Causation in criminology

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					     How do we know whether
     some factor causes
     delinquency?
1.   Causation
2.   Definition
3.   Criteria for Causality
Causation and delinquency



    CAUSE            DELINQUENCY
Causation and delinquency

        Lack of supervision    Delinquent friends




   Physical abuse
                              DELINQUENCY


 Emotional isolation




 Low self-control                 Low GPA
Causation and delinquency
Delinquent friends


Lack of supervision


Physical abuse        DELINQUENCY

Emotional isolation

Low self-control


      Low GPA
  Causation and delinquency
Lack of supervision   Delinquent friends



   Physical abuse

                                           DELINQUENCY
Emotional isolation


  Low self-control



                           Low GPA
Causation and crime

                      Delinquent friends


                      Lack of supervision


 DELINQUENCY          Physical abuse


                      Emotional isolation

                      Low self-control


                            Low GPA
Causation and crime
 Lack of supervision



       Low GPA         Delinquent friends



 Low self-control



 Emotional isolation


                                 DELINQUENCY
Which explanation is more plausible?
 How do we know?
 Empirical Testing?
Causation in our life
 Causality is the centerpiece of the universe
  and so the main subject of human knowledge
 It is needed for knowing the beginnings and
  endings of things
 To make sense of the world
 Causation is a relationship that holds
  between events, objects, variables, or states
  of affairs
Our language contains…
 the following causative verbs:
 cause, make, create, do, effect, produce, perform,
  determine, influence; construct, compose, constitute;
  provoke, motivate, force, facilitate, induce, get,
  stimulate; begin, commence, initiate, institute,
  originate, start; prevent, keep, restrain, preclude,
  forbid, stop, cease, etc.
 Our language implies that we operate with causation
  all the time
 We are not aware of controversy
 Dichotomy among researchers
  Opinions differ in criminology about what is
   the most appropriate methodological
   framework
  Social science commitment continuum


   Scientific                             Pluralists
   Method                                 perspective

Quantitative data;                   Qualitative data;
Causation;                           Causation is not the
Predictions and                      purpose;
control based on                     Lack of replications;
causation;
Examples of causal relationships in
physical world
 The cue ball coliding with the eight ball
  causes the eight ball to roll into pocket
 The presence of Heat causes water to boil
 The Moon's gravity causes the Earth's tides.
 A hard blow to the arm causes a bruise
 My pushing the accelerator caused the car to
  go faster
Can we observe causality?
 It is not possible to detect a cause empirically
 We can rarely directly sense a cause
 We merely induce their existence from our
  experience of the association of two or more
  events
 Can we observe how a hard blow to the arm
  causes a bruise?
Anatomy of bruise
 Bruise occurs when underlying muscle fibers
  and connective tissue are damaged without
  breaking the skin.
Imagine a situation

   Someone punched
   you on the arm

                      BRUISE


  You hit the arm
  against a wall
Example from juvenile delinquency

 Lack of supervision


 Delinquent friends
                                        DELINQUENCY
 Physical abuse


 Emotional isolation


 Low self-control


     Can we empirically observe causation?
David Hume (1748)
 It is impossible to demonstrate empirically
  that a cause produces an effect
 Just because the sun has risen every day
  since the beginning of the Earth does not
  mean that it will rise again tomorrow
 However; it is impossible to go about one's
  life without assuming such connections, and
  the best that we can do is to maintain an
  open mind and never presume that we know
  any laws of causality for certain
David Hume (1748)
 Causality is an interpretation of observables
  (causal statements are always inferential)
 Roosters crow early in the morning, they
  cause the Sunrise
Ridicules Examples
 Before television -- two World Wars; after
  television -- no World Wars
 In similar fashion, one of my friends recently
  pointed out to his girlfriend that he didn't have
  any grey hairs until after he started going out
  with her...which is true but he's in his late 30s
  and they've been seeing each other for 3
  years
 I suppose it could be the relationship...
Causality in Natural Sciences
 Positivism = Deterministic perspective
 To be a cause, event X must be both a
  “necessary condition” and “sufficient
  condition” for the event Y
 “necessary condition”- in the absence of X, Y
  will not occur
 “sufficient condition” – Y always occurs in the
  presence of X
Deterministic relationship in criminology?

 Brain tumor is a necessary and sufficient condition for
  crime
 In the absence of tumor, no criminal behavior
 We do not need anything besides tumor to observe
  criminal behavior

 Another example: “Low grades cause involvement in
  deviant conduct”
 Are low grades a necessary condition for
  delinquency?
 Are they a sufficient condition?
Soft determinism in social sciences
 Applies a probabilistic approach
 The probabilistic concept of causality
  suggests that human behavior is neither
  completely determined by external forces nor
  completely outcome of the unfettered
  exercise of free will choices
Probabilistic perspective
 “The presence of X renders the occurrence of
  Y more probable”

 Individuals with low grades are more likely to
 deviate
Causality
 How do we know if A causes B?
 Time
 Association
 No other factor causes both (spuriousness)
Time
 It is usually presumed that the cause
  chronologically precedes the effect
 In a strict reading, if A causes B, then A must
  always be followed by B.
 Sex and pregnancy (what goes first?)
 Smoking and lung cancer (What goes first?)

Association/correlation
 Changes in X cause changes in Y
 For example, football weekends cause
  heavier traffic, more food sales, etc.
 We must be very careful in interpreting
  correlation coefficients
 Just because two variables are highly
  correlated does not mean that one causes
  the other
Examples
 Ice cream sales and the crime rate are
  correlated (both increase during summer)
 The number of cavities in elementary school
  children and vocabulary size have a strong
  positive correlation
Spuriousness?




        Ice Cream   Crime
          Sales
Spuriousness?

                Summer
                 Time




    Ice Cream            Crime
      Sales
Spuriousness?




                  Vocabulary
         Cavity      size
Spuriousness?

                Age




                      Vocabulary
     Cavity              size
Example of Spuriousness
Causality
 Requires some assumptions about the world
 Reality is real, it exists “out there” and waits to
  be discovered
 Reality is ordered (not chaotic)
 Behavior of humans is patterned
 Without this assumption the logic and
  predictions would be impossible
 Reality is stable, but knowledge about it is
  additive
Controversy
 Not all scholars agree with those
  assumptions about reality
 Reality can be changed (delinquency and
  supervision)
 People can change the history (reality)
 One person can change a lot (Hitler)
 Interpretative approach
What is different about people?
 Human beings are qualitatively different from
  the objects of study in the natural sciences
  (rocks, stars, chemical compounds, etc)
 Humans think and learn, have an awareness
  of themselves and their past
 These unique human characteristics are the
  reason for the debate how criminology should
  look like
Interpretative/pluralists approach states

 Social reality is largely what people perceive
  it to be
 Reality is fluid and fragile (it is not waiting “out
  there”)
 People possess an internal sense of reality
  (subjective reality)
 We can only study people’s definitions and
  interpretations of reality but not reality itself
Examples of subjective realities
 Elephant and four blind men
More examples (four temperaments)
 The same situation
 evokes absolutely
 different reactions.

 How can we apply
 causation here?
Thomas’s theorem (1928)
 Another argument against causality
 “If people define situation as real, they are
  real in their consequences”
 This theorem is related to the subjectivity of
  reality
 Examples?...
 What do you think of causality in sociology
  now?
How to solve the problem of causality?

 Interpretative approach does not say that
  social behavior is chaotic
 There is some pattern in human behavior
 But this pattern is not due to the causal laws
 It is created out of the system of social
  conventions people generate during their
  interactions