it is in every book and because we always have. new understandings of the complexity. individual differences are what truly account for criminal choices. see also Cullen. it seems that the amount of explained variation and the amount of our understanding of contextual effects have shrunk commensurately. flexibility. we can no longer pretend that biology is not intimately implicated in human behavior and thus in criminal behavior. The context has changed. We no longer have to pit nature against nurture. In the end. For most of my career. and indeterminacy of genetic and neuroscientific development open the way to formulating new positions outside the old nature-nurture debate. and it is influencing other social scientific fields—including even sociology. so we settle for plopping all sorts of aggregated measures into our . By contrast. 1992. the HLM revolution!). we truncate reality if we do not study what we all now know: Babies emerge from the womb with individual differences. As we move forward. from any role in crime causation—this is not 1940s or 1950s America. Cohen. It is possible that weak contextual effects exist because.

The assumption would be that contexts affect individuals mainly because they are composed of people who possess shared beliefs (culture) and engage in shared actions (social constraints). political. e. 1997). play groups. As a result. and structural conditions. context becomes more concrete and its effect undeniable. I would propose an alternative.. 1991). In these accounts. context thus is treated as a static domain into which individuals are inserted and somehow affected.312 CULLEN multivariate. But when they travel into the street and even to school. Sampson. choose. or at least complementary. The starting point would be human beings and not contexts. older criminal clubs and groups. multimodel equations. Context is thus not so much a “thing” as a living entity that exerts influences through patterned interactions. decent kids’ choices and behavior are constrained. and are constrained by different social domains. The unfolding of the systemic model placed attention on informal social control and on attempts to measure this by aggregating census data or other characteristics of area residents. If only implicitly. I am convinced that criminology took a wrong turn in the study of context when it followed Kornhauser (1978) by reducing Shaw and McKay’s theory from a so-called mixed model (culture and control) into a community-level control theory. To be sure. Kotlowitz. strategy: exploring how individuals travel through context. and correctional institutions. we would study context not from the top down but from the bottom up. life on the street at early ages. e. These stories document how the youngsters’ commitment to crime increased as they traveled through the contexts of impoverished dysfunctional families. Youngsters from the so-called decent families live in a distinct cultural and interactional context. Understanding how context matters thus involves following individuals as they are placed into. they are in a context where those raised in street families and the “code of the street” prevails.” which is why he collected life histories. delinquent gangs. Elijah Anderson (1999) perhaps most clearly illuminated what I am suggesting. . he or she travels through different contexts over the life course and during any one stage in life (see. The results are typically disappointing. From an individual’s perspective. More contemporary ethnographies tell similar stories (see. negotiate. But where did the individual offenders go to? Clifford Shaw (1966 [1930]) well understood the need to preserve the “delinquent boy’s own story. the “contextual effects” on their behavior are not distant but proximate—funneled powerfully through their cognitions. all of the youths— decent and street—are situated in a hyper-segregated neighborhood context shaped by larger economic.g. But for kids who turn to violence.g. we manufacture interaction terms to see whether some individual-level variable and some contextual-level variable interact. At most..

e. 2010. we must resist relying in this area exclusively on factorial-design vignette studies with intentions to offend as the dependent variable. I will return to this issue shortly. e.. 2002). and the situations they encounter in public places. the salience of biosocial research and theory promises to enrich our understanding of why choices are made (Wright. and Daigle. But this technology also meant that many other key features of the criminal act. across the life course (see. 1996. First. Most criminological theories have been strangely silent on the issue of emotions (for an exception. Tibbetts. Wright and Decker. Second. including the choice of antisocial conduct. 2008). 1994. see also Thaler and Sunstein.. 2005. we can probe more deeply issues such as human agency—how it emerges. there is now expanded interest in developmental neuroscience and how it affects risktaking behavior. the growing influence of behavioral economics also is likely to shape inquiry into how potential offenders perceive and are influenced by situations (Nagin and Paternoster. . In a very real way. Within this framework. see Agnew 2006). questions assessing bonds with parents or number of delinquent peers) and for measuring criminality or propensity (by including a multiple-item self-report delinquency scale with a high Cronbach’s alpha).CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 313 how other youngsters think. ALC methodology necessitated this omission. Self-report studies are ideally suited for measuring the background rather than the foreground of crime causation (e. Although valuable.g. were left unstudied.. 2007). and grows in its capacity to prompt change in offenders away from crime. Accordingly. Steinberg.g. 2008). Steffensmeier and Ulmer. is differentially manifested at various ages.g. I do not need to say too much here except to reiterate that ALC ignored this issue of decision making. Daniel Nagin (2007) made a persuasive case for “moving choice to center stage” in criminology. But it is now indisputable that emotions have strong neuroscientific origins and affect decision making. I would be remiss if I did not highlight one other factor that must be incorporated into our developmental and situational understanding of crime decision making: emotions (Nagin. 1997). Put simply. both generally and with regard to crime (Massey. We also have a long history within criminology of exploring how situational factors can induce emotions that lead to crime (see. Our best insights into how the decision to offend is bounded by situational factors have been drawn from research on recent or active offenders (Shover. 2008). not easily measured. UNDERSTAND CRIMINAL DECISION MAKING In his 2006 Sutherland Address. My sense is that the investigation of criminal decision making will proceed along two tracks: developmental and situational.

