Dr. Charles R. Tittle’s intellectual contributions

This post is dedicated to the intellectual contributions of our late mentor, Dr. Charles R. Tittle.

Jon Brauer, with Katya Botchkovar and Carter Hay


March 12, 2023

Dr. Charles R. Tittle

The comments below were delivered in one of two tribute panels dedicated to Dr. Charles R. Tittle’s intellectual and interpersonal contributions to criminology at the 2021 American Society of Criminology annual meeting in Chicago. While others contributed additional comments on the spot, the following include only those formally scheduled comments delivered about Charles’ intellectual contributions to the field. Click on a panel topic below to expand and view its contents:

Charles R. Tittle Tribute I: Intellectual Contributions to Criminology

Contributions to International Criminology (Katya Botchkovar)

Contributions to International Criminology

by Katya Botchkovar

Katya gave us permission to share the recorded video of her presentation, which was delivered remotely for the ASC tribute session:

Contributions to Measurement and Theory Testing (Carter Hay)

Contributions to Measurement and Theory Testing

by Carter Hay


Carter gave us permission to share the written notes for his comments delivered for the ASC tribute session:

Thank you Jon, and thank you for all of your organizing these sessions that allow us to reflect on Charles as such an important scholar and person for the field of criminology but also in our lives. My areas to cover are measurement and theory testing, and it was a wonderful idea to put those two together because when we look at Charles’s research in broad strokes, those two are inherently linked. I think of it in this way:

  • Charles was as theoretical as they come — he approached each issue with a deep concern for theory.
  • But he also was immensely empirical; analyzing data and testing hypotheses are the core of his research activities.
  • But a third thing: He commonly used data that he had some part in collecting, which meant that he wasn’t having to rely on the measures available in secondary data; instead, he played a role in shaping new novel measures of theoretical concepts.

This ultimately translated into extraordinary number of novel creative tests—studies that are among the best and most influential tests of a given theory, and this often was due in part to measurement.

And he did this for MANY different theories — by my count, it’s at 10 different theories not just that Charles was able to test, but that he was able to test with original data that enabled he and his co-authors to design their own measures:

  • Differential association theory
  • Self-control theory
  • Deterrence theory
  • Reintegrative shaming and labeling theory
  • Strain theory, including general strain theory
  • Situational action theory
  • Colvin’s social support/coercion theory

And then there also are theoretical topics that cut across multiple theories, including innovative work on:

  • criminal motivations
  • morality and crime and religiosity and crime.

It’s not possible talk about all of those areas where Charles had a big impact with respect to measurement and empirical testing. I’m instead going to discuss two of those areas—deterrence and self-control—in some detail as illustrations of his general approach and his lasting influence.


So the first area I want to focus on is deterrence. Charles’s work in this area most clearly begins with the Tittle (1969) article that used official data for the 50 states to reveal that the certainty of punishment—as indicated by the probability of imprisonment—was associated with lower crime and that severity (the length of prison sentences) also could reduce crime when certainty was at high levels. Charles’s key point in that article and in several others that followed in the 1970s was that deterrence needed to be taken seriously; it had been dismissed, but this wasn’t because good testing or good data had found problems; instead, he saw biases in play along with a tendency to go along with the conventional wisdom even when it wasn’t on firm ground.

Charles wasn’t in favor of deterrence theory, he wasn’t opposed to it—he wanted to test it effectively.

And his ideas on how best to test deterrence evolved fairly quickly and they would help shape the field. In 1972, Charles gets an NSF grant of $100,000 to fund a survey approach to testing deterrence theory. The results of that work were published in the book Sanctions and Social Deviance was published in 1980 and in some other articles published around that time.

Early in the book, he makes the case for studying deterrence with surveys, which of course, was quite different than his 1969 test that attracted so much attention—he expressed some real doubts that the macro-level research could ever explicitly reveal fear of sanctions as the operative mechanism, and this was crucial for distinguishing deterrence from other mechanisms by which punishment can affect crime.

Also, Charles felt that causal order issues would be tough to parse out because of how legal systems are embedded in complicated social contexts where history looms large. Even with sophisticated analyses, it was difficult to determine whether low certainty was leading to high crime, or conversely, whether high crime was leading to low certainty.

So he set out to try to address these two issues with a survey of roughly 2,000 adults randomly selected from three states: Iowa, Oregon, and New Jersey.

