chapter  1
The relationship of psychology and sociology in the study of crime
Pages 36

It will be argued in this chapter that the study of criminal behaviour has suffered from a schism in the human sciences, particularly between sociological and psychological perspectives. This chapter will provide a brief and schematic history of criminological approaches to understanding criminal behaviour. Despite its youth as a subject area, the history of criminology is controversial (Garland 1997). As criminology matured into a fully fledged discipline during the latter half of the twentieth century, it identified itself as being largely informed by sociological perspectives that stood in opposition to psychological theories. In some respects this is rather odd, since as Garland (1997) highlights, those who can now be seen as laying the foundations of criminology frequently took distinctly psychological ‘clinical’ perspectives, often working as psychiatrists, for example, in the fields of treatment and rehabilitation. I suggest that two factors led to the parting of the ways between criminology and psychology that began during the first half of the twentieth century and ended in divorce in the second half of the century. First, the post-war sociological turn of much of the nascent criminology was heavily influenced by the rejection of positivism and associated methodological techniques (which pivoted on the idea that the human world may be understood in similar terms as the physical one), and the dismissal of the belief that social difficulties may be addressed by recourse to individualistic explanations. Second, during the early decades of the twentieth century, academic psychology itself took a turn toward highly the

positivistic assumptions and methodologies that were beginning to be rejected in sociology and criminology. Academic psychology was dominated first by learning theories and then cognitive models. Both paradigms have been reliant on experimental methods which valued laboratory studies and the measurement of behaviour. This not only alienated the sociologists who were interested in crime, but also hindered psychology’s involvement in studies of criminal behaviour. Criminal behaviour, after all, is simply not a subject that lends itself to easy study in the laboratory.