to understand and prevent the sexual victimization of . provides immediate. it means that you likely know nothing about crime—but you should. attractive target. most criminologists know a lot about criminality or propensity and almost nothing about crime or crime events. But crime science is ideologically neutral. including advocates of routine activity theory. we need to recognize the importance of examining not only negative but positive emotions.. environmental criminologists—as they are often called—“have led an uncomfortable existence on the edges of criminology for many years” and are just “now coming in from the cold” (2010: 276). crime science relies on diverse perspectives to enrich our understanding of the details of the criminal event. and experience the generality of deviance). 1988). are so neglected that Ronald Clarke (2010) suggested that they may wish to break off from criminology into a new field called “crime science. they look at me like deer staring into oncoming headlights. they just attend their own conference that goes by the acronym of ECCA (Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis). KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE CRIME EVENT When I ask students about the components of routine activity theory. such as empathy (Joliffe and Farrington. In his view. 2001: 127) might divert attention away from underlying issues of social injustice and be implicitly conservative because of a willingness to see offenders as the enemy. Scholars at times worry that such “criminologies of everyday life” (Garland.e.314 CULLEN Anderson. The scholarship of those who study crime events. 2004). I was initially confronted with my ignorance when I read Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) A General Theory of Crime and saw the power of their observation that the nature of crime (i. unplanned gratification that requires little effort or skill) told us something about the nature of criminals (e. Indeed. It is instructive that at ASC meetings. impulsive and risk-seeking. they immediately chant “motivated offender. versatile in their offending. Finally. no guardianship. seeking to uncover factors that can be manipulated to reduce opportunities for victimization. Its premises can be used.” When I ask them to name the three strains at the core of general strain theory. Katz.” He is willing to leave the study of propensity to us and take with him the study of crime and crime reduction..g. for example. Most often. including this one! Despite this fact. I would suggest that I would obtain a similar differential reaction from any group of criminologists. 1999. they are birds of a feather flocking together. If you have not heard of this society. I wondered why I had not thought much about such issues previously.

It is at this point that propensity (or criminality) and opportunity co-mingle. and Cullen. It is instructive that Sutherland (1956 [1931]) did not write an essay on the “high school as a criminological laboratory. 2009).g.” He understood that engaging in a crime was a matter not only of the act being possible (what he called an “opportunity structure”) but also of acquiring the cognitions and skills needed to perform the act (what he called a “learning structure”).CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 315 women—hardly a concern of conservative commentators (see. 2009). Daigle. and Deering. in talking with offenders? I could provide many examples of the salient insights drawn from such data collection. Access to the illegitimate means to offend thus had a situational component (the act was possible) and a life-course component (the actor had developed the capacity to complete the specific crime in question). The mistake of crime science is to assume that “motivated offenders” can be taken for granted and. My only point is that it would be a mistake to place criminal propensity into one field (criminology) and crime events into another field (crime science). TALK TO OFFENDERS. What has this research told us about desistance? Not much. This number has resulted in a transformation in our understanding of desistance. and Martinez. this number represents the total number of offenders—mostly adult to aged white-male offenders—interviewed by Shadd Maruna (n = 65) and by John Laub and . My advisor. however. Richard Cloward (1959: 168). 2010. Cowe. Now let me give you another number: 117.000 participants. Where does this number come from? Well. Fisher. to give only marginal attention to the way in which criminal decision making is bounded by factors that offenders import into the crime situation. in turn. but let me discuss just one. self-report studies have been so plentiful that they likely have an overall N in excess of.” but he did on the “prison as a criminological laboratory. The challenge is for traditional criminologists to put out the welcome mat to crime scientists and to understand that the future of criminology will be advanced by exploring systematically the nexus between propensity and opportunity—between offender and situation. say. Veysey. NOT TO HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENTS As noted. It struck me that although I can supply no definitive total. Christian. e. 200. ALC was built predominantly on self-report studies of highschool students.. Is there any special value. avoided this problem through his concept of “illegitimate means.” It would not have dawned on him not to talk to offenders about why and how they committed criminal acts. leading to new theories and to new proposals for how to intervene with offenders called creative corrections (see Brayford.

