Social ecology is the study of the interaction between human beings and their surrounding environment, and the social and behavioural consequences of such interactions. Social ecology specifically investigates the how exposure to different environments, and the different social structures and values inherent therein, influences human action and development.
Within criminology, social ecology examines the differential developmental of individuals in various environments and the role of the environment in their propensity to engage in criminal behaviour. It is a broad interdisciplinary field which references studies of regional, cross-national, and urban-rural differences in criminal activity, and provides quantitative research into documenting variation in urban crime. Through a mix of theoretical and empirical contributions, the perspective of social ecology offers new insights into studying crime causation and gaining a fuller understanding of the role of environmental instigators in matters of criminal behaviour.
Social ecology is one of the oldest and most extensive forms of criminology, which was established as an influential paradigm alongside contributions from the Chicago School and social disorganization theory in dealing with crime in urban environments. It also serves as a framework for the basis of research being conducted within the discipline of environmental criminology.
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