Sample Essay on Comprehensive Exam: Theory

Comprehensive Exam: Theory

Theory Question 2

There is an argument that “There is nothing new under of the sun” except for the new development in criminology, the so-called “life course theories of criminality.” The life course approaches or perspectives have for a long time been used in myriads of subject matters including criminology, psychology, history, as well as biology. The life course theories are seen to establish or rather determine the connection between a particular pattern of life events and the behaviors or actions exhibited by a person such as a divorce, marriage, engagement in criminal activities, or disease incidence (Krohn et al, 2010). Playing an integral role in the field of criminology, the life course theories are considered essential in the assortment of other theories that are more specific and less broad. Essentially, a life course gives reference to the sequence of events and roles, which can be socially defined and are enacted by an individual over time. With a focus on life course theories of criminality, it should be noted that the involvement of individuals in criminal behaviors can be attributed to their patterns of life events. An important fact about the life course theories is that they give an elaboration of the importance of perspectives such as context, process, time, and meaning, on the development of humans and family life (Laub & Sampson, 2009).

Life course theories of criminality have their basis in the works of various theorists such as Karl Mannheim during the 1920s. Karl Mannheim is remembered for writing a ground-breaking dissertation known as ‘The Sociological Problem of Generations’ that explains more about the mentioned theories about criminality. In the dissertation, he does not come up with a full-fledged theory but rather gives an illustration of how human experiences that individuals undergo particularly during childhood, have an influence or impact on their outcome. Subsequently, Karl Mannheim establishes that the outcomes or behaviors exhibited by individuals due to the influence of human experience are passed from one generation to another, hence the conclusion that past generations play a role in the formation of further or future generations. Karl Mannheim’s discovery is of great importance when the focus is on a criminological stance. Other sociological theorists credited for having ignited the life course theories of criminality are F Znaniecki and W I Thomas. The latter two leveraged on a sociological approach as they sought to study the human way of life from a socio-economic perspective.

Essential points of life course theories of criminality

One of the key points of life course theories of criminality is that factors occurring at every stage of life such as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood play a significant role in the involvement or participation of individuals in criminal activities. It is argued that during childhood, one of the factors that have an influence on whether children get involved in crime or not is the development events that concern parental guidance (Silver, 2006). Put simply, the guidance of a child by a parent would help prevent his or her involvement in criminal activities in future whereas the lack of the same would pave the way for the child’s participation in illegal activities. Another factor that has an influence on a child’s involvement in criminal activities is the one parent household, which results in a higher risk for criminal activity for the child in future life. In the adolescence phase, one of the key factors, as postulated by the life course theories of criminality, which has an influence on an individual’s involvement in criminal activity, is the adaptation to social bonds and institutions. This insinuates that the involvement and excellence of adolescents in social bonds and institutions such as churches, schools, as well as community centers would reduce or prevent their involvement in criminal activities as their time is occupied. In the adulthood phase, according to the life course theories of criminality, some of the factors that determine whether an individual will be involved in criminal activities or not include marriage, employment, as well as having children. That is to say, adults with children often spend most of their time with families, and this leaves no time for pursuance or involvement in criminal activities. Moreover, adults who are employed spend a significant part of their time in development-oriented activities, and thus, minimal or no time is set aside for a crime.

Primarily, the experiences of individuals in life underscore the life course theories of criminality’s explanations or argument that certain persons may exhibit a criminal life while others may not. Without a doubt, the factors identified above, which are experienced during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, are seen to force continuous interaction between individuals and their surrounding resulting in the creation of particular lifestyles that could lead to a life of crime in case the factors are negative (Menard & Morris, 2012). With these perspectives in mind, it is imperative to note that life-course theories of criminality work hand-in-hand with other developmental theories in a bid to reinforce explanations of why individuals are involved in criminal activities in various developmental stages of life.

