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Structural Theories of Crime

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Presentation on theme: "Structural Theories of Crime"— Presentation transcript:

1 Structural Theories of Crime
1. Social Structure 2. Disorganization Theory

2 What is social structure?
Constellation (or arrangement) of statuses, roles, norms, and values How is it different from any other structure? Does everything have structure? Friendship, classroom, gangs, intimate homicide

3 Crystal Structure (crystal system)
The atomic arrangement of the atoms of an element when it is in its solid state

4 What is social structure?
Social structure refers to that way in which a society is organized into predictable relationships

5 What is social structure?
Social structure is flexible A particular social setting/interaction has its own structure Ascribed/achieved status

6 Social Structure Theories
Explain crime by reference to the institutional structure of society Agents are passive Social structure is imposed on them Social structure theorists view members of economically disadvantaged groups as being more likely to commit crimes (structure made them disadvantaged)

7 Social Structure Theories
They see economic and social disenfranchisement as fundamental cause of crime Structure causes crime

8 Social Structure Theories
Crime is seen largely as a lower-class phenomenon Criminality of middle class is generally discounted as less severe, less frequent, and less dangerous

9 Social Structure Theories
Disorganization Theory Strain Theories Cultural Deviance Theory (combined the effects of the first two)

10 Social Disorganization Theory
Crime is caused primarily by social factors Official statistics are OK, but fieldwork is better (acceptance of official arrest data) The city is a perfect natural laboratory (Chicago reflects society as a whole) Components of social structure are unstable (conflict, anomie, social disorganization)

11 Social Disorganization Theory
Instabilities and their effects are worse for the lower classes (lower class crime focus) Human nature is basically good but subject to vulnerability and inability to resist temptation

12 Social disorganization definition
Social disorganization is defined as an inability of community members to achieve shared values or to solve jointly experienced problems (Bursik, 1988).

Park and Burgess (1920s) saw cities as consisting of five zones: Zone I - Central buisness Zone II - Zone of Transition Zone III - Working Class Homes Zone IV - Middle Class Homes Zone V - Commuters


Crime rates were then monitored for each of these geographic regions. The highest crime rate was found to be located in the zone that had been labeled Zone II (zone of transition) Zone II was marked by a high level of transition, people moving in and out of the area It was hypothesized that this "zone of transition" led to social disorganization.

They defined social disorganization as "the inability of a group to engage in self-regulation" which is a social control theoretic formulation Their model of the city tested well in most modern planned cities

17 Shaw and McKay (1930s) Inspired by Park and Burgess
They collected their data from over 56,000 juvenile court records with covered a period of time from They found that delinquency occurred in the areas nearest to the business district Those areas were characterized by a high percentage of immigrants, non-whites, lower income familes High-delinquency areas had an acceptance of nonconventional norms, which competed with conventional ones

18 Shaw and McKay (1930s) Were concerned about the three D's of poverty: Disease, Deterioration, and Demoralization They never said that poverty causes crime They only said that "poverty areas" tended to have high rates of residential mobility and racial heterogeneity that made it difficult for communities in those areas to avoid becoming socially disorganized

19 Shaw and McKay's Model Residential Mobility Poverty
Racial Heterogeneity Disorganization Crime




23 Sampson and Grove (1989) Residential Mobility Low Economic Status
Racial Heterogeneity Family Disruption Population Density/Urbanization Unsupervised teen-age peer groups Low organizational participation Spare local friendship networks Crime

24 Residential mobility When the population of an area is constantly changing, the residents have fewer opportunities to develop strong, personal ties to one another and to participate in community organizations

25 Ethnic diversity According to Shaw and McKay (1942), ethnic diversity interferes with communication among adults. Effective communication is less likely in the face of ethnic diversity because differences in customs and a lack of shared experiences may breed fear and mistrust (Sampson and Groves, 1989).

26 Family disruption Sampson (1985) argued that unshared parenting strains parents' resources of time, money, and energy, which interferes with their ability to supervise their children and communicate with other adults in the neighborhood The smaller the number of parents in a community relative to the number of children, the more limited the networks of adult supervision will be for all the children

27 Economic status Areas with the lowest average socioeconomic status will also have the greatest residential instability and ethnic diversity, which in turn will create social disorganization (Bursik and Grasmick, 1993) Many studies have found that urban neighborhoods with high rates of poverty also have greater rates of delinquency (Warner and Pierce, 1993).

28 Population density High population density creates problems by producing anonymity that interferes with accountability to neighbors

29 Collective efficacy and neighborhood safety
Robert Sampson (1990) Concept of “collective efficacy” captures “trust” and “cohesion” on one hand and shared expectations for control on the other Collective efficacy is associated with lower rates of violence

30 Collective Efficacy Informal Social Control: peers, families, relatives, neighbors Formal Social Control: schools, churches, volunteer organizations

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