So on that first issue, Charles’s created an comprehensive measure of fear of sanctions. He identified multiple indicators of fear that were used for a multitude of different rule violations, with these capturing:

  • the chances that people would find out?
  • would those be people you know?
  • would lots of people in the community find out?
  • would there be a loss of respect?
  • would it produce an arrest?
  • would produce jail?

And then scores were further adjusted based on the person’s peer deviance—if most of the people that someone knew engaged in deviance, then them finding out probably shouldn’t be seen as increasing sanction fear.

Now, I’ll emphasize that Charles was not the only one pursuing this survey approach at this time (Waldo, Chiricos, Anderson), but his comprehensive approach to measurement was unique and his attention to scaling was meticulous.

  • And let me mention something in connection to that — when you go to Charles’s CV, you see that 4 of his first 6 publications were explicitly measurement-oriented methodological pieces — measurement and scaling were the explicit priorities of the paper. This included articles or research notes from 1966-68 in American Journal of Sociology, Public Opinion Quarterly, Sociometry, and Social Forces. Collectively, they were cited more than 600 times and often re-printed.
  • These articles precede the articles in criminology that we think of regarding Charles’s career, and they dealt with things like political activity and bureaucratization, but there’s some foreshadowing that innovation and rigor in the area of measurement would be central to his work.

But the scope of his survey-based approach to deterrence theory also was unique—it was a big project drawing a very diverse set of subjects from 3 states to ensure big variations in social contexts—which is critical to testing deterrence theory—a convenience sample taken from a group of people in the same social context simply isn’t the best test.

So that’s innovation #1 — taking the most rigorous approach possible to get at that mechanism of fear.

The second innovation dealt with this causal order issue, which had its own problems when using the survey approach. In cross-sectional studies, perceived certainty, severity, or fear of sanctions is measured at the time of the survey and offending is measured for the prior 6 or 12 months creating an obvious causal order concern in which offending precede perceptions of sanctions.

Now longitudinal panel data could be used but that’s difficult to come by and it creates the problem of lags—current perceptions are being used to predict future behavior, but what if perceptions of sanctions change and those current perceptions being measured at the time of the survey become outdated.

So Charles had an interesting fix for this — he measured projected deviance.

He asked this question: “If you were in a situation tomorrow where you had an extremely strong desire or need to [fill in the blank on the behavior], what are the chances that you would actually do it?”

So he used current perceptions of punishment to predict this measure of projected deviance, but he also measured prior deviance — it could be used as a conditioning variable or a control variable, and this measurement advance created much stronger causal inferences, especially in light of the later research that would show that projections of future deviance often were strongly correlated with actual deviance.

And this approach becomes the basis for many criminological studies that in some way make use of projected deviance or crime, intentions to offend, willingness to offend, and the vignette studies. These studies go beyond deterrence theory—studies on strain theory, differential association theory, self-control theory, and so on. In many instances, they cite Tittle’s earlier work—that’s especially true for the people in this room because there are a lot of us who have used these measures—but even when Tittle wasn’t cited, they typically lean on the same basic rational that Charles drew attention to more than 40 years ago:

the desire to use cross-sectional data to examine contemporaneous or short-term effects (rather than lagged effects) and to do so with stronger causal inferences.

Taking these two innovations together, what did Charles find? Findings that are very close to the current state of knowledge today. He found that:

  • Sanction fear reduces offending but fairly modestly.
  • Perceived informal sanctions tends to matter more than perceived formal sanctions.
  • And sanction fear generally has smaller effects than other theoretical variables, including moral commitments, social bonding, and differential associations.

And Charles discovered lots of contingencies. His findings on this are immensely valuable; they laid the groundwork for interesting work to come on the idea of differential deterrability — with sanction fear operating more for some people and under some circumstances than others.

(Mark Stafford on deterrence)

And this issue of contingencies is something that Mark Stafford emphasized in comments that he sent me. Mark had a family issue arise and he wasn’t able to travel to Chicago, but I wanted to share with you his comments on this issue:

Most deterrence researchers have paid lip-service to the idea that the threat of legal punishment probably interacts with other variables to affect the likelihood of crime. However, few have followed through on it, and no one as much as Charles. This was a central theme in his Sanctions and Social Deviance: The Question of Deterrence. A brief perusal of his deterrence studies over the years reveals that he looked at interactions between punishment threats and age, gender, informal punishments, self-control, and morality.