Criticism and contradiction of the life-course theories of criminality

Modern theorists including Sellers, Laub, and Sampson have criticized and contradicted the life-course theory of criminality. As mentioned earlier, the events that occur in the life of an individual influence his or her involvement in criminal activity. Thus, the theory can be criticized basing on the fact that although there is evidence that the events surrounding individuals influence their participation in illegal activities, there are other epigenetic processes that continue throughout the life span of individuals but have no influence whatsoever on their involvement in crime (Burt & Simons, 2014). Moreover, as argued by one of the proponents of the theory, Karl Mannheim, outcomes or behaviors exhibited by individuals due to the influence of human experience are passed from one generation to another. However, this is no longer makes sense in the context of modern genetics, which articulates that the behaviors exhibited in the current generation, cannot be influenced by those of past generations. Furthermore, the theory has been criticized by contemporary theorists because of its lack of emphasis on the bidirectional, interactional, as well as multifactorial relationships among environment, biology, genes, and the behavior of individuals (Burt & Simons, 2014). Also, modern theorists argue that life-course criminology focuses on the production of new general theories rather than giving a representation of ways of pulling in concepts together with propositions from exhausting theories at various stages or ages of life. The theory has also been criticized for its merely broad nature, and this is highlighted by its expansion of general criminological theories inclusive of strain, learning, rational choice, and control.

The contradiction of the theory by modern theorists such as Sampson and Laub cannot go unnoticed. The two are of the opinion that criminality is not a constant as postulated in the theory but rather an influence of the larger social forces in society that change over time (Sampson et al, 2010)


Burt, C. H., & Simons, R. L. (2014). Pulling back the curtain on heritability studies: Biosocial criminology in the postgenomic era. Criminology, 52(2), 223-262.

Krohn, M. D., Thornberry, T. P., Gibson, C. L., & Baldwin, J. M. (2010). The development and impact of self-report measures of crime and delinquency. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 26(4), 509-525.

Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2009). Shared beginnings, divergent lives: Delinquent boys to age 70. Harvard University Press.

Menard, S., & Morris, R. G. (2012). Integrated theory and crimes of trust. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 28(2), 365-387.

Sampson, R., Eck, J. E., & Dunham, J. (2010). Super controllers and crime prevention: A routine activity explanation of crime prevention success and failure. Security Journal, 23(1), 37-51.

Silver, E. (2006). Understanding the relationship between mental disorder and violence: the need for a criminological perspective. Law and human behavior, 30(6), 685

Comprehensive Exam: Methods and Statistics

Research Methods Question 1

Purpose of the Research

Research shows that the crime rates in the US are on the rise, making this one of the greatest concerns in the North American country today. The notable increase in crime is highlighted by incidences such as stealing of vehicles as well as the involvement of vehicles in criminal and terrorist activities. Several individuals in the US are always on the wrong side of the law due to failure to pay parking fees or maintenance of vehicle license registrations. To curb the mentioned incidences, law enforcement agencies have embraced or adopted license plate recognition (ALPR) scanning systems, which operate by automatically capturing an image of the license plate of a vehicle involved in the criminal acts mentioned above (Hubbard, 2008). Subsequently, the captured images are transformed into alphanumeric characters, which are then compared to those of the plate numbers of the vehicles of interest. Once a comparison is made, and a vehicle of interest or that involved in a criminal activity is observed, law enforcement officers are alerted within a short time, and the perpetrator of the crime is charged. Since the embrace of the technology by the US law enforcement agencies, the focus of several people within and outside the country has been on whether the adoption of ALPR scanning systems is effective or not. With these perspectives in mind, the purpose of this research is to study or rather investigate the effectiveness of Automatic License Plate Recognition scanning systems adopted by law enforcement officers in the US.

Research Question

The research question for this study is as follows:

  • How effective are the Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) Scanning Systems adopted by law enforcement officers and agencies?

Research Hypotheses

The hypotheses of this study are as follows:

  • The adoption of ALPR scanning systems has led to the reduction of the commission of criminal offenses such as car theft.
  • The adoption of ALPR scanning systems has resulted in the significant reduction of terrorist activities leveraging on escape vehicles.
  • The adoption of ALPR scanning systems has addressed the failure of individuals to pay parking fees.
  • The adoption of ALPR Scanning Systems has promoted the maintenance of vehicle license registration by individuals.