In response. Sherman et al. e. 2009). and Wright. 2003). 2003). As a field. 2006). Beaver. where belief trumps data. They remain on the fringes of the discipline. 2007. and Telep. I do not have guidelines for how this might be accomplished. 2002). might get famous! REVOLUTIONIZE THE ORGANIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE I sense a yearning among criminologists to look out in the expansive sea of research studies and to have some guidance as to what it all tells us about crime and its control. see also Lipsey and Cullen. 2006. too. than evolutionary science. 2005).316 CULLEN Robert Sampson (n = 52). attempts to compile the central conclusions of major longitudinal studies (Piquero. we generally are not very good at taking all this knowledge and reducing it into a form where we can all agree on what we know and what we do not know. 2011). bearing important fruits. we need to revolutionize how we organize our knowledge to make it more accessible to all criminologists. . Weisburd. My advice: Go speak with offenders. read by a select group of scholars. Koper. such as the series developed by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. and Blevins.g. Farrington. you. that outline evidence-based recommendations for how best to prevent specific types of crime and disorder (see. where systematic attempts have been made to organize what is known (Dawkins. Based on these interviews. efforts to organize knowledge have been undertaken. Again. Sampson and Laub. guides by crime scientists. initiatives to show “what works” in crime prevention.. MacKenzie. I can point briefly to the following prominent examples: Michael Tonry’s long-running Crime and Justice: A Review of Research series. and multiple-volume works devoted to synthesizing extant research on specific topics such as the National Institute of Justice’s Criminal Justice 2000 and the National Research Council’s Understanding and Preventing Violence. But as a field. 2009. scholars taking stock of the empirical status of their theories (Cullen.. Somehow. 1998). and Blumstein. Wright. and Gill. Clarke and Eck. But I can offer two ideas to get the ball rolling. 2011. 2001. these diverse endeavors are welcomed and valuable—but they are not enough. the construction of an “evidence-based policing matrix” that organizes evaluation studies and shows visually the most promising enforcement strategies (Lum. meta-analyses and systematic reviews of criminogenic risk factors (Ellis. 2007. Thornberry and Krohn. we now have at the core of desistance theory the concepts of “redemption scripts” and “human agency” (Maruna. so to speak. Loeber and Farrington. most notably The Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Group (Farrington. we are sometimes closer to intelligent design.

As new evaluations are conducted. I am not trumpeting the publication of mere literature reviews. Unlike journals. Of course. space on the Internet is unlimited. these problems might be minimized. and Jonson. TAKE DOING GOOD SERIOUSLY There is simply no escape from the stubborn reality that criminal behavior will evoke criminal justice control. It also has the potential to allow many scholars to participate in the organization of knowledge. importing in and synthesizing new knowledge as it appears. the pressure is on Cheryl to get this website up and running! Let’s see where it might lead. I am most excited about this recommendation: We should establish “What-We-Know Websites. Rather. the editors of our major journals should begin to privilege articles that seek to organize knowledge. within the next year. what I have in mind are sophisticated quantitative and qualitative reviews that derive clear propositions and establish on a given topic what we know and what we need to know.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 317 First. confirming the finding that prisons have a null or criminogenic effect on recidivism (Jonson. among other related information. once or twice a year. In any case. We now reward scholars for undertaking single research studies that present new information. Cheryl Lero Jonson. these efforts often lead nowhere. 2009).” My vision is that. If journals are receptive to such articles. I believe that I have now persuaded her to start. Unlike published literature reviews—which give us an account of what we know at one point in time—these websites would be dynamic. But as I have tried to show through my discussion of the empirical status of social bond theory. which is why they devote their time to producing ALC studies rather than to organizing the extant literature. Cullen. she would have on the website the updated effect sizes of the impact of custodial versus noncustodial sanctions. But if ASC worked to set standards and train scholars in how to administer quality websites. to the effectiveness of specific interventions. to the impact of various risk factors on crime. Writ large. not the least of which is that the knowledge placed online would not be peer reviewed. “Cheryl’s Prison Website. There are pitfalls. authors would send them to Cheryl who would. Daniel Nagin. The question is whether these . this approach could result in numerous What-We-Know Websites on a variety of topics—from the empirical status of theories. then they will be submitted! Second. 2010). meta-analyze them and update what we know about prison effects. and I have been exploring the effects of imprisonment on recidivism—a salient but inexplicably neglected topic (Nagin. Cheryl has meta-analyzed this research.” Over the past three years.

