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Dueling Conceptualizations – Crime

Merriam Webster’s dictionary offers varied definitions of crime; the top definition is “an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government” or more simply, “something reprehensible, foolish, or disgraceful.”
Deviant behavior and crime can be pictured and defined by many conducts. According to the first definition, anyone who has ever jay-walked is, a criminal. In the following comparison we will examine two authors’ methods for defining and measuring crime and demonstrate two examples of how crime is operationalized.
The first example is a cross-sectional study completed by Frances P. Abderhalden and Sara Z. Evans, who in their study “An Examination of Sibling Impact… Among Chronic Offenders” define “criminality” as a habitual offender and recidivist. A criminal designation was identified and operationalized primarily through number of arrests and second, percentage of violent crime. The figures for number of arrests were gathered upon entry to the California Department of Corrections, obtained from the ICSPR database, and all participants included have both known juvenile and adult offenses (Abderhalden and Evans 32).
The study outlines a recidivist as having two to four prior offenses, and a chronic offender with five or more, spanning a minimum length of 3-5 years (Abderhalden and Evans 30). The author’s furthered the clarification of “violent offenses” as an arrest involving robbery, rape and/or homicide or others, using the Uniform Crime Report index for reference.
This study is lacking in diversity of its sample as it is limited to only those arrested and jailed in California, but its methods used for obtaining study figures are reliable. All information was gained through public record of arrest and therefore more statistically credible than the next self-reported study we will consider.
The second example, a study titled “Childhood Predictors of Young Adult Male Crime” completed by Suh-Ruu Ou and Arthur J. Reynolds is a longitudinal analysis primarily focused on recidivism but emphasizes adolescent behavioral predictors for juvenile and adult crime. Like the previous study, the authors outline and define crime using three identifying categories: arrest, conviction, and felony conviction for indexing criminality (Ou and Reynolds 1099). Furthermore, the operationalization of risk for delinquency is measured by detailing life events such as the completion of high school and reported juvenile arrests as known deterrents or risk factors for likely later criminal behavior (Ou and Reynolds 1100). All forementioned risk factors were labeled using a dichotomous variable to classify presence of said factor.
Additionally, background data referencing participants’ socioeconomic status, access to government aid, and paternal employment status was collected primarily through self-reported surveys and occasional public sources such as school and welfare records (Ou and Reynolds 1099).
The present analysis effectively develops on previous studies by expanding on sociodemographic factors to include alternatives such as educational income and the possibility of a hostile home environment but leaves much room for self-report bias (Ou and Reynolds 1100).
It is for this reason, the first study examined is a more logical and effective operationalization of crime. While the second study excels in including environmental variables that may affect inclination to crime, the first study documents not only convictions but also arrests over a span of time and categorizes by level of violence. It is important to include not only convictions, but arrests and detentions when considering criminal acts, especially when the intent is to develop adolescent crime prevention and intervention programs.

Abderhalden, Frances P., and Sara Z. Evans. “An Examination of Sibling Impact on Frequency and Type of Arrest among Chronic Offenders.” Actual Problems of Economics and Law, vol. 13, no. 1, 2019. ProQuest, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.
“Crime.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,
Ou, Suh-Ruu, and Arthur J. Reynolds. “Childhood Predictors of Young Adult Male Crime.” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 32, no. 8, Aug. 2010, pp. 1097–1107. Science Direct, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Topic: The impact of video games on students
As we saw in the introduction to this module, different researchers can conceptualize and operationalize the same thing in very, very different ways. Sometimes, such differences can lead to divergent conclusions even when one of them isn’t an obvious partisan hack (cough—Mark Regnerus—cough). This assignment requires that you find and analyze two different ways of conceptualizing and operationalizing one of the key variables that are likely to come up over the course of your final project. If you put a decent effort into writing your lit review, you may have already noticed that your topic of interest (mental health, social media use, “vaccine hesitancy,” etc.) was defined and measured in slightly different ways from one article to the next. If so, this assignment should only take a few minutes. If you half-assed your lit review, however, you might need to start this endeavor prior to the afternoon of the day on which it is due.

Practice some of the skills you developed whilst writing your literature review last week.
Apply your understanding of conceptualization, operationalization, and levels of measurement to your chosen research topic
Consider the pros and cons of choosing to measure a phenomenon in one way relative to another.
Step 1—Decide on Your Concept of Choice
Start by choosing a concept that is relevant to your final project. For the purposes of this assignment, you only need to choose ONE such concept. If, for example, your project has to do with the effect of social media use on mental health, you can choose to focus on how to best define and measure “social media use” OR “mental health.” There is no need to do both. Other concepts that featured prominently in the topics you all proposed include:

Disordered eating
Social status
Athletic ability
Physical attractiveness
Any of these concepts would work well in the context of this assignment precisely because they mean different things to different people, which means there’s some wiggle room in terms of how they are formally defined and measured. A concept like biological age, in contrast, wouldn’t work well for this assignment, as a person’s age always boils down to the amount of time elapsed since their birth.

Step 2—Find Two Articles
Once you’ve chosen a concept on which to focus, the next step is to find two articles that conceptualize (define) and operationalize (measure) that concept in different ways. In the study of religion, for example, some studies choose to focus on behaviors (i.e., attending religious services, reading scriptures, etc.) while others seek to capture subjective beliefs (i.e., whether or not an individual believes that every word in the Bible is literally true). In a perfect world, the work you did for your literature review would have uncovered a few such disagreements. If you weren’t so lucky, you’ll probably need to head back to Google Scholar (or the database of your choice).

Step 3—Analyze the Measures Found in Each
Once you’ve found your two articles, the next step is to write a summary of the similarities and differences in the way your topic is addressed in each. Your summary should answer the following questions:

How is your chosen concept conceptualized (defined) in each article?
Going back to the example above, how is “social media use” defined in each article? Is simply having a Facebook account enough to be considered a “social media user,” or must one actually engage with others on Facebook?
How is your chosen concept operationalized (measured) in each article? Details to consider include:
Is your chosen concept assessed via a single-item indicator (i.e., “Are you happy?”) or an index comprised of several related items (i.e., the CES-D (Links to an external site.))? If both articles utilize scales or indices, to what extent is there overlap amongst the constituent items?
Does the operationalization rely on self-reported information, or does it come from observation?
How is the concept treated in terms of the level of measurement in each article? Some studies on wealth, for example, choose to measure it ordinally ($0 – $5,000; $5,001 – $10,000; etc.), while others prefer a ratio method (an exact dollar amount). Do the authors provide any justification for choosing one level of measurement over another?
Step 4—Decide Which is More Effective
Finally, I’d like you to consider which of the two articles you chose does a better job of conceptualizing (defining) and operationalizing (measuring) your topic of choice. What are the pros and cons of the methods used in each article? Are there any clear advantages or disadvantages? Most importantly, do you think any of the choices the researchers made in how to measure the concept had any effect on their respective conclusions?