Beto Chair Lecture: Dr. Robert Agnew

Beto Chair Lecture Series

Fri, Sep 21, 2012
9:30 - 11:00 A.M.
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom

The College of Criminal Justice will host Dr. Robert Agnew, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology at Emory University and President-Elect of the American Society of Criminology. Dr. Agnew is known internationally for his development of General Strain Theory, one of the leading explanations of crime and delinquency. He will present "Economic Troubles and Crime: Making Sense of a Complex Relationship."


Dr. Robert AgnewDr. Agnew, a faculty member at Emory since 1980 and President-Elect of the American Society of Criminology, is known internationally for his development of General Strain Theory, one of the leading explanations of crime and delinquency. Building on early strain theories, general strain theory argues that a range of strains or stressors increase the likelihood of crime, including strains such as parental rejection, harsh and erratic parental discipline, child abuse, low grades, peer abuse, work at “bad” jobs, chronic unemployment, marital problems, the inability to achieve economic and status goals, criminal victimization, homelessness, and discrimination. Whether individuals respond to these strains with crime, however, depends on such things as their coping skills and resources, social support, supervision, bonds to others, beliefs, and association with other criminals.

Picture of businessman stressing out over declining figures on a laptop computer.Dr. Agnew’s latest research, and the topic of his talk, examines the relationship between economic troubles and crime. Contrary to popular perceptions, research suggests that economic troubles do not always lead to an increase in crime. For example, the dramatic crime drop that began in the 1990s continues to this day, despite the major economic recession that began in 2008. Crime increased a great deal during the 1960s, however, despite major improvements in the economic status of most groups. And certain very poor groups today, including many first generation immigrants in the U.S., have relatively low rates of crime. Dr. Agnew’s talk will draw on his strain theory to help make sense of these puzzling facts and the relationship between economic troubles and crime more generally.

Dr. Agnew is the author or editor of seven books, including Why Do Criminals Offend? A General Theory of Crime and Delinquency, and Pressured into Crime: An Overview of Crime and Delinquency , and has published dozens of articles on crime and delinquency in major academic journals.

Cover of Unified Criminology bookHis latest book, Toward a Unified Criminology: Integrating Assumptions about Crime, People and Society , was released in 2011. In the book, Dr. Agnew challenges the underlying assumptions that criminologists make about the nature of crime, people, society, and reality and argues that these assumptions are too restrictive and unduly limit the type of crimes that are explored, the causes considered and the methods of data collection and analysis used. He proposes an alternate set of assumptions, which relies heavily on both mainstream and critical theories of criminology that can better explain a broader range of crimes.

Agnew also is the author of a major textbook on delinquency, Juvenile Delinquency: Causes and Control , and he seeks to apply his research to programs aimed at controlling and preventing crime among youth. He was a member of the Girls Study Group, a project sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The group's charge was threefold: to identify the particular causes of girls' delinquency, to assess the effectiveness of existing programs that seek to address girls' delinquency, and to select (or develop) three or four model programs for implementation and evaluation.

Dr. Agnew has served on the editorial boards of Criminology, Social Forces, Theoretical Criminology, and other journals. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology, and he is active in many professional organizations and groups dealing with crime and delinquency.

Logo for Emory UniversityAt Emory University, Dr. Agnew teaches courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in juvenile delinquency, criminology, social research, violence studies, social problems, introductory sociology, causes of crime, controlling crime, biosocial bases of crime, criminological research and teaching sociology. He also served as Chair of the Sociology Department at Emory from 2006 to 2009 and was Director of the Internship Program at the University from 1982 to 1985.
Dr. Agnew received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

The Beto Chair Lecture Series, which was established in 1979 through an endowment from the Jesse H. Jones and Mary Gibbs-Jones Endowment Inc. (aka The Houston Endowment, Inc.)., This endowed chair named in honor of Dr. George J. Beto brings top scholars in the fields of criminology and criminal justice to Sam Houston State University to enhance learning opportunities for students and faculty.


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