Due in class on Tuesday, February 25
Identify independent and dependent variables and how you would measure them.
1) Drug users have lower GPAS.
2) Socially isolated students tend to commit more crime.
3) Street gangs dealing in drugs are more violent.
4) Children from disadvantaged homes commit more burglaries.
5) More criminals go free when plea bargaining is used.
6) Trials with juries convict more people than trials with judges.
7) Vice cops are more corrupt than any other type of police officer.
8) Crimes committed with guns injure more people.
9) Psychologically inferior people are imprisoned more.
10) Criminals are not rational people.
Two pillars of science are logic (a good
theory) and observation (data collection)
These pillars relate to the three key
aspects of science:
◦ Data collection
◦ Data analysis
Theory: systematic explanation for the
observed facts and laws that relate to a
particular aspect of life
Provide general statements about social life
Used to guide research and develop a
Hypothesis is a specified expectation of
Y = f(X)
Hypothesis testing involves finding out if
observations are consistent with the hypothesis
• Goal of theory is to find patterns of regularity
in social life
• Formal and informal norms of social control
• Regularities can be studied via scientific
• Exceptions do not negate/invalidate
regularities – patterns need not be reflected
in 100% of observations
• Relationships are probabilistic
• Social scientists study social patterns, not
individual behavior itself
• We care about why aggregated patterns of
(individual) behavior are regular even when
participating individuals change over time
• CJ practitioners focus on individual behaviors, which
researcher on aggregate patterns. For example, processing
and classifying new inmates – conduct psychological tests
and review prior records to determine security risks,
program needs, and job options – focusing on individual
behaviors. While researchers focus on whether white inmate
are assigned more desirable jobs than black inmates.
• Social science involves the study of these two
• Theory is written in a variable language;
people are the carriers of those variables
• e.g., lower-class juveniles are more likely to steal
• Attributes – characteristics that describe
some object/person; Variables – logical
groupings of attributes
• Male and female are the attributes of the variable
• Theories describe the relationships that might
be logically expected among variables
• Causation – an attribute on one variable is
expected to cause, predispose, or encourage
an attribute on another variable
• Independent variable (IV): “cause”, “influence”
• Dependent variable (DV): “effect”, “outcome”
• Types of defense (IV) -> prison or probation
Three distinctions underlie many of the
variations in social scientific research:
◦ Idiographic (i.e. a case study) and nomothetic
(i.e. a questionnaire survey) explanations
◦ Inductive and deductive reasoning
◦ Type of data – quantitative or qualitative
Idiographic explanations seek a full and
detailed understanding of a single case or
Nomothetic explanations are partial
explanations that explain a class/group of
situations or events rather than a single one
by using one or a few factors/variables.
Both types are powerful tools in criminal
Cliffard R. Shaw developed ideographic
explanations to understand the lives of juvenile
delinquents. These case studies, described in such
books as The Jack-Roller and Brothers in Crime,
offered researchers a comprehensive view of the
effect that variables such as family factors, peer
influences, and community circumstances have on
the engagement in juvenile delinquency. Data
collection involved interviews with the youths and
their parents, analyzing diaries kept by the youths,
and reviewing juveniles medical, school, and arrest
These case studies were later used to develop
nomothetic explanations of juvenile delinquency
that could be generalized to all delinquents.
• Inductive – moves from the specific (facts) to
the general (theory)
• From a set of observations/data to the discovery of
a pattern (regularities, theories, propositions)
• Grounded theory – created/built through the
process of inductive research, i.e., the hot spot,
“chronic 6 percent,” repeat victims, etc.
• Deductive – moves from the general to the
• From a logically or theoretically-expected pattern to
observations that test the presence of the pattern.
• All observations are qualitative at the outset
• Qualitative = non-numerical; greater richness
• Quantitative = numerical; carries a focusing
of attention and specification of meaning
• Both are useful and legitimate – choose based
on topic or combine aspects of both
• e.g., How do we measure the meaning of the
expression “he is older than his years?” What
How do we measure
Becoming a parent
Having a parent die
Being fired from a job
Moving to another country
• When we make a cause-and-effect statement,
we are concerned with its validity – whether it
is true and valid
• Certain threats to the validity of our inference
• These are reasons why we might be incorrect
in stating that some cause produces some
•by Shadish, Cook, & Campbell (2002)
•Three conditions (steps) to establish
•Empirical relationship between variables When X changes, Y changes also.
•Temporal (time) order (cause precedes
effect) – X is always followed by Y in time.
•No alternative explanations – no spurious,
other variable(s) affecting the initial
relationship – when there is no X, there is
• 1. An empirical relationship exists,
• 2. Temporal order: which comes first?
• 3. No underlying causes/factors affect both
drug use and crime – not a spurious
• Relationship between crime and drug use
varies by type of drug
• How will policy affect drug use and crime? A
crackdown on all drugs among all
populations will do little to reduce serious
Scientific realism: a specific context that
bridges idiographic and nomothetic
approaches to explanation by seeking to
understand how causal mechanisms (X → Y)
operate in that specific context
Example – Immigrant/refugee communities
seem to be affected more by youth gang
problems. The perceived vulnerability of the
refugee and immigrant community is an
example of scientific Realism.)
