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Unit 12 Sociological Theories Of Crime



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Unit 12 Sociological Theories Of Crime

  1. 1. Unit 12 Crime and its effects on society PUBLIC SERVICES
  2. 2. Sociological theories of crime <ul><li>Strain Theory </li></ul><ul><li>Why do people engage in crime according to strain theory? They experience strain or stress, they become upset, and they sometimes engage in crime as a result. They may engage in crime to reduce or escape from the strain they are experiencing. For example, they may engage in violence to end harassment from others, they may steal to reduce financial problems, or they may run away from home to escape abusive parents. They may also engage in crime to seek revenge against those who have wronged them. And they may engage in the crime of illicit drug use to make themselves feel better. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Major Types of Strain <ul><li>The major types of strain. Agnew describes two general categories of strain that contribute to crime: (1) others prevent you from achieving your goals, and (2) others take things you value or present you with negative or noxious stimuli. </li></ul><ul><li>While strain may result from the failure to achieve a variety of goals, Agnew and others focus on the failure to achieve three related goals: money, status/respect, and—for adolescents—autonomy from adult </li></ul>
  4. 4. Social Learning Theory <ul><li>Why do people engage in crime according to social learning theory? They learn to engage in crime, primarily through their association with others. They are reinforced for crime, they learn beliefs that are favourable to crime, and they are exposed to criminal models. As a consequence, they come to view crime as something that is desirable or at least justifiable in certain situations. </li></ul><ul><li>According to social learning theory, juveniles learn to engage in crime in the same way they learn to engage in conforming behavior: through association with or exposure to others. Primary or intimate groups like the family and peer group have an especially large impact on what we learn. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Social Learning and Behaviour Reinforcement <ul><li>Differential reinforcement of crime. Individuals may teach others to engage in crime through the reinforcements and punishments they provide for behaviour. Crime is more likely to occur when it (a) is frequently reinforced and infrequently punished; (b) results in large amounts of reinforcement (e.g., a lot of money, social approval, or pleasure) and little punishment; and (c) is more likely to be reinforced than alternative behaviours. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Control Theory <ul><li>Strain and social learning theorists ask, Why do people engage in crime? They then focus on the factors that push or entice people into committing criminal acts. Control theorists, however, begin with a rather different question. They ask, Why do people conform? Unlike strain and social learning theorists, control theorists take crime for granted. They argue that all people have needs and desires that are more easily satisfied through crime than through legal channels. For example, it is much easier to steal money than to work for it. So in the eyes of control theorists, crime requires no special explanation: it is often the most expedient way to get what one wants. Rather than explaining why people engage in crime, we need to explain why they do not. </li></ul>
  7. 7. What Control theory argues. <ul><li>According to control theorists, people do not engage in crime because of the controls or restraints placed on them. These controls may be viewed as barriers to crime—they refer to those factors that prevent them from engaging in crime. So while strain and social learning theory focus on those factors that push or lead the individual into crime, control theory focuses on the factors that restrain the individual from engaging in crime. Control theory goes on to argue that people differ in their level of control or in the restraints they face to crime. These differences explain differences in crime: some people are freer to engage in crime than others. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Types of Control <ul><li>Direct control . When most people think of control they think of direct control: someone watching over people and sanctioning them for crime. Such control may be exercised by family members, school officials, co-workers, neighbourhood residents, police, and others. Family members, however, are the major source of direct control given their intimate relationship with the person. Direct control has three components: setting rules, monitoring behaviour, and sanctioning crime. </li></ul><ul><li>Stake in conformity . The efforts to directly control behaviour are a major restraint to crime. These efforts, however, are more effective with some people than with others. For example, all juveniles are subject to more or less the same direct controls at school: the same rules, the same monitoring, and the same sanctions if they deviate. Yet some juveniles are very responsive to these controls while others commit deviant acts on a regular basis. One reason for this is that some juveniles have more to lose by engaging in deviance. These juveniles have what has been called a high &quot;stake in conformity,&quot; and they do not want to jeopardize that stake by engaging in deviance. If people have a strong emotional attachment to conventional others, like family members and teachers, they have more to lose by engaging in crime. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Labelling Theory <ul><li>According to labelling theory, official efforts to control crime often have the effect of increasing crime. Individuals who are arrested, prosecuted, and punished are labelled as criminals. Others then view and treat these people as criminals, and this increases the likelihood of subsequent crime for several reasons. Labelled individuals may have trouble obtaining legitimate employment, which increases their level of strain and reduces their stake in conformity. Labelled individuals may find that conventional people are reluctant to associate with them, and they may associate with other criminals as a result. This reduces their bond with conventional others and fosters the social learning of crime. Finally, labelled individuals may eventually come to view themselves as criminals and act in accord with this self-concept. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Social disorganization theory <ul><li>Social disorganization theory seeks to explain community differences in crime rates. The theory identifies the characteristics of communities with high crime rates and draws on social control theory to explain why these characteristics contribute to crime. </li></ul><ul><li>Crime is said to be more likely in communities that are economically deprived, large in size, high in multiunit housing like apartments, high in residential mobility (people frequently move into and out of the community), and high in family disruption (high rates of divorce, single-parent families). These factors are said to reduce the ability or willingness of community residents to exercise effective social control, that is, to exercise direct control, provide young people with a stake in conformity, and socialize young people so that they condemn delinquency and develop self-control. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Situations Conducive To Crime <ul><li>People who are disposed to crime generally commit more crime than those who are not. But even the most predisposed people do not commit crime all of the time. In fact, they obey the law in most situations. Several theories argue that predisposed individuals are more likely to engage in crime in some types of situations than others. These theories specify the types of situations most conducive to crime. Such theories usually argue that crime is most likely in those types of situations where the benefits of crime are seen as high and the costs as low, an argument very compatible with social learning theory. </li></ul>