Functionalist theory of crime

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  • Functionalist theory of crime
    • Crime is necessary
      • Crime reinforces the consensus of values for the majority non deviant population.
        • Boundary maintenance between deviant and non deviant acts.
      • Durkheim - deviance allows social change occur.
        • If society reacts positively to deviant behaviour it starts the process of it no longer being deviant.
      • Durkheim - crime is dysfunctional for society when its levels become either too high or too low.
        • Too high threatens social order.
        • Too low and there no social change.
    • Merton
      • Strain theory
        • Conformity
        • Innovating - people find alternative routes
        • Ritual - people who fail but still act legitimatley
        • Rebel - protest
        • Retreating - people who reject the goals and means of achieving them
      • Crime is a response to failing to achieve societies goals.
      • When individuals fail or are excluded from the system it creates anomie.
    • Differential association theory - deviance is learned from others.
    • Cohen
      • Some crimes act as a safety valve for society by releasing tension.
        • i.e. prostitution
      • Deviant behaviour is used as a warning device to identify social problems.
      • Working class boys experience status frustration
      • Gangs provide prestige for adolescents frustrated at their lack of status in society.
    • Cloward and Ohlin
      • Criminal subcultures
        • Crime is ultilitarian
        • Young people learn crime from adult career criminals.
      • Conflict subcultures
        • non utilitarian - from areas without an established criminal culture.
      • Retreatist subcultures
        • People whove failed legitmitaley and illegitmatley.
      • Subcultural theories assume the maority of people aspire to mainstream goals of success and wealth.


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