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Sociology and Criminology & Law

Criminology, Law and Society Grads

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Abby Novak

Degrees Earned:
  • M.S.W. Social Policy and Administration, Florida State University
  • M.P.A, Florida State University
  • B.A. Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Richmond
  • B.A. Geography, University of Richmond

Research Interests: 
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Early Antisocial Behavior
  • Schools and Delinquency
  • Family Influences on Offending
  • Crime Prevention and Public Policy

Dissertation Title: Exclusionary discipline across the life-course: An age-graded examination of the school-to-prison pipeline

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to apply the life-course perspective to understanding the school-to-prison pipeline by conducting three separate analyses pertaining to out-of-school suspension occurring at different stages in the life-course. The first analysis will use data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health to determine to what extent adverse experiences in early childhood are associated with experiences of exclusionary discipline in early learning settings, and to what extent this association is mediated by behavioral problems in early childhood. The second analysis will use data from the Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN) to identify trajectories of school suspension between ages eight and 16, determine to what extent adverse experiences in early childhood are associated with trajectory group membership, and examine whether and to what extent trajectory group membership is associated with justice system involvement by age 18. The final paper will use the LONGSCAN data and propensity score methods to examine whether the association between out-of-school suspension and justice system contact, age at first arrest, and justice system involvement differs by age at first suspension, comparing the effects of suspension first experienced at or before age 12, suspension first experienced between the ages of 13 and 14, and suspension first experienced between the ages of 15 and 16. The findings from this dissertation will have important implications for policy pertaining to the use exclusionary discipline and for the application of life-course theories to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Stephanie Mintz

Degrees Earned:
  • B.A Sociology with Minor in Psychology, University of Texas
  • M.A. Criminology & Law and Society, University of Florida

Research Interests: 
  • Law & Society
  • Terrorism
  • Legal Studies
  • Public Perceptions of the Legal System

Dissertation Title: Learning Extremism: A Social Learning Approach to Explaining Engagement in Violent Extremism

Abstract: My dissertation research aims to understand radicalization of extremists as a whole by applying Akers Social Learning Theory to data on radicalization. Using the Profiles of Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) data provided by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) I employ various quantitative methods to answer my research questions that aim to see if the radicalization process follows the theoretical constructs of social learning theory. I will address the following questions: 1) Do the individual constructs of social learning theory (Differential Association, Definitions, Imitation and Differential Reinforcement) explain endorsement of extremist beliefs before engaging in other radical behavior in accordance with the social learning process? 2)Do the individual constructs of social learning theory explain engagement in violent extremism? 3) Compared to the individual social learning theory construct model, can engagement in violent extremism be explained by the social learning process as a whole? 4)How does social structure social learning theory differ in explaining engagement of violent extremism? This research will also look at possible policies that could help in weakening radicalization movements in the US. Based on previous research on extremist groups and social learning theory, city or neighborhood policies can help in educating the public and weakening local radicalization efforts and combating violent extremism (CVE). However, in proposing these policies a legal analysis will be discussed as legal dilemmas arise in investigating and prosecuting extremist activity that need to be addressed in policy recommendations.

Daniel Acton

Degrees Earned:
  • B.A. Sociology, emphasis in Criminology, University of Montana
  • B.A. Pyschology, University of Montana
  • M.A. Sociology, emphasis in Criminology, University of Montana

Research Interests:
  • Life Course Criminology
  • Siblings/Families
  • Personality
  • Violence
  • Drug Abuse

Dissertation Title: Siblings: Delinquency & Victimization

Abstract: The family is a primary institution of socialization that serves an important role in shaping children’s prosocial and deviant behaviors. Crime runs in the family and, compared to influence of parents, the influences of siblings is often overlooked or neglected although delinquency is associated among siblings. While some research shows evidence of significant sibling influences on delinquency, these studies are limited by 1) examining one-way sibling influences, 2) including few risk factors related to the sibling, and 3) not using multilevel models when siblings are nested within families. To address the limitations of prior research and expand on the knowledge regarding sibling influences on delinquency and victimization, I analyze data from the Longitudinal Cohort Study of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Data are analyzed using a multilevel, Actor-Partner Interdependence Model, a form of dyadic data analysis that allows testing of reciprocal influences among dyads. The approach to data analysis also allows distinguishing between the effects of older siblings and younger siblings. In evaluating sibling influences, this study provides further information on how siblings influence each other’s delinquency and victimization.

