Course Home

Situational Action Theory


Wikstrom, P.-O. H., Oberwittler, D., Treiber, K., & Hardie, B. (2012). Breaking Rules: The Social and Situational Dynamics of Young People's Urban Crime. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

You are reading:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 7
Chapter 9


Key terms

situation - be clear about how "the interaction of people and settings creates interactions"
perception/choice process
causally relevant factor
action alternative
social selection

crime acts
habit vs. rational deliberation
crime propensity (and what establishes it)
criminogenic exposure
action-relevant moral rules
moral emotions
moral filter
principle of conditional relevance of controls


Chapter 1

1. What is wrong with criminological theories? With criminology as a discipline? I.e., what are the "key common shortcomings"?
2. What is an action theory and why do we need one? (You can cross reference this idea with Sampson's idea of agency.)
3. What is the difference between the causes and the "causes of causes" of crime acts?
4. What is needed to explain the social dynamics of crime?
5. What are the key elements of the basic situational action model?
6. What are the implications of thinking about crime as moral action? Stated differently: how do you react to the statement "a theory of crime causation is a special case of a general theory of moral action"?
7. What is the setting and how is it different from the situation?
8. Tranlsate figure 1.1 into words. Ditto Fig 1.2. Ditto 1.5. 1.6 is tough, but give it a go.
9. What are the limits of social disorganization/collective efficacy theory? of RAT? of crime pattern theory?
10. Can you explain in your own words why "a discipline that is fragmented, theoretically and empirically, is of little help to politicians, policy makers, and practitioners who want to base their policies and interventions on the best available scientific knowledge about crime causation"? - Be as specific as you can (great exam question)
Another way to approach this is to answer why "person oriented and environment oriented approaches" when "taken separately" are not that helpful.

Chapter 2

11. What are the major data sources? How does the space time budget data work?

Chapter 3

12. Did young people consistently offend year to year? (Table 3.4)
13. What was the sanctioning rate? Implications for deterrence?
14. How is crime propensity measured? How does it link to self reported crime (Fig.3.6)
14.What is criminogenic exposure and how did it link to self reported crimes? (Fig 3.8)
15. How does the effect of peer crime involvement moderate the impact of criminogenic exposure (Fig. , 3.9)
16. How does crime propensity moderate the impact of criminogenic exposure?

Chapter 7 (note - the outcome focus shifts here to space-time budget crimes - pay attention (pp 327-328) to how these rates are constructed)
17.What do we know about peer presence and crimes? (Table 7.2)
18. What are the "key factors in young people's crime involvement"?
19. What are the most criminogenic settings? What are the relevant dynamics?
20. How do propensity and criminogenic exposure interact to produce crime acts? (Fig 7.4, Table 7.15, 7.18) (Be sure you also understand table 6.29, p.312)
21. What is happening with peer crime involvement (Figure 7.5)?

Chapter 9
22. What do Wikstrom and colleagues mean when they say "It is all about interactions"?
23. How does this model explain hot spots?
24. What are the implications for policy and prevention?




Additional Wikstrom readings available on Bboard if you are interested under "Additional readings."