Probably my favorite deterrence research by Charles focused on the possible interaction between punishment threats and motivation to commit crime. When I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, I remember students (Mark Warr, Kirk Williams, Joe Rankin, and I) drinking with faculty (Jack Gibbs, Maynard Erickson, and Gary Jensen) on many occasions and discussing the obvious that punishment threats could not deter unless people were motivated to commit crime. We concluded, however, that motivation was too complex to capture in a simple measure. Move ahead decades later and that is exactly what Charles did – he measured motivation, and by simply asking people how much they wanted to commit crime. It turned out that this measure interacted with punishment threats to form a strong predictor of crime. Charles had a real talent of taking complex ideas and reducing them to their basics. What was too complex for the rest of us was easy for Charles. As a consequence, deterrence research is decades ahead of where it would have been without Charles. Perhaps it is hyperbole to compare Charles with Bentham and Beccaria, but I bet they would have liked to pick Charles’ brain about deterrence, and I bet Charles would tell them many things they got wrong.

Self-control theory—many innovations here

Let me pivot now to self-control theory, which is an area where Charles’s contributions are immense. Many of the things we know about this theory are things we learned from Charles’s work.

If you look at Charles’s book reviews and commentaries on Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theory, along with comments he’d make, three things were clear: (1) he saw some shortcomings in the theory, (2) he was nevertheless impressed by the case they made for self-control being an important neglected variable, and (3) he knew the theory would attract a lot of attention and testing.

And a question has occurred to me, one that I wished I’d asked him: In 1991, when Charles published one of the first reviews of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s book, did he anticipate that he himself would become so central to the empirical testing of the theory? I don’t know; maybe some of you do.

But his centrality is unquestioned.

It begins obviously with the Grasmick et al. self-control scale, which of course never gets referred to by the more long-winded label of the Grasmick, Tittle, Bursik, and Arneklev scale. But I do know that Charles was quite involved in the development of that scale because he once described the painstaking process he went through to try to identify items from the California Psychological Inventory, along with the recognition at various points that newly invented items also would be needed.

That resulting scale they came up with was examined with new data from the Oklahoma City Survey in one the first tests of the theory, and that scale or subsets of it of it have been used in scores of studies. And their original study also has been cited more than 2600 times. The bottom line is that this scale is in many ways the gold standard for measuring self-control in criminology, and the meticulous attention to its scaling has inspired further research into not just this measure but possible limitations in Gottfredson and Hirschi’s initial conceptualization of self-control.

Another notable innovation of Charles’s in this area involves the distinction between self-control ability and self-control interest, along with his creative attempts to empirically distinguish them. This 2004 article with Grasmick and Ward really displays Charles’s skill in getting at the interplay between theoretical creativity and measurement. This study went beyond the arguments of the theory to consider something new, but rather than just making an interesting argument, he used data and creative measurement to test it.

The argument was this: self-control theory and research had been really centered on the idea that people differ in the ABILITY (or capacity) to exercise self-control—some people have that ability, some people don’t. Charles’s point was that there also could be variation in self-control INTEREST. Here’s what he said:

some people may have a strong capacity for self-control but may not always want to exercise it, while others may have weak self-control ability but have such a keen interest in controlling their deviant impulses that they end up conforming.

So these two things—ability and interest—can both be consequential and maybe they even interact with each other. Maybe the effect that one has on crime depends on how much of the other they possess.

  • And he also raises this interesting possibility: self-control interest could be distinct from ability in being especially responsive to social stimuli. Maybe self-control ability is pretty stable in the way that the theory predicts, but interest—do you feel like exercising the self-control you really do possess or do you not feel like it?—is probably a much more situationally-fluid variable.

So in this study, using Oklahoma City Survey data, they construct a measure of self-control interest, and they do so with items that place a person in a situation in which they have the option of REFRAINING from some deviant action, and they ask might come from refraining—

  • would it allow them to feel proud?
  • to earn praise from others?
  • to avoid losing the respect of people they care about?
  • to avoid feeling guilty?

If they say yes to these things, that’s an interest in exercising self-control.

