Religion And Crime Dissertation

While critical reviews of literatures on religion and crime (e.g., Knudten and Knudten 1971, cited under Intellectual Backgrounds and Early Research) are published on a regular basis, two more advanced forms of literature review have been conducted since the dawn of the new millennium: systematic review and meta-analysis. Johnson, et al. 2000 was the first published systematic review of research on religiosity and crime, based on forty articles published in journals between 1985 and 1997. Chitwood, et al. 2008 extended the same method to review a total of 105 journal articles on religion and drug use published between 1997 and 2006. While not a systematic review, Dew, et al. 2008, a review of 115 studies on religion and “adolescent psychiatric symptoms” (a majority of which were drug use or delinquency) published in journals between 1969 and 2005, makes a good parallel reading of the systematic reviews of Johnson, et al. 2000 and Chitwood, et al. 2008. More recently, Johnson and Jang 2010 presents what is perhaps the largest scale of systematic review ever, based on 270 studies on relationships between religion and crime and drug use. Baier and Wright 2001, a meta-analysis of sixty studies published between 1962 and 1998, provides an alternative look at the overall relationship between religion and crime based on quantitative analysis. On the other hand, while not intended to be comprehensive literature reviews, Koenig, et al. 2001; Regnerus 2006; and Stark and Bainbridge 1996 offer critical reviews of research on religion and crime from the perspectives of medical researchers and sociologists of religion.

  • Baier, Colin J., and Bradley R. E. Wright. 2001. “If you love me, keep my commandments”: A meta-analysis of the effect of religion on crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 38.1: 3–21.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427801038001001E-mail Citation »

    Authors analyzed seventy-nine relationships between religiosity and crime (67 percent delinquency), reported by sixty studies produced between 1962 and 1998. They summarize the relationships in terms of their direction and size, and look at the sources of their differences across the studies. Suitable for graduates; but if the analytical details are ignored, also suitable for undergraduates.

  • Chitwood, Dale D., Michael L. Weiss, and Carl G. Leukefeld. 2008. A systematic review of recent literature on religiosity and substance use. Journal of Drug Issues 38.3: 653–688.

    DOI: 10.1177/002204260803800302E-mail Citation »

    Applies the same method used in Johnson, et al. 2000, a review of research on the religiosity-delinquency (partly drug use) relationship, to further examine the relationship, focusing exclusively on drug use, based on 105 articles published in journals between 1997 and 2006; suitable for both undergraduate and graduates.

  • Dew, Rachel Elizabeth, Stephanie S. Daniel, Tonya D. Armstrong, David B. Goldston, Mary Frances Triplett, and Harold G. Koenig. 2008. Religion/spirituality and adolescent psychiatric symptoms: A review. Child Psychiatry & Human Development 39.4: 381–398.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10578-007-0093-2E-mail Citation »

    A review of 115 journal articles on religion and “adolescent psychiatric symptoms” published between 1969 and 2005, including ninety-six studies on substance use (sixty-one) and delinquency (thirty-five). Parallels Johnson, et al. 2000 and Chitwood, et al. 2008 in terms of publication years. Suitable for undergraduates and graduates.

  • Johnson, Byron R., Spencer De Li, David B. Larson, and Michael McCullough. 2000. A systematic review of the religiosity and delinquency literature: A research note. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 16.1: 32–52.

    DOI: 10.1177/1043986200016001003E-mail Citation »

    A first “systematic review” of studies on religiosity and delinquency, examining forty journal articles published between 1985 and 1997 that focus exclusively on juvenile delinquency, unlike Baier and Wright 2001 and Johnson and Jang 2010, which review studies on adult crime as well; suitable for undergraduates and graduates.

  • Johnson, Byron R., and Sung Joon Jang. 2010. Crime and religion: Assessing the role of the faith factor. In Contemporary issues in criminological theory and research: The role of social institutions; Papers from the American Society for Criminology 2010 Conference. Edited by Richard Rosenfeld, Kenna Quinet, and Crystal Garcia, 117–149. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    E-mail Citation »

    Not only offers a systematic review of 270 studies on the religiosity-crime (66 percent religiosity-delinquency) relationship, published between 1944 and 2010, but also provides a brief history of religion within criminology, discusses issues in research on religion and crime, and suggests directions for criminology of religion. Suitable for undergraduates and graduates.

  • Koenig, Harold G., Michael E. McCullough, and David B. Larson. 2001. Handbook of religion and health. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195118667.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Includes one chapter that provides a brief overview of research findings about relationships between different measures of religiosity (i.e., denomination, church attendance, and religious salience) and different types of delinquency, and discusses a potential inclusion of religion into delinquency prevention/intervention programs; suitable for both undergraduate and graduates.

  • Regnerus, Mark D. 2006. Adolescent delinquency. In Handbook of religion and social institutions. Edited by Helen Rose Ebaugh, 265–283. New York: Springer.

    E-mail Citation »

    A sociologist of religion reviews criminological theories and the scientific research of religious influence on delinquency and adolescent drug use, including a small number of studies based on non-American data, and discusses policy implications of research findings and directions for future research; suitable for undergraduates and graduates.

  • Stark, Rodney, and William Sims Bainbridge. 1996. Religion, deviance, and social control. New York: Routledge.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides a critical, sociological discussion not only of religion as context and source of social control via integration and its negative association with deviance but also “religion as deviance” (i.e., religious cults) and a “cause of mental illness,” offering topics for promising research; suitable for undergraduate and graduates.

  • Over the last twenty years researchers have given a lot of attention to the relationship between religion and crime, finding that religion tends to have a deterring influence on crime-related attitudes and behaviors. While a variety of studies have been published in this area, little work has been done to assess the state of research on religion and crime. Because so much research has consistently found a relationship, work on religion may be able to offer fresh insight into criminological theory and substantive research more generally. This study fills a gap in current understanding by conducting a systematic review of empirically-based journal articles published between 2004 and 2014. The analysis, which assesses qualitative and quantitative studies, offers theoretical and empirical insight into what religion brings to the study of crime, and vice versa. The results focus on the data sources, methods, theories, and journals used in producing research on religion and crime. The findings highlight the most popular theoretical perspectives, which include religious contextual effects, social control, and social learning, as well as the least popular ones. Insight into the strengths and weaknesses of current research on religion and crime is provided, as is direction for future research into this innovative area of research.

    © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


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