A2 Crime and Deviance Unit 1

Break down of all the theories learnt so far in crime and deviance Unit 1.

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  • Created on: 18-12-12 09:34

Functionalist View

Social Control - Social control mechanisms include rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance.  Durkheim Said: Crime as inevitable and universal despite disrupting social stability. In every society, some individuals are socialised inadequately and deviate Boundary Maintenance - Crime produces a reaction from society, uniting its members against the devianct individual. Punishment strengthens social solidarity. Adaptation & Change - Individuals who challenge existing norms may be stigmatised as criminals at first. However, crime is the proof of a society's capacity for flexibility in the face of essential change. When shared norms and values become unclear within society, Durkheim calls this anomie.

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Evaluation of Durkheim

  • He claims society requires a certain amount of deviance but offers no way of knowing how much is the right amount.
  • He only suggests ideas as to why crime happens and nothing else.
  • He doesn't explain individual motivations for people breaking the law.
  • Durkheim explains crime in terms of its function. However, just because crime does these things, it doesn't explain why it exists in the first place.
  • He assumes that individuals have self control due to socialisation. He was wrong. The riots are a good example of this.
  • Marxists argue that Durkheim ignores the effect of power in relation to crime.
  • He fails to tackle crime on a large scale
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Strain Theory - Merton

  • Deviance occurs due to the strain between what the culture aspires for induivuals to aim for and in reality what the societys structure allows them to achieve.
  • Structural Factors - such as society's unequal opportunity structure.
  • Cultural Factors - like the strong emphasis on success and weak emphasis on using legitimate means to achieve success.
  • The American Dream emphasises money and success and Americans are expected to pursue this goal legitimately.
  • The ideology claims that society is meritocratic, but in reality poverty and discrimination block opportunities.
  • Merton sees American society as tending towards anomie because the norms are too weak to restrain people from using deviant means to achieve materialistic goals.
  • He identifies five different adaptations:Conformity. Innovation. Ritualism. Retreatism. Rebellion.
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Evaluation of Merton - Strain theory


  • He shows how normal and deviant behaviour can arise from the same mainstream goals. Some groups pursue the same goals, but by different means.
    • He explains patterns shows by official statistics. Property crime is the most carried out crime because American society values material wealth. Working-class crime rates are higher because they have fewer legitimate opportunities.


  • He takes official crime statistics at face value and this is a very deterministic approach. Not all working-class people deviate. 
  • He also ignores the power of the ruling class to make the laws.
  • Subcultural theory sees deviance as the product of delinquent subcultures, whereas Merton sees it as an individual response to strain
  • non-utilitarian crimesvandalism and assault which may have no economic motive.
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Albert Cohen - Status Frustration

  • Much deviance occurs from a lower class inability to achieve mainstream success goals by legitimate means.

  • Cohen argues that working-class boys face anomie in the middle class education system.

  • They are culturally deprived and lack the skills to achieve, leaving them at the bottom of the status hierarchy.

  •  A result, they suffer status frustration and reject middle class mainstream values, forming a subculture with others in their situation.

  • The subculture offers an illegitimate opportunity structure for boys who have failed to achieve legitimately

  • It provides an alternative status hierarchy where they can win status through delinquent actions.

  • Its values are spite and malice. It inverts mainstream values.

    e.g. Society respects property, so they vandalise it.

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Evaluation of Albert Cohen


  • He offers an explanation of non-utalitarian deviance.


