What is criminology?

     Triple-stumper from Friday, 1-28: In I Owe You an ‘-ology’:  “This -ology, part of sociology, uses the theory of differential association (i.e., hanging around with a bad crowd).”
     I had to rely on the Internet for this one, because I didn’t find anything in any of my books about this theory.  But I wanted to know more about it and how someone could up with the correct response from this clue.  I texted this clue to a friend who has a degree in criminology, and she didn’t know the answer.  However, she did not know the category.  I gave that to her, but she simply asked me what the answer was.  I don’t think she knew I was still hoping she’d answer.  If anyone reading this has a criminology degree, I’d love to hear from you, too.  I also asked about this on the Jeopardy! message boards and on Twitter.  I didn’t hear from anyone on Twitter, but these were two responses on the boards:

  • “I feel the ‘hanging around with a bad crowd’ part of the clue was facile and misleading. It doesn’t help at all, and in fact muddies the water. I also don’t see criminology as a branch of sociology, any more than so many other -ologies are, although I suppose technically it might be.”
  • “I don’t know about ‘unreasonably hard,’ but it wasn’t very clear IMO. My first thought was “criminology” but I immediately dismissed that because that was an awfully poor definition of criminology. In retrospect I think it wasn’t supposed to be a definition, but more along the lines of ‘what -ology involves this theory?’ At any rate I clammed, then slapped myself.”

     The theory in this clue was proposed by Edwin Sutherland, a sociologist who I was very surprised and pleased to discover was born in small-town central Nebraska, in 1883.  I also discovered it was he who coined the term “white-collar criminal,” in 1939.  The theory is pretty much summed up in the clue: a person develops a habit of committing crime as a result of interacting with those who commit crime, as opposed to those who do not.