Book Review: Agnew, R. (2005). Why Do Criminals Offend? A General Theory of Crime and Delinquency. Los Angeles: Roxbury. pp. vi, 246

AuthorMichael Costelloe
Published date01 March 2008
Date01 March 2008
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17Hd27lz3kSf3F/input Book Reviews
fact that today very few criminal justice scholars employ historical methodologies.
Hopefully, books such as this one will remind academicians that history can be an invaluable
tool in conducting criminal justice research.
Robert M. Worley
University of Texas of the Permian Basin
Agnew, R. (2005). Why Do Criminals Offend? A General Theory
of Crime and Delinquency
. Los Angeles: Roxbury. pp. vi, 246.
DOI: 10.1177/0734016808314552
Robert Agnew, professor of sociology at Emory University, has made significant contribu-
tions to the field of criminology for more than 25 years, particularly through his assessment,
revision, and development of theoretical explanations of crime and delinquency. Most notably,
Agnew responded to criticisms of Robert Merton’s strain theory with the development of a
revised theory called “general strain theory.” More recently, he has extended this work by
incorporating it with a number of other leading explanations of crime in an attempt to create
a general theory of crime and delinquency.
In this book, Agnew sets out to present a “general theory of crime.” That is, he aspires
to present a theory of crime and delinquency that is both empirically supported and broad
enough in scope to provide a relatively complete and satisfactory answer to the often posed
question: why do criminals offend. In constructing this general theory, Agnew relies on the
integration of a number of leading theoretical perspectives, which include social control,
self-control, strain, social support, social learning, and labeling theories. The result, he
argues, is a general explanation that is “clear, concise, and reasonably complete” (p. 1).
Chapter 1 outlines seven questions that Agnew states should be answered by any general
theory of crime: (a) what are the major causes of crime? (b) why do these causes increase
the likelihood of crime? (c) how are the causes of crime related to one another? (d) what
effect does crime have on its causes (and what...

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