  • He assumes working-class boys start off sharing middle class values only to reject them when they fail.
  • He doesn't consider the possibility that they never shared these goals in the first place and so weren't reacting to failure.
  • Cloward and Ohlin - Not everyone responds to a lack of legitimate means by turning to utilitarian crime. 
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Cloward and Ohlin - 3 Subcultures

  • Different neighbourhoods provide different opportunities to develop different types of criminal careers.
  • Criminal Subculture - Adult criminals select and train youths with the right abilities, providing them with opportunities on the criminal ladder.
  • Conflict Subcultures - Illegitimate opportunities are only within loosely organised gangs.
  • Retreatist Subcultures - This is a drop out subculture based on illegal drug use.
  • Within the criminal subculture there are established patterns of organised crime.
  • For the confilct subculture, because acccess to organised crime is blocked, they turn to gang violence as their form of criminal behaviour.
  • Retreatist failed at both of the other subcultures and in doing so turn to use of illegal drugs.
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Evaluation of Cloward and Ohlin


  • attempts to explain working class crime in terms of subcultues.
  • Explains how location can change the types of crime that people commit.


  • Not every person fits in those 3 subcultures.
  • Ignores crimes of the wealthy and powerful.
  • They assume everyone starts off sharing the same goals.
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Key Ideas

Toughness, Smartness, Excitement, Fatalism, Trouble, Autonomy.

People are deviant because: Focal concerns, assault to maintain reputation.

  • If someone has the capicity to outsmart another person.
  • The search for thrills can lead people to commit crime.
  • Independence , and to have control over themselfs, making themselves in charge. 


  • Lower classes have their own independent values. 
  • Subculture does not value success.


  • Follows official statistics and doesnt take women into account.
  • Cime is sterotyped to be committed by males.
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Main Idea

  • Most deliquents are not strongly committed to their subculture.
  • This is because they tend to drift in and out of delinquency.


  • The theory is good because it doesn't pin someone down to a certain subculture.
  • It recognises that individuals could be in more than one subculture.


  • This study follows the idea of other sociologists work and research.
  • It believes in offical statistics which are incorrect.
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Recent Subcultural Arguements

Main Idea

  • An idea that the obsession with individuals wanting money success, leads them to commit crime. 
  • Money Success is the main goal for everyone.
  • It explains that the mindset of "Anything goes" can be adopted to become wealthy, this then leads to deviant behaviour.


  •  Explains a reason why young people may turn to deviant behaviour.


  • Not everyone wants to achieve the American dream.
  • Money success is not everyones main goal, People aspire to succeed for different things. 
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Pownes and Hanson (2006)

Main Idea

  • More money is spent in welfare the lower rates of imprisonment.
  • When the welfare for society is worse , crime is more likely.
    Less money will cause people to commit crime.
    less sense of protection or self security will cause people to commit crime.


  • Countries spending more money on society , is a solution to try and reduce crime.


  • Evidence is only based on 10 countries.
    not enough sufficient evidence to be valid for world wide use. 
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Savelsberg (1995)

Main Idea 

  • Communisms collective values are being replaced with western capitalist goals.
  • Chasing western capitalist goals for individual money success, the idea of being rich and embracing a lavish lifestyle appeals to many.


  • Correct view on western society, money success because they value materialistic success.


  • It assumes that everyone is after money success, not everyone has this as their main goal in life. 
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labelling Theory

Main Idea

  • Labelling theorists believe that no act is deviant in itself. Instead, deviance is socially constructed. An act only becomes deviant when labelled as deviant.
  • Social control agencies (the police, courts, etc) tend to label certain groups as criminal. Police decisions to arrest are based on stereotypes in dress, gender, etc.
  • Cicourel: Police use typifications of a 'typical delinquent' and those who fit the description are more likely to be stopped, arrested and charged. 
  • WC and ethnic minority juveniles are more likely to be arrested and charged.
  • Middle class juveniles are less likely to be charged and they also have parents who can successfully negotiate on their behalf. 
  • Primary Deviance - deviant acts that have not been publicly labelled.
  • Secondary Deviance - this results from societal reaction. Labelling someone as an offender can stigmatise and exclude them from society.
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labelling Theory (2)


  • Labelling theorists see control as producing further deviance. However, Functionalists see deviance producing social control. 
  • This theory is too deterministic. Not everyone accepts their label, therefore a self-fulfilling prophecy isn't inevitable. 
  • Labelling theory fails to explain why people commit primary deviance in the first place, before they have been labelled.
  • Marxists criticise this theory for failing to locate the origin of such labels in the unequal structure of capitalist society. 
  • Ignores the fact that individuals may choose deviance.
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Neo Marxism

Taylor, Walton and Young agree with Traditional Marxists that Capitalism is based on exploitation and inequality.