Scientific Realism (Cont’d)
– Scientific realism studies how other possible
influences/variables are involved in causeand-effect relationships
– Contains elements of both idiographic and
nomothetic modes of explanation
•What or who is studied
•Individuals – (police, victims, defendants,
inmates, gang members, burglars)
•Groups* – multiple persons with same
characteristics – (gangs, police beats,
patrol districts, households, schools, city
blocks, cities, counties, etc.)
•Organizations* – formal groups
w/established leaders and rules (prisons, police departments, courtrooms,
drug treatment facilities, businesses,
Unit of Analysis (Cont’d)
Social artifacts – products of social beings
and their behavior – (stories in newspapers,
posts on the Internet, photographs of crime
scenes, incident reports, police/citizen
* For our purposes, groups and organizations
Individualistic fallacy – using anecdotal
evidence to make an argument that there is
little justice in the criminal justice system
unless you are as rich as O. J. Simpson
(referring to the acquittal of his murder trial).
The individual fallacy can be thought of as
generalizing from the individual (or small
group) to a larger group. It is similar to
• danger of making assertions about
individuals based on the examination of
groups or aggregations (Poor areas = more
crime, therefore poor people commit more
crime), or when we impose characteristics of
a group upon individuals in that group.
1. The state of Oklahoma has one of the largest
Native American populations (as a percent of
the total population) of all the states. It is
also a state that ranks very high (compared to
other states) in per capita alcohol
consumption – a conclusion based on studies
using group as a unit of analysis.
2. Can we then conclude that Native Americans
are heavy drinkers?
Explanation of the ecological fallacy
There are other possibilities. Oklahoma is
home to a number of Indian reservations.
Often, these reservations are home to casinos
where a significant amount of Alcohol
consumption takes place by those that
gamble. Therefore, it may not be the Native
Americans who are consuming all the alcohol.
As you can see, the ecological fallacy has the
potential to foster and perpetuate
2. Neighborhoods with higher unemployment
rates have lower high school graduation rates
than neighborhoods with lower unemployment
rates. (Note: using group as a unit of analysis) .
Therefore, the children of unemployed parents
are less likely to graduate from high school.
This may be true, but without individual-level
data, we don’t know this is indeed true or not.
It’s possible that the children of parents with
jobs are the ones who do not graduate from
• Time sequence is critical in determining
• Time is also involved in the generalizability of
• Observations can either be made more or less
at one point, or stretched over a longer
• Observing a single point in time (crosssection); simple and least costly way to
• Disadvantages: We cannot see social
processes or changes; We have to worry if we
picked a bad point in time to capture what we
intend to observe.
• Typically descriptive or exploratory in nature
. Allow observations over time
•Trend – Subjects (persons in your sample)
change within some general population over
•Cohort – examine more specific populations
(subjects of the same characteristics) as they
change over time (Wolfgang’s age-cohort
study: The chronic 6 percent)*
investigating the history of delinquency in a birth cohort-in particular, the age of onset of delinquent behavior and
the progression or cessation of delinquency.
• Wolfgang and his colleagues found that out of one
hundred boys, six will become chronic offenders,
meaning that they are arrested five or more times
before their eighteenth birthdays.
• Researchers also determined that these chronic
offenders are responsible for half of all crimes and
two-thirds of all violent crimes within any given cohort
(a group of persons who have similar characteristics).
Panel – similar to trend or cohort, but the
same set of people (not necessary of the
same characteristics) is interviewed on two
or more occasions (NCVS).
Cohort or Panel attrition (losing your
subjects) is a challenge.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati recruited
individuals born from 1979-1985 (an age cohort) to
take part in a longitudinal study. During childhood, the
research subjects’ blood was tested for lead exposure
several times. Interviews and surveys of the subjects
and their parents were used to assess the youths’ levels
of delinquency. The results showed that youths who
were exposed to lead engaged in more acts of
delinquency and used marijuana more than those not
exposed. At the time of this study, the research
subjects were between 15 and 17. The researchers
were still studying these subjects, which would allow for
more examinations of the effects of lead exposure on
Dietrich, K.N., Ris, M.D., Succop, P.A., Berger, O.G. & Bornschein, R.L. (2001). Early exposure to
lead and juvenile deliqnency. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 23, 511-518.
• When the I.V. always precedes D.V. in time, it
may be possible to draw approximate
conclusions about processes that take place
over time, even when only cross-sectional data
are available. For example, male more likely
than female students in high schools to smoke
marijuana. (Unlike drug use causes crime
because drug use may be used as a dependent
variable in other studies.)
• When time order of variables is clear (gender
precedes drug use in time), logical inferences
can be made about processes taking place over
– longitudinal study that follows subjects
forward in time (Wolfgang’s age-cohort study).
– Experimental Research may be qualified as
• Cross-sectional studies = snapshots – an
image at one point in time
• Trend studies = slide shows – a series of
snapshots in sequence over time, allows us to
tell how some indicators vary over time
• Panel/corhort studies = motion picture –
gives information about individual
observations over time
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