We must give answers.g. never withdraw from the policymaking arena. As I have argued. if not beyond. rooted in the science of offending. criminologists can no longer play at policy and practice. we must be about doing good where doing harm so often now prevails. 2011). Indeed. it is that we should never. If there is one thing I have stood for in my career. for over three decades. I have come to admire my Canadian friends—the late Don Andrews.. antisocial attitudes). 4) an evidence-based focus on high-risk offenders. and 5) the development of technology capable of implementing their treatment model (e. 2010). cognitive-behavioral programs) that were responsive to and thus capable of changing these risk factors. they worked to construct a coherent treatment paradigm (Cullen. and use interventions capable of transforming offender behavior. . showing that attempts to change low-risk offenders were often criminogenic. their ideas are informing corrections across North America..g.g. we have often surrendered the crime control arena to those with a ready-made solution to the crime problem: Lock up offenders for lengthy sentences. and Paul Gendreau—because they truly have taken seriously the challenges of intervening—of doing good—in offenders’ lives (see Andrews and Bonta. they remain exemplars in showing that successful interventions must be theoretically sophisticated. We have contributed valuable work to knowledge destruction—showing what does not work—but have not done much to show what does work through knowledge construction. the Level of Service Inventory offender-assessment instrument). If we cannot develop effective evidencebased interventions that are capable of controlling crime by doing good. 3) an evidence-based choice of intervention techniques (e. The problem is that we cannot give half-baked answers when asked what do to about crime. Lacking persuasive prescriptions for reducing crime. By contrast. I do not believe that most criminologists understand how difficult it is to design a quality.318 CULLEN sanctions will be exclusively punitive—as they have been disproportionately in recent decades—or seek to improve the quality of the lives of offenders and their victims. evidence-based intervention.. As is warranted. suggesting implausible interventions that will never lead anywhere or trying to implement progressive versions of boot camps and scared straight programs. Regardless of whether you wish to adhere to the specifics of the Canadians’ paradigm. 2) an evidence-based understanding of the risk factors for recidivism that were amenable to change (e. I use the word “paradigm” because their approach involved the following: 1) a general theory of human behavior—cognitive-social learning—which led to a set of coherent principles on how best to intervene with offenders. James Bonta. our discipline’s embrace of the nothing works doctrine and impossibilism has compromised criminology’s influence on criminal justice policy and practice.

Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology will remain a “so what?” field. Our contributions should be appropriately honored. reflect on the status of criminology—on its past strengths and accomplishments and on its limits and challenges. Criminology 30:47–87. D. Pressured Into Crime: An Overview of General Strain Theory. we must choose a different future. It is perhaps appropriate. New Providence. There is much work to be done exploring new criminological vistas—and fun to be had doing it. 2010. I trust that you will choose your—and criminology’s—future wisely.. So. CONCLUSION: CHOOSING OUR FUTURE Edwin Sutherland was concerned not only with his specific research contributions and narrow career interests but also with the future of criminology as a scientific discipline. NJ: Anderson/LexisNexis. 1992. Anderson. 2006. Andrews. it is not hard to imagine that our general way of doing criminology could persist for another decade or two. and James Bonta. For criminology to change. I am speaking to the younger generation of scholars in our field. Violence. Mostly. My generation’s criminology has done much good. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct. 5th ed. Even though I have argued that the ALC paradigm is cracking under the weight of its inadequacies.CHOOSING OUR FUTURE 319 our collective irrelevance in policy and practice will continue. Los Angeles. and the Moral Life of the Inner City. REFERENCES Agnew. 1964. . Robert. But as John has also shown in his work with Robert Sampson. Akers. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 1:38–46. Code of the Street: Decency. 1999. Robert. then. but it need not be your criminology. New York: Norton. A. Elijah. as members of a discipline we all cherish. Ronald L. Socio-economic status and delinquent behavior: A retest. that an address honoring Sutherland should be an occasion on which we. here and now. Agnew. I am urging that we amass a large collective dose of human agency and turn in a different direction. but there is no obligation to show allegiance to our paradigm. CA: Roxbury. change is not inevitable. John Laub (2004) wonderfully described how criminology has a disciplinary life course that experiences various turning points.

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