  • Taylor criticises traditional Marxists for being too deterministic. 
  • He also rejects theories that claim crime is causes by external factors such as anomie. 
  • Taylor takes a more voluntaristic approach
  • Each individual has free will. Crime is a conscious choice, often with a political motive. Criminals are struggling to change society and they are expressing their frustration at Capitalist society by breaking the law.
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Neo Marxism (2)


  • Feminists criticise Marxists for being 'gender blind' as it focuses on male criminality and sometimes at the expense of women. No explanations are provided for racial attacks, **** and domestic violence. 
  • Left Realists criticise Neo-Marxists for romanticising WC criminals as Robin Hoods fighting Capitalism by redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. However, in reality, criminals simply prey on the poor.
  • Roger Burke argues that critical criminology is too general to explain crime and too idealistic to be useful in tackling crime.
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Moral Panic

Moral Panic

  • An over-reaction by society to a perceived problem, usually driven by the media, where the reaction enlarges the problem out of all proportion to its real seriousness.
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Right Realism

Main Idea

1. Right Realism sees crime, especially street crime, as a growing problem. 

2. They believe people are naturally selfish, individualistic and greedy creatures.

3. They believe people are naturally inclined towards criminal behaviour id it can further interest or there is little chance of being caught.

4. They are mainly concerned with practical solutions to reduce crime. The best way is through control and punishment, rather than rehabilitating offenders or tackling causes such a poverty.

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Right Realism 2

The underclass - They see the nuclear family as the best agency of socialisation. It decreases the risk of offending by teaching self-control. In the UK and USA there is a class thar exist below the working class and this is known as the underclass, who subscribe to deviant and criminal values going agaisnt mainstream values. However, Murray argues that the nuclear family is being undermined by the welfare state which is creating welfare dependancy.

  • Rational Choice Theory - Clarke assumes that individuals are rational beings with free will. Choosing to commit a crime is based on whether the rewards outweigh the costs and consequences. A rational choice is made based on the calculation of the consequences if so, people are more likely to offend.
    Right realists argue that the current percieved costs are low, therefore resulting in the crime rate increaing.  Criminals forsee littlr risk of being caught and they view punishment if they are caught as weak and ineffective.
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Right Realist solutions to crime

Right Realists think it it pointless to tackle biological and social differences seeing as these are hard to change.

Instead, they tackle the control and punishment of offenders rather than eliminating the causes of offending.

  • Wilson and Kelling - We must keep out neighbourhoods orderly to prevent crime. Signs of deterioration such as vandalism must be dealt with immediately. 
  • There should be a zero tolerance policy and police should control the streets to make people feel safe.
    Crime prevention strategies should reduce the rewards of crime.


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Criticisms of Right Realism


  • It ignores structural causes of crime like poverty.
  • If the police control certain neighbourhoods, it may result in the displacement of crime to other areas instead of reducing crime. 
  • It is only concerned about street crime. It ignores corporate crime.
  • It over-emphasises control of disorderly neighbourhoods
  • Right realism overstates the rationality of criminals, for example it is doubtful wheter violent crim is underpinned by rationality.
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Left Realism

Main Ideas
Left Realists are socialists. Like Marxists, they are opposed to the inequality of Capitalist society.  They believe gradual reforms are the only realistic way to achieve equality.

The main victims of crime are the working class and the ethnic minorities.
Lea and Young identify 3 causes of crime:
Relative Deprivation - How deprived someone feels in relation to others,or compared with their own expectations. This can lead to crime as people feel resentment when they see how " Unfair" life is when compared to others. The poor have access to media, which constantly puts across a materialistic message.

