Who Researched What We Know and Under What Circumstances? Period and Cohort Effects in the Production of Criminological Knowledge, 1951-1993

Joachim Savelsberg, University of Minnesota
Sarah Flood, University of Minnesota

Cohort and period effects are explored for criminological journal literature. The paper links traditions of biographic interviews with and essays by criminologists (Laub 1983; Cressey 1990) and sociologists (Rossi 1990) with a body of research on cohort and period effects on knowledge (Mannheim 1952; Kertzer 1983; Schumann and Scott 1989). The data set is based on content analysis of 1,612 crime and crime control articles in leading American sociology and criminology journals (1951-1993), supplemented by information on the year and place of authors' graduation. Distinguishing between six cohorts and four periods of production, results indicate that period and cohort membership mutually affected criminological work, topic, level of analysis, and type of theory examined. For example, all productive cohorts shifted from criminal behavior to control research between the 1960s and the 1970 while all productive cohorts at least partly reversed this trend during the 1980s. Yet, each cohort begins its shifts at a different level and moves at its own pace. Cohort and period effects are interpreted against the background of historic information regarding dominant ideological currents of different eras and dominant schools that nurtured different generations of criminologists

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Updated 05/20/2006