Emeritus Sociology Professor Wins Stockholm Prize in Criminology

Travis Hirschi, an emeritus Regents’ Professor in the School of Sociology at the University of Arizona, has received the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for helping to answer the question: How can parents prevent their children from committing crimes?

Hirschi shares the award with Cathy Spatz Widom, distinguished professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and Per-Olof Wikström, professor of ecological and developmental criminology at the University of Cambridge.

Generally considered the most prestigious award in the field of criminology, the Stockholm Prize in Criminology recognizes outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights. The award is established under the aegis of the Swedish Ministry of Justice with major contributions from the Torsten Söderberg Foundation.

The winners were chosen by an international jury and will share a 1,500,000 Swedish Kronor prize (approximately $175,000). The prize ceremony will be held in Stockholm on June 15, 2016, in conjunction with the Stockholm Criminology Symposium organized by the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention.

“I am pleased and honored to receive this award,” said Hirschi. “Among its several benefits, the symposium that surrounds the award offers an opportunity to hear what a broad range of international scholars think about my work.”

Hirschi, Widom and Wikström were awarded the prize in recognition of their important joint advance in knowledge about how parents and peers shape successes, or failures, in preventing adult violence and crime.

Hirschi’s research on the topic began in 1965, when he gathered data on 4,077 teenagers in Richmond, California, testing and developing his “Social Bonding Theory” of crime.

Hirschi’s theory did not ask why people do break the law, but why people don’t break the law. His answer is that adolescents decide not to commit crimes according to the degree of their attachment to their parents, their commitment to conventional success, their involvement with conventional activities, and their beliefs in conventional moral values.

In his studies of the police records, self-reported criminal activities and attitudes of these teenagers, Hirschi showed the importance of their attachment to parents not in directly preventing crime, but in shaping commitment, involvement and belief. Even with unconventional or criminal parents, Hirschi found that having strong attachments to one or both parents acted to prevent delinquency, and even increased respect for police. 

Hirschi’s theory went on to become what is described as the most influential criminological theory of the current era, stimulating more research than any other. In 1969, he published the classic book “Causes of Delinquency.”

Hirschi’s fndings were expanded by Widom and Wikström. Widom’s work extended Hirschi’s evidence that even criminal parents might build strong attachments with their children, which lead children to obey the law. Wikström added major insights into the role parents play in preventing juvenile crime by restricting access to criminogenic peers and shaping the morality of their children.

“Travis Hirshi was a distinguished criminologist in the School of Sociology and his winning this award reflects the international prominence of the school,” said Albert Bergesen, director of the UA School of Sociology.

Hirschi received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968. Before joining the University of Arizona in 1981, he held appointments at the University of Washington, the University of California at Davis, and the State University of New York at Albany School of Criminal Justice.

Hirschi was named a Regents’ Professor in 1989, the highest honor bestowed on UA faculty. In 1990, he published the book “A General Theory of Crime” with criminologist Michael R. Gottfredson. Hirschi is a Fellow and past President of the American Society of Criminology and winner of its highest prize for scholarship, the Edwin Sutherland Award. He retired from the UA in 1997.

More information about the Prize and the winners can be found at:

www.su.se/criminologyprize
 

Contact: Lori Harwood, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 520-626-3846, harwoodl@email.arizona.edu

Published Date: 

11/10/2015 - 8:28am