Criminological Theory: A Brief Introduction

Prentice Hall
J. Mitchell Miller / Christopher J. Schreck / Richard Tewksbury / J.C. Barnes  
Total pages
March 2014
Related Titles


For courses in criminological theory (undergraduate and graduate) and Introduction to Criminology.


This concise, up-to-date text provides student-friendly examples of all theoretical approaches that emphasize the complex relationships between 21st century social structures, cultures, and crime.


Criminological Theory: A Brief Introduction, 4e provides students and instructors with a concise, up-to-date, and thorough discussion and explication of major criminological schools of thought.  The text focuses on providing students with understandings of not only what the central tenets are of criminological theories but also focuses on providing real-life examples and implications for criminal justice policy and practice.  The various theories examined across the chapters are illustrated through examples drawing upon contemporary cultural developments of particular interest to college age students that increase interest and engagement.


Teaching and Learning Experience


This book offers an accessible discussion of the major theories of crime, delinquency, social deviance and social control with an objective and neutral approach. It provides:

  • Expanded coverage of theory development, assessment, and integration: Provides thorough yet concise coverage
  • Theories grouped by type and subtype: Gives students an appreciation of the historical development of theoretical criminology and the significance of classical statements to contemporary perspectives
  • Strong pedagogical support: Reinforces chapter information to ensure mastery


Expanded coverage of theory development, assessment, and integration:

  • Engaging criminology from a strong social science orientation—gives distinct theoretical preferences and insights that will motivate students to carefully consider the range of alternative explanations offered for the same crime realities and outcomes
  • Demonstrates the applicability of criminological theory to everyday life—offers real-world, contemporary illustrations and examples, as well as hypothetical scenarios relevant to society, generally, and college life, specifically, so that the chapters are interesting and relevant to young adults
  • Focus on theory assessment, development and integration—helps students gain understanding of how theory is developed and refined  

Theories grouped by type and subtype:

  • EXPANDED! More thorough coverage of biological and biosocial theories—features the most up-to-date knowledge in this quickly growing area of theoretical criminology
  • EXPANDED! Coverage of alternative and leftist  theories—keeps students up-to-date with the latest information
  • EXPANDED! Coverage of social support theory and expanded discussion of immigration—familiarises students with new emerging topics in criminological theory
  • EXPANDED! Relevance of criminological theory for shaping criminal justice practices and crime control policy—illustrates the pragmatic value of theory  

Strong Pedagogical Support:

  • Proven pedagogical tools to promote effective learning—including chapter summaries, key terms, discussion questions, and references to provide students with a thorough review of the concepts
  • Case studies from the news capture students’ attention at the beginning of each chapter—illustrates the theories being described in the chapter

New to this Edition

Chapter Specific Changes

  • Chapter 1 now emphasizes the relevance of crime theories for crime control policy and criminal justice practices to better illustrate the connectivity between theories of crime and public policy prevention and enforcement initiatives. 
  • Chapter 2, “Classical and Neoclassical Criminology,” has been refined to relate the evolution of the classical perspective to modern deterrence and rational choice theories.
  • Chapter 3, “Biological Theories of Crime,” has been rewritten and brings expanded and more contemporary biosocial research-based knowledge to this edition.  In order to include the leading elements of the quickly growing biosocial perspective, the authors have trimmed down the sections on Physiognomy and on Body Type Theories and added new discussion of evolutionary psychology, biochemistry, and neurophysiology. The revised chapter also features a completely new section titled “Contemporary Biosocial Criminology.” This section offers an in-depth overview of the four factors highlighted by modern biosocial criminology as being important for understanding criminal behavior: 1) biological factors; 2) genetic factors; 3) the brain; and 4) the environment. Each of these four factors is discussed in turn in separate subsections of the chapter.  This chapter also now includes the role of neurotransmitters and the frontal cortices in the development of human behavior. A thorough treatment of these points has been added to the revised chapter in a subsection covering the brain.
  • Chapter 4, “Psychological Theories of Crime,” offers a substantial expansion on life course theory (especially Sampson and Laub’s theory), antisocial personality disorder, and IQ. The antisocial personality disorder section of the chapter has been revised in two major respects. First, all material referencing the DSM-IV has been updated to reflect the recently revised manual (i.e., the DSM-5). Second, the discussion of the etiology of the disorder has been revised by tying in information discussed in chapter 3 (i.e., biological and genetic factors).  The section covering the IQ-crime link has been revised to discuss the most recent evidence gleaned from intelligence-based research. This chapter also now covers psychological constructs such as sensation seeking across two new sections (Dual Systems Theory and Self-control/Self-regulation.
  • Chapter 5, “The Social Ecology of Crime,” offers additional social disorganization theory examples.
  • Chapter 6, “Learning and Cultural Transmission Theories of Crime,” highlights social learning–social structure theory while better emphasizing the oppositional culture perspective.
  • Chapter 7, “Strain Theories of Crime,” and Chapter 8, “Control Theories of Crime,” provide coverage of both seminal (e.g., Hirschi’s original control theory) and extended (e.g., Agnew’s general strain theory) versions of strain theory.
  • Chapter 9, “Theories of Social Conflict,” has been heavily revised and now features expanded coverage of the Cultural Criminology, Feminist Criminology, and Labeling theories sections.  A new section on Reintegrative Shaming (the theoretical basis of restorative justice) has been added in a separate new section and provides new examples illustrating the chapter’s central concepts.
  • Chapter 10 is about a fourth longer than the last edition with a new section (Theory Informing Policy and Practice) that ties together in application the idea of what theory is and how it is useful and connects to concepts and issues introduced in Chapter 1, thereby bringing students full circle in regards to the theory-policy link.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Theoretical Criminology

Chapter 2 Classical and Neoclassical Criminology

Chapter 3 Biosocial Theories of Crime

Chapter 4 Psychological Theories of Crime

Chapter 5 Social Ecology of Crime

Chapter 6 Learning and Cultural Transmission Theories of Crime

Chapter 7 Strain Theories of Crime

Chapter 8 Control Theories of Crime

Chapter 9 Theories of Social Conflict

Chapter 10 Evaluating and Integrating Theory