Thomas B. Smith

Degrees Earned:
  • M.S. Criminology, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.S. University of Birmingham (United Kingdom)

Research Interests:
  • Biosocial Criminology
  • Criminal, Social, and Behavioral Networks
  • Criminological Theory
  • Evidence-Based Interventions in Corrections
  • Data Science and Quantitative Research Methods

Dissertation Title: A Theory of Biosocial Support

Abstract: Cullen’s (1994) social support theory proposes that the actual and perceived reception of social support from a person(s) will reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior through a variety of mechanisms. I construct a foundation for a theory of biosocial support (TBS) by expanding the individual-level component of Cullen’s theory, integrating a series of biosocially-informed hypotheses on the role of genetics and neurobiology in the reception and appraisal of social support. TBS proposes (a) that genes have small direct influences on the reception of social support early in the life course via selection into supportive or unsupportive environments, (b) moderating effects on the relationships between social support and criminal behavior (including a three-way interaction between genes, support, and strain), and (c) moderated mediation via social bonds and ‘illegitimate’ social support. This dissertation will test the theoretical propositions of TBS using three waves of sibling (N = 7398) and molecular genetic (N = 2612) data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Generalized linear mixed models are employed to (a) estimate the variance in social support, criminal offending, and substance use attributable to genes, shared, and non-shared environment net of demographic control variables, and (b) estimate the effects of social support on criminal offending and substance use net of global genetic confounds. A subsequent series of generalized linear models will then estimate gene by environment (GxE) interactions to test the extent which cumulative genetic susceptibility moderates the influence of social support on criminal offending, substance abuse, social bonds, peer deviance, and the strain-crime relationship. Theoretical and policy implications will be discussed.

Corey Lowe

Degrees Earned:
  • Georgia Southern University, M.A. Social Sciences, 2015
  • Shorter University, B.S. History and Political Science, 2011
  • Georgia Highlands College, A.A. Political Science, 2010

Research Interests:
  • Communities and Crime
  • Criminological Theory
  • Prevention of Antisocial Behaviors
  • Religion and Antisocial Behavior
  • Drugs and Society
  • Research Methods

Dissertation Title: Moral Communities in Chicago: Examining the Relationship between Family and Community Religious Contexts and Youth Substance Use and Delinquency

Abstract: Several studies show that religious youth are less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors such as substance use and delinquency; however, fewer studies have examined the influence of religious family and community contexts on these behaviors. The prevailing focus on individual religiosity contrasts with the work of Durkheim and Stark who attribute the influence of religion to its super-individual nature. Durkheim argued that religion influences behavior to the extent that individuals are integrated into religious groups and exposed to their normative demands, while Stark’s moral communities hypothesis suggests that individual religiosity influences behavior but only when it is ratified by macro-level religious contexts. Moreover, the antiascetic hypothesis suggests that, since many serious offenses are condemned by both secular and religious norms, religion will have a greater influence on less serious offenses such as substance use and status offenses than on violent and property offenses. This dissertation unifies, extends, and applies these theoretical perspectives to youths, hypothesizing that: (1) youths who are embedded in religious family contexts are less likely to engage in substance use and delinquency, (2) the influence of family religiosity will be stronger in neighborhoods with greater neighborhood-level religiosity, and (3) family and community religious contexts will have a stronger relationship with ascetic behaviors such as drug offenses and status offenses than with more widely condemned acts such as property and violent offenses. This dissertation examines these hypotheses using multilevel regression to analyze data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhood, a project designed to examine the influence of family and community contexts on youth development. Given the role and prevalence of religiosity and religious institutions in America, this research has important implications for policy, practice, and theory.