Dependent Variables

Bearing in mind the research hypotheses mentioned above, it is notable that the adoption of ALPR scanning systems has had positive implications for law enforcement officers and the US population. First, it should be noted that the adoption of the technology has led to the reduction of the commission of criminal offenses such as car theft. Second, the embrace of the technology by law enforcement officers has resulted in the significant or notable reduction of terrorist activities that leverage on escape vehicles. Third, with the technology in place, challenges such as the failure of individuals to pay parking fees to authorities has been addressed. Fourth, ALPR scanning systems have played an integral role in the promotion of individuals’ maintenance of vehicle license registration. Undoubtedly, these perspectives are dependent or reliant on the adoption of ALPR scanning systems by law enforcement, hence, are considered dependent variables (McBurney & White, 2010). To operationalize the four identified dependent variables, there will be the formulation of questions, which will then be channeled to the participants of the study in the form or questionnaires. Besides, the operationalization of the variables will involve in-depth interviews with the respondents. To conceptualize the mentioned dependent variables, the focus will be on indicators such as the number of interviewees or participants during the study.

Independent variable

In research, independent variables are those that stand alone and are not in any way changed or affected by other variables being measured (Patton, 2005). In this research, the adoption of ALPR Scanning Systems by law enforcement officers and agencies is the independent variable. This can be attributed to the fact that as a variable, it does not change with other variables being measured such as the reduction of the commission of criminal offenses such as car theft and others mentioned earlier. During the research, to operationalize the independent variable, questionnaires with questions on the research topic will be directed to the respondents. Additionally, the operationalization of the variable will leverage on interviews that will be conducted with the participants of the study. The conceptualization of the identified independent variable will focus on the number of respondents and other stakeholders involved in supporting whether the adoption of ALPR by law enforcement agencies is valid or not.

Unit of Analysis and Sampling Method

In this research, the unit of analysis will be residents of various cities and towns in the US. Some of the major cities where the research will be conducted include Washington DC and New York, and this is because criminal activities such as car theft and terrorist activities that involve escape cars are frequent in the two cities. Random sampling technique will be used in this study, and this will see the residents of the mentioned cities selected randomly on the second day of the research. It is anticipated that the respondents will give vital information on the topic of research. The respondents will be sampled from residential units neighboring the cities’ CBDs to save time and cut on travel expenses. The sampling will focus on residents who previously have been victims of car theft, terrorist activities, or who may have been arrested by police for failing to pay parking fees after being captured by ALPR scanning systems.

Statistical Technique

The statistical technique that will be used in the study’s data analysis is correlation, which refers to the class of statistical relationships where dependence is involved (Mari & Kotz, 2001). The analysis of data will require a comparison of the dependent variables to the independent variable, underscoring the selection of correlation as a statistical technique (Kleck et al, 2006).

Strengths and weaknesses of the research design

The study will leverage on the qualitative research design (Kleck et al, 2006), which has various strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths of the design is that it provides the researcher with an opportunity of identifying factors in their contexts and relating them to the phenomenon in which he or she is interested. Besides, qualitative research design enables the researcher to determine the interpretation of various constructs or perspectives mentioned by respondents. However, the weakness of this design is evident in the fact that the quantification of predictions is made difficult for the researcher. Another weakness of the design is that testing of the hypotheses and theories could be made difficult when a large number of participants are involved in the study (Patton, 2005).


Hubbard, T. E. (2008). Automatic license plate recognition: An exciting new law enforcement tool with potentially scary consequences. Syracuse Sci. & Tech. L. Rep., 18, 3.

Kleck, G., Tark, J., & Bellows, J. J. (2006). What methods are most frequently used in research in criminology and criminal justice?. Journal of Criminal Justice, 34(2), 147-152.

Mari, D. D., & Kotz, S. (2001). Correlation and dependence. London: Imperial College Press.

McBurney, D., & White, T. L. (2010). Research methods. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Patton, M. Q. (2005). Qualitative research. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.