Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Conceptualization, Operationalization, Construct Validity, and Truth in Advertising in Criminological Research

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Conceptualization, Operationalization, Construct Validity, and Truth in Advertising in Criminological Research

Article excerpt

As a species, humans paradoxically posses the strong drive to seek out the company and comfort of our own kind, while also showing some predilection for victimizing, exploiting, and harming each other. This predilection has been and remains an area of concern. Our attempts to address this fundamental concern have taken two broad and basic tracks. First, social institutions have evolved for the purposes of identifying and dealing with those individuals who would harm their group mates. We have come to refer to (at least part of) these institutions as the criminal justice system (CJS). Second, for over two hundred years, we have been formally and consistently engaged in trying to decipher, through theory and research, our criminal/deviant side. This we have come to call criminology. These two domains of reactions are part-and-parcel of a larger process; they are two facets of the same human endeavor. The focus of this analysis is most directly on the second facet of our efforts to address this intractable human foible, theory and research. However, in the realm of criminality and deviance it is not fully possible (and certainly not desirable) to address one of these facets without some attention to the other.

Criminology and the Conceptualization of Crime/Criminals

Given its own eclectic etiological roots and the broad and diverse nature of its focus, criminology is, by necessity and pedigree, highly interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from a wide array of disciplines. Because of this strong interdisciplinary character, our conceptualizations of crime and criminals can vary substantially and cover considerable theoretical terrain, and this gets to the crux of the current analysis. How crime and criminals are conceptualized is an essential and foundational consideration in criminology. The conceptualization adopted underlies the theories that are developed, determines the methods of data collection, and thereby influences and informs the policies for addressing crime that are supported and promoted.

This latter area of influence relates directly to the strong connections between criminology and criminal justice and warrants some further comment. Criminal justice refers, primarily, to the agencies of social control which are charged with implementing and enforcing the law and dealing with those who violate it. Criminology and criminal justice, to a great extent, are two sides of the same coin; they are, at the same time, interdependent and independent disciplines and institutions. On the academic/scientific side, we must have knowledge of the practical and functional aspects of the OS to develop grounded theories. By the same token, system practitioners rely on the academic side for theory and research to help guide and inform policy and practice. In this interactive process, there is conceptual overlap, but also conceptual independence, and even some conflict. Also, it is important to note that it is this intricate relationship that ups the ante when we think about the functions and impact of criminological theories. "Virtually every policy or action taken regarding crime is based on some underlying theory or theories of crime (i.e., on conceptualizations). It is essential, therefore, to comprehend and evaluate the major theories of criminology, not only for the academic or research criminologist, but also for the educated citizen and the legal or criminal justice professional" (Akers, 1997, p.2, parenthetical added).

Akers (1997) is not alone in acknowledging the strong and essential connection between theory/research and policy/practice (see also Holdaway & Rock, 1998; Lanier & Henry, 1998; Lilly, Cullen & Ball, 1995; Pfohl, 1985; Void, Bernard, & Snipes, 1998; Hashimoto, 2011;).

Given the foundational role of theory and its intimate connection with policy, it is widely agreed that it is imperative that we test our theories (Babbie, 2008; Birks, Townsley & Stewart, 2012; Holdaway & Rock, 1998; Kreager, Rulison, & Moody, 2011; Van de Rakt, Ruiter, De Graaf, & Nieuwbeerta, 2010). …

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