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Criminal Group Dynamics and Network Methods

Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research

ISBN: 978-1-78769-866-6, eISBN: 978-1-78769-865-9

Publication date: 26 August 2019


Purpose – Criminal groups have long been central to explanations of crime and deviance. Yet, challenges in measuring their dynamic and transient nature meant that group-level explanations were often displaced in favor of individual-level ones. This chapter outlines how network methods provide a powerful tool for modeling the dynamic nature of criminal groups.

Approach – The chapter starts by providing a brief introduction to social network analysis, including key concepts and terminology. The chapter then focuses on the types of relational data available to study criminal groups, and how network methods can be used to delineate group boundaries. The chapter concludes by presenting a framework for understanding group dynamics from a network perspective, describing the contributions of network analysis to theories of group processes.

Findings – Network methods have provided meaningful advances to the study of group dynamics, leading scholars to revisit assumptions about the impact of group’ structure on delinquent behavior. Network studies of group dynamics have primarily focused on the cohesion–delinquency link (within-group structure) and the social contagion of conflict (between-group structure), highlighting important opportunities for the intersection of these two inquiries.

Value – Network methods provide a means to revisit and extend theories of crime and delinquency with a focus on social structure. The unique affinity between group dynamics and network methods highlights immense opportunities for expanding the knowledge of collective trajectories.



Ouellet, M. and Hashimi, S. (2019), "Criminal Group Dynamics and Network Methods", Deflem, M. and Silva, D.M.D. (Ed.) Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 24), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 47-65.



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