Criminology is the study of crime from a social perspective: the causes of crime, the social impact of crime, and the criminals involved in the crime. Criminologists study criminology in an attempt to better understand what motivates the criminal to act in a criminal manner. Their work is generally focused on the study of:

  • Theories explaining illegal and/or deviant behavior
  • The social reaction to crime
  • The political terrain of social control
  • The effectiveness of anti-crime policies
  • Criminals
  • Crimes
  • Crime victims


The study of criminology dates back to the beginning of the 18th century, when scholars began distinguishing the act of committing a crime from sin by attempting to explain that why crime occurred. This first venture into the study of crime was referred to as classical criminology.

In the beginning of the 19the century, modern criminology began to take shape, with the study of criminology being recognized as a sub-discipline of psychology, sociology, and economics. During this time, criminological societies and journals of criminology began to emerge, and criminologists were conducting observations and experiments based on their theories.

The latter part of the 20th century brought about the third phase of criminology known as independent criminology, which saw this field of study pulling away from the larger disciplines of sociology and psychology and standing on its own as a separate social science. A number of universities began to offer it as undergraduate and graduate programs and professional associations and journals became widespread.