Applying the Techniques of Neutralization to the Study of Cybercrime

Reference work entry


Cybercrime scholars have used a wide range of criminological theories to understand crime and deviance within digital contexts. Among the most frequently cited theoretical frameworks used in this space has been the techniques of neutralization, first proposed by Gresham Sykes and David Matza. This body of work has demonstrated the myriad ways that individual cyber-delinquents have applied the techniques of neutralization as a justification for their deviance. A thorough review of this research reveals decidedly mixed support for neutralization theory. This chapter provides an in-depth review of these studies and seeks to account for this mixed result. This is done by chronicling the methodological underpinnings of this work, and in doing so highlights the challenges facing this literature with respect to the conceptualization and measurement of Sykes and Matza’s theory in the cyber realm. This is accomplished in two parts. First, we review the body of literature that analyzes the techniques of neutralization as a single combined construct (i.e., items are combined to produce a single measure of neutralization), and flag some of the advantages, but also pitfalls of this approach. Second, we review the treatment of individual techniques of neutralization as distinct constructs within the literature (i.e., a technique is measured and analyzed separate to others) and detail some of the common methodological hurdles encountered by researchers. The chapter concludes by elaborating on persistent gaps or challenges posed in making such assessments and proposes a path forward for future cybercrime research incorporating this framework.


Techniques of neutralization Sykes and Matza 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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