What Is the Chicago School of Criminology?

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The Chicago School of Criminology refers to the work of the University of Chicago faculty and students studying the macro-sociological theory called social disorganization, used to understand crime rates in different neighborhoods. The university's department of sociology played an important role in criminological research during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has been extensively referenced in numerous books and articles.

The Chicago School of Criminology laid the foundation for modern criminological research, and its influence continues to pervade sociological research and methodologies. The university's work utilized a number of concepts and methods that are often referenced as the Chicago school of thought. The work itself involved crime and delinquency studies of neighborhoods that identified behavioral patterns across spatial distributions.

One of the major accomplishments of the school was the development of the symbolic-interactionist approach, which focuses on the effects of environmental and sociological factors on human behavior rather than personality traits and genetics.

A key researcher in the movement was William I. Thomas, who studied the adaptation of Polish immigrants in the urban Chicago setting. Other leaders included Ernest W. Burgess, Robert E. Park and their students, who used spot maps and other methods to study the emergence of the differing composition and social aspects of various Chicago neighborhoods.