And very quickly on the findings:

  • They found that items measuring self-control interest coalesced nicely, loading on the same factor and not loading on a 2nd factor that including the traditional self-control ABILITY items.
  • Self control interest and self-control ability BOTH affected offending, often similarly, but when differences did emerge, it was INTEREST having the greater effect
  • There was some evidence of interaction such that self-control ability mattered less when a person was really INTERESTED in exercising self-control.

Now there are other innovations that Charles had on self-control research, including measurement, but I’m running out of time. And there are other areas beyond deterrence and self-control theory that I would have liked to discuss. In particular, Charles’s research with Jon Brauer on Colvin’s social support and coercion theory in my mind provides a similar gold standard for testing that theory and measuring its concepts in both global and domain-specific ways.

But there’s not time, so I’ll just conclude by saying that the lasting influence of Charles’s research on theory testing and measurement comes back to a simple premise that seemed to always guide him, and we should be inspired to have it guide us as well. I believe that premise that really guided Charles was this:

  • Before reaching a conclusion on something, get the highest quality evidence you can, even if doing that is really hard. And it probably will be really hard. Press on and do it anyway.
Advocate for Theoretical Science in Criminology (Jon Brauer)

Advocate for Theoretical Science in Criminology

by Jon Brauer


As my colleagues have described, Charles’ scholarship advanced so many areas of criminological inquiry, including: (1) several important substantive debates in criminology; (2) concept measurement & theory testing using survey research; (3) and assessment of the generality of criminological patterns & theories across international contexts. As scholars, many of us would love to make meaningful contributions to any single issue within one of these broad areas. The breadth, magnitude, and consistency of his contributions cements Charles Tittle’s status as one of the brightest stars in our criminological universe.

Throughout all this work, one would be hard-pressed to find a theory of crime or deviance that was popular or that emerged during his illustrious 55+ year career that Charles had not read, reviewed, and even directly tested himself. Think about that a moment. He did not devote his time to becoming a specialist in any one theory or any particular area of inquiry. Rather, he devoted his time to becoming a specialist in countless theories and interdisciplinary areas relevant to his vast domain of inquiry – human behavior. That is, Charles embodied a generalist or Renaissance model of scholarship that seems all too rare in today’s knowledge silos, perpetuated by narrow training specializations, focused research funding and accomplishments, and exponential growth in short, quick-hitting publications.

Charles’ varied contributions stemmed directly from his philosophy of science. He was not simply jumping from latest fad to latest fad. He was not an opportunist doggedly seeking to aim his crosshairs at every emergent idea from other hard-working scholars. He was not just publishing because that is what we do. No, Charles had much loftier aims with his research and writing. Individually and in their totality, his publications reflect his deep commitment to the health and vibrancy of the field of criminology. In fact, to Charles, the health and vibrancy of a scientific field is tantamount to the health and vibrancy of theoretical development in that field.

Likewise, Charles devoted his entire career – and such a massive portion of his precious hours spent on this Earth – to trying to improve our theories: by reading them, thinking about them, testing them, critiquing them, developing them, and by advocating for and training others to do the same.

Charles’ Philosophy & The Mansion of Science

Charles was not known as someone who spent much time writing explicitly about philosophy of science. Yet, he certainly had a coherent working scientific philosophy – his belief in and advocacy for the centrality of theories to scientific progress was a cornerstone – and while his scientific philosophy was readily apparent to those who knew him well, it also emanated from his teachings and writings.

In the introductory lecture to one of his foundational graduate theory courses, Charles would begin by describing the “mansion of science” as having many rooms, with these rooms divided into blocks representing different paradigms or models of science. After describing other complementary or competing models of science, such as descriptive, vehrstehen, engineering, critical, nihilistic approaches, and the like, Charles would then endorse the “theoretical science” model, which he viewed as the most efficient, reliable means of fostering scientific progress. He would also pointedly profess that the theoretical science model occupied the most rooms and held the best real estate in the mansion of science.

In this regard, Charles views were heavily influenced by works such as Richard Braithwaite’s classic 1953 book, Scientific Explanation, and by Paul Reynolds’ 1971 book, A Primer in Theory Construction. Reynolds’ book was particularly influential to Charles’ working scientific philosophy.