Marginalization - (they feel they have little or no power to change their situation) and also frustration and negative by the police and the authorities may result in further feelings of hostility. - Unemployed youths are marginalised. They have no organisations representing them and no clear cut goals. 

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Left Realism

Subculture  - This is a group's solution to relative deprivation. 

Democratic policing

Kinsey, Lea and Young argue that the police are losing public support. They therefore need to become more accountable to local communities by involving them in deciding policing policies and priorities. Crime control must involve a multi-agency approach - including schools, social services, housing departments. 

Reducing inequality

The main solution to crime is to remove social inequality. They call for major structural changes to tackle discrimination and unfairness of rewards. They would like to provide decent job and housing for all.


Marxists argue that it fails to recognise crimes of the powerful.
Over-predicts the amount of WC crime. Too deterministic.
Relies on quantitative victim surveys for data, whilst understanding offenders' motives requires qualitative data.

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Feminist approaches..

Functionalist Sex Role Theory

Women perform the expressive role at home, expressing gentleness and emotion.Boys distance themselves by engaging in 'compensatory compulsory masculinity' which includes risk taking and aggression.

Men take on an instrumental role which is largely outside the home. This makes socialisation harder for boys. 

Cohen - the absence of an adult role model in the home means that boys are more likely to turn to all-male street gangs as a source of masculine identity. Here, they earn their status by acts of delinquency. 

However, this theory is criticised...
Feminists explain gender differences in offending in terms of patriarchy.

Walklate critised Parsons for assuming that because women are biologically capable of bearing children that they are best suited to the expressive role. Parsons is providing explanations based on biological assumptions. 

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Control Theory

Heidensohn: patriarchal control

Women commit fewer crimes because patriarchal society imposes greater control over women, reducing their opportunity to offend. This is because patriarchal control operates at home, in public and at work. Domestic work confines them to the house for long periods of time

Men provide the threat of domestic violence and financial power.
Daughters have less freedom. e.g. restrictions on staying out late.
 Media reporting of rapes frightens women into staying at home.

Carlen: class and gender deals.
She conducted unstructured interviews with 39 WC female offenders, and argues that most convicted serious female criminals are WC. She uses Hirschi's control theory...

Humans are controlled by being offered rewards in return for conforming to norms. Carlen identifies the class deal (working to earn a decent standard of living) and the gender deal (conforming to domestic work and being rewarded with a family life).
WC women are less likely to gain either, so they result to crime. 

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Chivalry Thesis

This is the idea that women are less likely to be prosecuted. It argues that the CJS is more lenient towards women.

Pollak - men have a protective attitude towards women so they are unwilling to arrest, charge or convict them. Also, their crimes are less likely to appear in the official statistics which is why female crime is under-represented.

Evidence for the chivalry thesis:
Women are more likely to be cautioned than prosecuted. 

Hood - studied 3000 defendantsand found that women were a third less likely to be jailed. 

Evidence against the chivalry thesis:Box - reviewed self-report studies and concluded that the official statistics were fairly accurate. 
Farrington and Morris - They studied a magistrates' court and found that women were not sentenced more leniently when the severity of their crime was taken int account.

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Liberation thesis

Adler argues that as women become liberated from patriarchy, their offending will become similar to men's.

Women's liberation is leading to a new type of female criminal and a rise in the female crime rate. 

Patriarchal controls and discrimination have lessened, and opportunities have become more equal. 

There are women in serious positions at work and this gives then the opportunity to commit serious white-collar crime. Women no longer just commit traditional female crimes such as prostitution and shoplifting. 

Evidence is the recent rise in female crime according to the official statistics.

Criticism = female crime started rising before the liberation of women began.

Also, Box argues that female crime has increased due to unemployment and inadequate benefits. 

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