Criminology Ch 6

Major principles of sociological theories
-Social groups, social institutions, the arrangement of society, and social roles are the focus of criminological study
-Group dynamics, group organization, and subgroup relationships form the causal nexus from which crime develops
-Society’s structure and its relative degree of organization or disorganization are important factors contributing to the prevalence of criminal behavior
-Specific behavior of a given individual cannot be predicted, but statistical estimates of group characteristics and of the probability that a member of a given group will engage in a specific type of crime are possible
-Social structure theories examine institutional arrangements within a social structure and social processes as they affect socialization and have an impact on social life
-Macro focus: stress types of behavior likely to be exhibited by group members

Social structure theories
crime is the result of an individual’s location within the structure of society; look at formal and informal economic and social arrangements of society as the root causes of crime and deviance; emphasize crime prevention programs that work to enhance self-control and build pro-social bonds

3 types of social structure theories
-Social disorganization theory (ecological approach)
-Strain theory
-Culture conflict theory (cultural deviance theory)

Social disorganization theory**
-W.I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki- found crime rates rose among displaced persons.
-Suggested cause was social disorganization resulting from immigrants’ inability to successfully transplant norms and values from home cultures into the new one

Chicago School (ecological)
Robert Park and Ernst Burgess- studies how the structure of society adapts to the quality of natural resources and to the existence of other human group, cities have five concentric zones

Shaw and McKay
-Applied concentric zone model to the study of juvenile delinquency
-Found offending rates remained constant over time within zones of transition:
1. Criminal activity associated with urban transitional zones
2. Typified by social disorganization, turmoil, lower property values, poverty, lack of privacy
-Cultural transmission: Traditions of delinquency are transmitted through successive generations of the same zone
-Key contribution of ecological school: society has a major influence on human behavior

Environmental criminology
-Emphasizes the importance of geographic location and architectural features as they are associated with the prevalence of victimization
-“Hot spots” of crime

Broken windows thesis**
-Wilson and Kelling
-Physical deterioration and unrepaired buildings lead to increased concerns for safety among area residents
-Led to increase in “order maintenance policing” and crackdown on quality-of-life offenses

Defensible space
-The range of mechanisms that combine to bring an environment under the control of its residents
-Architectural changes that enhance barriers, define boundaries, and remove criminal opportunity can reduce the risk of crime

Strain Theory
-the pressure that individuals feel to reach socially determined goals
-crime results from trying to reach legitimate goals through illegitimate means

-Robert K. Menton
-A disjunction between socially approved means to success and legitimate goals

Robert K. Menton

Relative Deprivation
-Messner and Rosenfeld blame crime on inconsistencies in the American Dream
-The economic and social gap that exists between rich and the poor who live in close proximity

Messner and Rosenfeld
Relative Deprivation

Distributive justice
An individual’s perception of his or her rightful place in the reward structure of society

General Strain Theory (GST)
-Robert Agnew
-Crime is a coping mechanism enabling those who engage in it to deal with the socioemotional problems generated by negative social relations

Robert Agnew
General Strain Theory

Central Propositions of GST
-The likelihood that individuals will react to strains with criminal behavior depends on a range of factors influencing the individuals (a) ability to engage in legal coping (b) costs of crime and (c) disposition of crime

Culture Conflict Theory
-Root cause of crime found in different values about what is acceptable or proper behavior
-Conduct norms provide the valuative basis for human behavior and are acquired early in life through childhood socialization
-Clash of norms between variously socialized groups results in crime

Thorsten Sellin
Culture Conflict Theory

A collection of values and preferences communicated to participants through a process of socialization

Subcultural theory
emphasizes the contribution made by variously socialized cultural groups to the phenomenon of crime

Walter Miller
Behavior that upholds lower class norms may be seen by the middle class as deliberately nonconforming

Focal concerns of Subcultural theory

Delinquency and Drift
-Sykes and Matza
-Drift between crime and legal action based on which is easier
-Neutralization: Denying the victim, denial of responsibility, denial of injury, appeal to higher loyalties, condemning the condemners
-Soft determinism: delinquents are neither forced to make choices nor entirely free to make choices

Sykes and Matza
Delinquency and Drift

Violent Subcultures
-Ferracuti and Wolfgang
-Violence is a learned form of adaptation to problematic life circumstances
-Learning to be violent takes place within the context of a subculture emphasizing violence over other forms of adaptation
-Group’s value system constitutes a subculture of violence

Ferracuti and Wolfgang
Violent subcultures

Differential Opportunity Theory
-Cloward and Ohlin (1960)
-blended subcultural thesis with strain theory
-Two types of socially structured opportunities for success
1. Legitimate
2. Illegitimate
-Members of lower-class subcultures may be denied access to legitimate opportunities
-Illegitimate opportunity structure
1. Pre-existing subcultural paths to success not approved of by the wider culture
-Delinquent behavior results from
1. Ready availability of illegitimate opportunities
2. Replacement of cultural norms with expedient subcultural rules

Cloward and Ohlin
Differential Opportunity theory

Delinquent Subcultures
-Criminal subcultures:
1. Criminal role models readily available
-Conflict subcultures:
1. Status through violence
-Retreatist subcultures:
1. Drug use and withdrawal from wider society

4 types of lower class youth
– Type I: Desire entry into middle class by improving their economic position
-Type II: Desire entry to middle class but not improvement in economic position
-Type III: Desire wealth without entry to middle class
-Type IV: Dropouts who retreat from mainstream through drug and alcohol use

Reaction Formation
-The process in which a person openly rejects that which he wants, or aspires to, but cannot obtain or achieve
-Albert Cohen

Albert Cohen
-Youth held accountable to norms of wider society through “middle class measuring rod” of expectations
-Not everyone is prepared to effectively meet such expectations

The Code of the Street
-Elijah Anderson
-Contemporary street code stresses a hyperinflated notion of manhood resting on the idea of respect
-Street culture’s violent nature means a man cannot back down from threats

Elijah Anderson
The Code of the Street

Critique of Social Structure Theories
-Some argue the inverse of the “root causes” argument – suggest poverty and social injustices are produced by crime
-If so, addressing poverty and social inequity as the root causes of crime is an ineffective crime prevention strategy
-Social structure theories link low SES to high delinquency – not supported by empirical studies
-Overemphasis on environments creates bias against looking elsewhere for possible causes
-Cannot predict which individuals, or which proportion of given population, will turn to crime

Critique of Ecological Theories
-May give too much credence to the notion that spatial location determines crime
-Seems unable to differentiate between social disorganization and the things it is said to cause
-Many crimes occur outside of socially disorganized areas

Critique of Strain Theories
-Original formulation less applicable to modern society
-Delinquents do not report being more distressed than other youth

Critique of Subcultural Theories
-Seen as lacking in explanatory power
-Seen as tautological (circular)
-He’s been criticized of being racist