Like Reynolds, Charles viewed the goals of science and scientific activity as:

  1. providing typologies, or identification and organization of phenomena into conceptual categories of similar and different things;
  2. permitting the accurate prediction of future phenomena;
  3. providing accurate explanations for past phenomena; and
  4. providing people a sense of understanding about how and why phenomena occur via full articulation of the causal mechanisms linking changes in some concepts (causes) with changes in other concepts (effects).

(Many would add the potential for control of phenomena as a secondary consequence of accurate explanation and prediction, though Charles was infamously resistant to making the jump from is-based knowledge to ought-based control or policy prescriptions given the state of our evidence, to which I will return soon.)

If these indeed are the primary goals of scientific activity, then theory development is central to science. Theories provide our typologies, or our conceptual categories and shared language about phenomena. Theories are our explanations of phenomena, and we use them to generate and test predictions. Likewise, theories are our (variably) formalized answers to why and how things occur and, as such, they do, or they fail to, provide us with a sense of understanding about – or potential for effective control of – phenomena. So, for Charles, science goes as our theories go. Also, like Reynolds, Charles viewed scientific progress or the successful pursuit of these goals as occurring most efficiently through what is reminiscent of a Lakatosian process involving:

  1. Observing, describing, & making initial empirical generalizations about phenomena ->
  2. Developing initial hypotheses, or what Charles endearingly called “simple theories,” that explain some of those descriptive patterns or empirical generalizations ->
  3. Rigorous testing of these (often numerous, varied, & competing) hypotheses or “simple theories” ->
  4. Slow accumulation of knowledge from these tests; identification of additional generalizations & negative cases; and, ultimately, the development of new theories that better account for patterns observed in accumulated knowledge base through processes such as theoretical invention, elaboration, or integration.

Charles most explicitly outlines his adherence to this philosophy in one of my favorite pieces of his – a chapter in Gilbert Geis & Mary Dodge’s wonderful 2002 book, Lessons of Criminology (see p.32-3), entitled “Confessions of a Reluctant but Committed Criminologist.” In it, he describes the eventual development of adequate theories ultimately is what will permit “explanation, prediction, and sometimes control of criminal/deviant or other human behavior.” He warns, a la Lakatos, that “[t]he whole process, however, is long and tedious, with knowledge growing in a cumulative process. One study means nothing; collections of large numbers and varieties of progressively more refined studies are required.” (p.33).

Lessons of a Reluctant but Committed Criminologist

In that Reflections chapter, Charles also described the first four important lessons of his academic career, which crystallized during his time on the faculty at Washington State University. Those are that:

  1. Our body of verified scientific knowledge is exceptionally weak
  2. [Theoretical] Science is the best model for criminological work
  3. Bias is pervasive in social science, including criminology, & is an archenemy of knowledge
  4. Recommendations or guidelines from criminologists for social policy should be delayed until there is a strong scientific base of relevant knowledge

Charles then states: “…to fully comprehend their import [of these four lessons] one must share certain definitions and orientations about the meaning of science.” That is, one must share a view of science as ideally involving the slow process of knowledge construction through careful observation, empirical generalization, explanation, testing, evolution of community consensus about the adequacy an explanation following accumulation of supporting and challenging test results, development of refined explanations under more general explanatory schemes or adequate theories, and rinse and repeat.

Charles worked with intention according to these lessons. His strong dedication to theory development always involved frequent testing of others’ ideas; ultimately, these efforts also culminated in his magnum opus, Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance. His advocacy for theoretical science was readily apparent in his book, in his reactions to critics of the book, and in his later published refinements to control balance theory.

Culmination in His Magnum Opus, Control Balance

In the first sentence of his published reply in Theoretical Criminology to John Braithwaite’s review of Control Balance, Charles summarized the dual aims of his book:

Control Balance… tries to do two things. One is to set forth a paradigm for theory building and the other is to present an exemplar to be used as a starting point for the application of that paradigm. An important theme contained within the paradigm is that theory must represent the collective efforts of the community of scholars. No specific theoretical effort should be owned by anybody, a specific formulation is always tentative, and theory cumulates and improves as many individuals add their ideas and the results of research to the enterprise…”

The paradigm he envisions here is a theoretical science of criminology oriented toward the collective, collaborative construction of causal process theories. The first half of Control Balance described this paradigm in detail. He started by illustrating both the utility and deficiencies inherent in existing “simple theories” of crime and deviance, thereby convincingly highlighting the need for a new paradigm such as his – and likely disaffecting at least as many readers as he convinced in the process. He then described core features of an adequate theory, calling for criminologists to work towards developing theories with sufficient breadth, comprehensiveness, precision, and depth. He subsequently argued that integration around central causal processes or mechanisms, as opposed to invention or elaboration, holds the greatest promise for collaborative efforts at effective theory development.

