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Sociology and Criminology & Law

Thomas B. Smith

Degrees Earned:

  • M.S. Criminology, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.A. Sociology, University of Birmingham (United Kingdom)

Research Interests:

  • Biosocial Criminology
  • Criminal, Social, and Behavioural 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.

TSmith CV