Crime & Deviance Introductory revision points

Introductory points to the topic of crime & deviance, including:

  • Definition of crime
  • Definition of deviance
  • Mechanisms of social control
  • Sanctions
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Introductory points
Crime consists of activities that break the law and are potentially subject to official
However, not all criminals are caught and not all laws are strictly enforced
There is often room for interpretation about whether a law has been broken or not
Deviance is behaviour which contravenes the norms and expectations of a
particular social group
Deviance can sometimes be seen in a positive light (for example, an usually
dedicated worker could be seen as deviant) but in practice most deviance is seen
Social control
All societies attempt to prevent and reduce criminal, and undesirable deviant
The ways in which this is done is through mechanisms of social control
Mechanisms of social control
Mechanisms can be formal or informal:
o Formal mechanisms ­ CJS, Police, Courts, Prisons
o Informal mechanisms ­ mechanisms not based upon formal rules but are
carried out by members of society in everyday life
Social control is also achieved through the socialisation process, whereby
members of society learn behaviour that is deemed desirable in their culture
The use of negative or positive sanctions (punishments or rewards) are crucial in
maintaining social control
Deviance is often negatively sanctioned (punished)
o E.g. Murderers deviate from the value society places on human life
o Their behaviour generally results in widespread disapproval and
punishment through formal mechanisms if they are caught
More minor acts of deviance, E.g. Rudeness, may be subject to informal negative
sanctions such as criticism or exclusion from a social group
Positive sanctions are used to encourage behaviour which is deemed desirable
o E.g. Hard work can be rewarded with bonuses, praise, promotion or other
positive sanctions which raise individual status
Delinquency consists of antisocial or criminal acts committed by young people
Sociologists who study crime are often referred to as Criminologists
Chris Cartwright


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