I am convinced our field would benefit from widely disseminating these initial chapters as a touchstone by which we judge our ideas and organize our efforts. In particular, I think we really need collective commitment to improving the precision of our causal predictions – to “identifying the conditions that influence exactly when and to what degree causal processes will unfold, the nature of the causal effects, the time interval between the proposed causes and expected effects” (or timing, magnitude, and functional form), and other contingencies that specify the scope or conditions under which the causal processes and predictions are expected to vary.

Additionally, Charles thought our best chance at accumulating a meaningful body of scientific knowledge in criminology was for us to build a community of like-minded scholars dedicated to the same cause. Toward this end, foreshadowing post-replication crisis movements, Charles put forth provocative suggestions for a more collaborative peer review system (in The Criminologist), and he advocated for changes to our incentive structures and training regimes to foster theoretical science pursuits. For instance, in his 2002 Reflections chapter, Charles stated (p.33):

“For science to operate and to produce the desired outcomes, it must be supported by a community of scholars dedicated to the scientific enterprise. This community of scholars must structure itself to reward those who follow its dictates and ignore those who do not, and it must socialize new members in the values and methods of science. Those values include dedication to: (1) knowledge gained through the scientific method, (2) objectivity, (3) the search for truth, (4) open discussion and sharing of information, and (5) skepticism and mutual criticism. Science, therefore, is not value free. It is absolutely committed to a value system – the values of science. Moreover, science is a jealous master, insisting that other values (ideology and personal commitments) be rejected or overcome, at least when attempting to do science.”

Charles also insisted that, this being a difficult task, we scientists organize our community to check competing values by “insisting on review by demanding critics, rewarding those who work against their own personal interests and values, and granting prestige to those who most fully exhibit the ideals of science while stigmatizing those who betray the cause.” If we meet these ideals, Charles asserted that “science can lead to knowledge that is more reliable, satisfying, and useful than any other paradigm by which people seek to understand human behavior and social organization.” However, “practicing science is difficult, especially for those who study social phenomena.” So, “the best that we criminologists can do is to practice science to the fullest extent possible, recognizing that our work often falls short and being cautious in our claims.”

Back to the Mansion

How did Charles think we criminologists are doing in this regard? Well, remember that mansion of science? I will refrain from elaborating on our self-derogatory conversations about which floors (or subfloors) our fields – sociology, criminology, & criminal justice – took up in the mansion. What I will say, though, is that over their final several years attending ASC, Charles and his close friend Jim Short would frequently lament about the diminishing number of ASC panels devoted specifically to theory compared to the burgeoning number of panels representing work within those other paradigms. Moreover, in our last conversations, Charles expressed much pessimism about the health of criminology and the future of theoretical development in our field.

I certainly empathized with his viewpoint – much more so than I let him know in those conversations. However, I also pointed to various developments – such as emerging theoretical solutions to the replication crisis; advances in formal modeling; sophisticated theorizing and prediction in the Bayesian movement; and theoretical advancements tied to the counterfactual causal revolution – that I think hold much promise for interdisciplinary social science. He was also encouraged when I summarized Proctor & Niemeyer’s new book, Mechanistic Criminology, which (I think) in many ways represents a new generation of criminologists carrying Charles’ paradigmatic torch into exciting unexplored theoretical territory and, likewise, holds much promise for our field.

Most importantly, across more than a half-century of scholarship, Charles practiced science to the fullest extent possible, he never failed to recognize that his work often fell short, and likewise he was consistently cautious in his claims. In doing so, he was perhaps most effective as a relentless advocate for theoretical science in criminology in leading us by example. His writings will live on in the scholarly record – with each of his individual studies meaning nothing on their own but, collectively, each contributing as “grist for the mill” of science in the long and tedious process of cumulative knowledge production. Additionally, likely without explicitly intending to do so, he built a community of like-minded scholars – including many of you in this room – who share his pursuit and, in doing so, make his journey and his immense sacrifices on the alter of science meaningful.

