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Sociological Theories of Crime

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

1 Sociological Theories of Crime
Why Crime Happens Sociological Theories of Crime

2 Before We Get Started… What do you see? An elderly woman?
A young woman?

3 How about another? How many months have 30 days?
11 (all of them except February!)

4 Let’s Get Down to Business!
You’ve learned about… Psychological Theories of Crime Classical Theories of Crime, and Biological Theories of Crime Let’s add one more! Sociological Theories!

5 What do Sociologists Believe?
Sociologists emphasize that human beings live in social groups and that those groups and the social structure they create influence behavior.

6 How does this relate to Crime?
Most sociological theories of crime assume that it is the person’s environment that impacts a person’s criminal behavior, NOT there physiological makeup. People are NOT born to be criminals!

7 What are we going to learn about?
The Theory of the Chicago School Strain Theory Social Control Theory Labeling Theory Conflict Theory

8 Theory of the Chicago School
Developed by a group of sociologists in the 1920’s that were living in the Chicago area They wanted to find out if there was a relationship between a neighborhood’s crime rate and the characteristics of that neighborhood

9 Their Findings… Neighborhoods with high crime rates also had social disorganization Controls of criminal behavior are absent Approved by community (parents/neighbors) Numerous opportunities Little encouragement, training, or opportunity for employment

10 Examples in Lincoln? Poverty? Illiteracy? Lack of education?
Unemployment? Illegitimacy? Where does crime occur in Lincoln?

11 Strain Theory Robert Merton 1938 Contradiction in the U.S
Cultural goals Social structure

12 Cultural goals What are socially acceptable goals? Wealth Status
Political power Any others?

13 Social Structure What are the socially acceptable ways of attaining cultural goals? Education Hard work Investment

14 It’s all about the Benjamins!
Merton’s Strain Theory emphasizes monetary success as the primary cultural goal Opportunities are not equally distributed in society Causes some people to turn to illegitimate means to reach these goals

15 So how do people adapt? Five ways Conformist Innovator
Accept the goals and ways of achievement Innovator Accept the goals but reject how to get there

16 How do people adapt? 3. Ritualists 4. Retreatists 5. Rebels
Reject goals but accept means 4. Retreatists Reject both the goals and means 5. Rebels Want to replace the existing goals and means with their own system


18 So which one is the criminal?
Conformist? Innovator? Retreatist? Ritualist? Rebel?

19 It is the INNOVATOR These individuals use illegal means to gain socially acceptable goals Money Power Success


21 Social Control Theory Instead of asking why crime happens, Social Control Theory asks Why Doesn’t Crime Happen? What do you think? Why do people conform?

22 Who is responsible for this Theory?
The lead sociologist for Social Control Theory is Travis Hirschi Causes of Delinquency 1969 Crime happens when juveniles, YOU, are not “properly” socialized Socialization happens through a strong bond to society

23 How does Socialization happen?
Attachment to others Examples? Commitment to conventional lines of action Involvement in conventional activities Belief in the moral order and law

24 What are the types of Control?
Direct Control Efforts to directly control behavior Setting rules Monitoring behavior Punishment for rule violations Reinforcement for conventional behavior

25 Types of Control… Stake in Conformity 2 Functions
What might be lost by engaging in delinquent behavior? Those with a lot to lose are less likely to be delinquent 2 Functions Emotional attachment Investment in activities

26 What do you think? Based on what you’ve learned so far, what sociological theory of crime do you agree with? Chicago School Theory? Strain Theory? Social Control Theory? WHY???

27 Types of Control… Internal Control
The ability to restrain yourself from participating in delinquent behavior

28 Labeling Theory When you hear the word “Label,” what comes to mind?
How would you label yourself?

29 What is Labeling Theory?
It focuses on the reaction to delinquency or criminal behavior Official reaction: Law enforcement, judicial penalties Informal reaction: parents, friends, teachers

30 What do these theorists argue?
People who are labeled as delinquent or criminal are often seen as being “bad” or “evil.” This view leads other people to reject them and treat them in a harsh manner “Harsh/rejecting” response increases the probability of further criminal behavior

31 Here’s what they ask Why are some acts defined as criminal or delinquent? How do other’s react to criminal behavior? What impact does the reaction to delinquency have on further delinquency? Why are some offenders more likely to experience the harsh/rejecting reaction than others? Are some offenders more likely to respond to the harsh/rejecting reaction?

32 Why are some acts defined as criminal?
Societal rules? Laws? Expectations? Cultural norms?

33 Other’s reaction to delinquency
Harsh/rejecting reaction First labeled as “bad” or “evil” This leads others to treat you harshly or reject you Failure to respond Never find out Delinquency is ignored or mildly punished Condemn the action but accept the individual Condemn the sin but love the sinner

34 Why does harsh/rejecting reaction lead to more delinquency?
Reduces control Reduces direct control Reduces stake in conformity Internal control may be weakened Increases strain Difficult to achieve goals Loss of positive stimuli and increase in negative Increase level of irritability

35 Why does harsh/rejecting reaction lead to more delinquency?
Increases social learning of delinquency Creates a delinquent self-concept Charles Cooley: Cooley’s Looking Glass Self We perceive ourselves as other’s perceive us People’s reaction to us shape our identity Develop self feeling based on these reactions Positive and negative reactions

36 What determines the H/R reaction?
Most important factor is whether the criminal behavior that is engaged in becomes known to other’s, especially frequent and/or serious crimes Socio-economic status Individuals that associate with delinquent others What about gender?

37 So what do you think?

38 Conflict Theory Focuses on the conflict in society between rich and poor, management and labor, whites and minorities Assumes that society is based primarily on conflict between competing interest groups and that criminal law and the criminal justice system are used to control subordinate groups. Crime is caused by relative powerlessness

39 Four primary assumptions of Conflict Theory
Competition We all compete for scarce resources Money, leisure, partners, etc. Structural Inequality Inequalities in power and reward are everywhere! It’s automatically built in If you benefit, you try to keep it

40 Four primary assumptions of Conflict Theory
Revolution Change occurs as a result of conflict between social class’s competing interests It’s fast War It is a unifier, it brings the societies involved together Can also end whole societies

41 So how does this apply to Crime?
Criminal Justice system and the law are viewed as working for the upper class i.e. the social elites, the rich, those in power - the bourgeoise The “system” is aimed at imposing standards of morality and good behavior Who determines what is moral or good?

42 So Why is Crime Committed?
The lower class, the poor, or the proletariat commit crime to even the playing field. It’s done out of necessity Want or need to “improve their lot in life.” Way to gain money and power

43 Let’s tie it all together…
Look through your notes What do the following have in common? Chicago School theory Strain Theory Social Control Theory Labeling Theory Conflict Theory

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