The Development of Research Problems in the Study of Anti-Social and Criminal Behavior

Wilma H. Smeenk, NISCALE

The paper summarizes the findings and conclusions of a two-year theoretical research project regarding theories of individual level anti-social and criminal behavior. Background of the study is the debate in criminology regarding the large number of theories, by some seen as an indicator for limited theoretical progress in the field. The purpose of the study was to provide overview and insight, by making the content of theories from different disciplines explicit and by focusing on the research problems that the theories are addressing. By analyzing the content of theories, and by relating research problems and theories, the developent of research problems in this field of criminology could be tracked. The results of the study help clarify the discussion on criminological theory development by making the content of theories explicit, by addressing the number of theories in relation to the research problem, and by offering a heuristic to deal with the 'levels problem' in criminology. The development of research problems within five groups of explanatory mechanisms at different levels of explanation is presented. Further implications for future theory development are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006