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Gottfredson, M., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford: Stanford University Press.



Questions are separated into two parts: those on the volume itself, and those encouraging you to link the volume with preceding theories discussed so far in class.

Questions: the volume itself

If you are pressed for time, concentrate on the questions in bold.

  1. In chapter 1, in what ways does the argument advanced get us "beyond" the split between criminologists in the classical vs. positivist position? (e.e., what is their "modern version of the classical conception of crime"?) What problems do they see in each type?
  2. What does it mean to say that in the "classical" view crime is "naturally" restrained?
  3. What do you think about their idea that the "sanctioning system" is irrelevant to causal mechanisms?
  4. What do they mean when they say crime is not a "distinct type of behavior"?
  5. What is their conception of crime (Chapter 2)?
  6. On what basis do they make their interchangeability argument, and what is your response to this? How do you respond to their thoughts about specialization?
  7. Chapter 4: Why is the concept of aggression not helpful?
  8. Do YOU think offenders differ from nonoffenders?
  9. How do they characterize cultural deviance theories? What subtypes do they see? What criticisms do they make of these theories?
  10. Chapter 5: Why are control theories classical theories?
  11. What are the authors' views of human nature?
  12. What is their definition of low self control, its elements, and its manifestations? Is it a personality trait?
  13. What are some of the key "facts" about offending their idea of self control explains?
  14. How does this idea help "organize" different areas of work
  15. Chapter 6: What is the age effect? What is their view on it?
  16. What other individual differences in offending does their view explain?
  17. Chapter 7: What do authors see as connection between peer group and offending? Can their theory accommodate findings about offending in groups?
  18. How are school-offending links explained? Employment-offending?
  19. Chapter 10: what do they think about the gangs/crime connection?

Multi-volume questions

  1. Compare and contrast Wikstrom's definition of propensity and G&H's idea of low self control. In what ways are they the same? In what ways are they different?
  2. Three theories -- Laub & Sampson, Wikstrom et al., and Gottfredson & Hirschi -- conceptualize how the environment outside the person affects the chances that the person commits crime. In what ways are the concepts used (institutions and turning points in Laub & Sampson, setting and situation in Wikstrom, and opportunity in G&H) different from one another? Are there any important similarities? Which view do you think best captures how the environment outside the person contributes to the likelihood of crime acts occurring and why?