Community Building by Example

Finally, as a last testament to his advocacy and community building by example, I would like to close with quotes from a few students of Charles’ students – these are young scholars, a generation removed, most of whom never had the pleasure of meeting the man, the myth, the legend in black jeans and cowboy boots.

As these excerpts come from a list of longer quotes that I collected for a different purpose – to read to Charles as he neared the end – I have kept the authors’ names anonymous here. They are a small sample, but I think these effectively represent the legacy of influence that Charles Tittle has left with his students and colleagues.

First, two assistant professors who never met Charles but had read Control Balance in a graduate course state that reading Control Balance theory reminded them:

“of the creativity, effort, and time it takes to actually put forth a theory. Your review of previous criminological theories and their weaknesses to even set up Control Balance Theory shows how meticulous you were in theory building approach. In today’s race to publish, it is easy to lose sight of the difficulty and time it takes to develop a comprehensive framework for thinking about crime.”

An advanced doctoral student states that “Dr. Charles Tittle was the first scholar who was able to convince me of the value and power of theory and” that reading Control Balance “was, in the deepest sense of the word, enlightening.” After reading it, this student says:

“I now think theory development and testing are some of the most important scientific endeavors social scientists can and should engage in–moreover, I find them the most intellectually satisfying! It turns out I love theory. His book, his articles, and even discussions with his former students influenced by his work have certainly shaped my trajectory as a student and a scholar. And I am certain that echoes of his influence will continue to shape the rest of my academic career.”

An advanced graduate student states that:

“Control Balance had a tremendous influence on me… in illustrating and breaking down all the complexities that go into theory building and integration. We all know human behavior is a complicated phenomenon, but the way Control Balance looks at the integration of theories to build a general theory of crime and how it connects the numerous converging variables, which each exists on their own continuum, is just artistry. Dr. Tittle’s work really stuck with me in enumerating how much work we have ahead of us in our field (and in many other fields) to truly understanding the nature of crime and deviance. His call for the continued elaboration on his work really sets a precedence for how we as scholars should approach and encourage critiques, elaboration, and hopefully integration on our own work instead of falling into the time-old tradition of pure competition.”

A newer doctoral student says that prior to reading Control Balance for a course:

“I had not, in fact, taken any interest in theory construction or debate, believing it to be outside of my level of comprehension. Upon reading Control Balance, I realized that theory is not a tool that one can afford to overlook out of fear of dissonance and ambiguity. As an individual who has only just begun to break into the world of theoretical science…, your book could not have come to me at a better time. For that, I thank you and proudly take up your call toward better theory, debate, and collaboration…”

Finally, an advanced doctoral student explains various lessons learned from Charles work:

“…your [Reflections chapter] taught me that it is important to be nice in the work that we do (from your conversation with Dr. Short), that it is okay to do science for the sake of science, and not to be supremely concerned with policy relevance. Along similar lines, your article The Arrogance of Public Sociology taught me to employ healthy skepticism regarding research that is primarily public/policy driven. Additionally, your work on Control Balance Theory has helped me see where existing theories are deficient, how they can potentially be improved, and how complex it is to formulate a grand theory of deviant/criminal behavior.”

This student also reflected on how Charles’ legacy of mentorship was indirectly influential in teaching the importance of:

“…increasing methodological rigor in research methodology/statistical analysis, creating a more transparent and cumulative science, being honest about things we do not know in the field, and an appreciation for the importance of testing and refining criminological theory. … I am forever grateful to you and cannot wait to pass on these principles to students of my own one day.”

I could not have said that better myself. Thank you, Charles.

For additional reflections about Charles from a few of his former students and colleagues, see Washington State University’s wonderful Remembering Charles Tittle memorial tribute.



BibTeX citation:
@online{brauer, with katya botchkovar and carter hay2023,
  author = {Brauer, with Katya Botchkovar and Carter Hay, Jon},
  title = {Dr. {Charles} {R.} {Tittle’s} Intellectual Contributions},
  date = {2023-03-12},
  url = {https://reluctantcriminologists.com/blog-posts/[3]/charles-memorial.html},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Brauer, with Katya Botchkovar and Carter Hay, Jon. 2023. “Dr. Charles R. Tittle’s Intellectual Contributions.” March 12, 2023. https://reluctantcriminologists.com/blog-posts/[3]/charles-memorial.html.

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