Social Networks

Peter J. Carrington

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Social Networks

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This article is concerned with applications in criminology of the concept of the social network. Three distinct types of networks occur in criminological theory and research. First, the family of theories including differential association, social learning, and peer influence proposes that the people with whom one interacts, such as friends, family, etc., have an influence on one’s criminality. The notion of “the people with whom one interacts” is precisely captured by the concept in social network analysis of the personal network. Thus, some researchers have conceptualized the theories of differential association, peer influence, etc. as being concerned with the influence of an individual’s personal network on his or her criminality. This kind of research (and theorizing) is mainly, though not entirely, concerned with the delinquency of children and adolescents rather than adult crime, and is often referred to as “peer network” or “peer influence” research, although the networks are not necessarily restricted to peers. Second, there is a small literature on the role of neighborhood networks in suppressing or, less commonly, encouraging crime in the neighborhood, mainly based on collective efficacy theory. Finally, the criminal network is distinguished from personal and neighborhood networks in two principal ways. First, it consists, by definition, entirely of criminals. Second, the theoretical interest of criminal networks is not (normally) in the influence of the network on an individual or neighborhood, but in the criminal network as a form of organization of criminal groups and criminal activities. Thus, research on criminal networks tends to be concerned with describing their composition and structure and relating these to success in achieving criminal objectives, such as the survival, efficiency, or profitability of a criminal enterprise; or the longevity, profitability, or local dominance of a street gang. The unit of analysis in criminal network research is usually, though not always, the group rather than the individual; for example, youth gangs or street gangs, organized crime groups, or the trafficking networks involved in criminal transactions such as the smuggling or distribution of illicit goods. By explicitly adopting the concept of the network, criminologists have been able to draw on an array of insights and analytic methods that have been developed over the past eighty years in the field of social network analysis.

Article.  13341 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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