crime and deviance

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what is meant by crime and deviance?

a crime is an illegal act punishable by law

deviance is behaviour which the majority of people disagree with, or which goes against the rules and norms of a society

deviant acts can be but are not always illegal

illegal acts are not necessarily considered deviant

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when is an act seen as deviant

deviance is defined according to the social setting in which it takes place

behaviour classed as deviant can vary according to who performs the act and where they do so

what is classified as deviant also varies between cultures and over time

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formal and informal rules

formal rules are written down. they have official status and punishment, penalties or negative sanctions are usually imposed on those caught breaking them. they guide people's behaviour in many social settings.

informal rules are taken for granted rules or guidelines on how we are expected to behave in particular social settings. even though we may not always consciously think about the informal or unwritten rules which govern social life, they can still have a powerful influence over how we behave in particular situations

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what is social order?

functionalist approach

  • consensus
  • depends on cooperation between individuals and groups who work together for the same thing
  • happens in situations where people believe that they share common interests and goals
  • broadly speaking people agree about norms and values
  • arises from the process of socialisation
  • social order is maintained over time because most people support and agree to abide by the rules

marxist approach

  • conflict
  • conflict of interests between different groups of society
  • clashes occur because groups do not share common interests and goals
  • there is conflict between powerful and less powerful groups of people in capitalist society
  • bourgoisie want to make more profits while proletariat want higher wages
  • social order maintained because bourgoisie have power to enforce order
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what is social control?

people's actions and behaviour are controlled or constrained by the social groups they mix with and by the wider society in which they live

much of our behaviour is socially controlled

methods of social control- processes by which people are encouraged or persuaded to conform to the formal and informal rules. also applies to the ways in which social groups or societies deal with behaviour that violates or breaks these rules

social control methods may involve sanctions or other social reactions to deviance that aim to limit or reduce the frequency of deviant acts

a positive social control sanction might be a promotion at work and a negative one might be a prison sentence

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formal and informal social control

formal social control is based on written rules and laws. usually associated with the ways the state regulates and controls people's behaviour and actions

agencies of formal social control are those bodies in society which make the laws, enforce them or punish people who break the law. houses of parliament legislate.  police force maintain order, enforce law, investigate crime and apprehend. judiciary deal with alleged offenders, convict and sentence those found guilty. sanctions are official and backed by the state. prison service confine prisoners, punish convicted law breakers, deters them

informal social control based on unwritten rules and processes. enforced by social pressure. may be in the form of positive or negative sanctions.

positive sanctions reward individuals who comply with or behave according to the group's expectations

negative sanctions punish those who do not conform

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non sociological explanations for crime

psychological explanations

  • being impulsive is an example of a personality trait that some psychologists have linked to criminal tendencies. impulsive people act without thinking. some people commit crime because they are impulsive and act on the spur of the moment

biological explanations

  • Lombroso believed that crime could be explained in terms of genetically determined physical characteristics. in his view, some people were born criminals. could be indentified by various physical features e.g. large jaw
  • some people are more likely to commit violent crimes because of the genes they have inherited
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how is crime measured?

victim surveys- question people about their experience of crime. BCS measures crime through surveys. interviews people aged 16 and over who live in private households in England and Wales. asks whether they have been victims of particular offences in the last 12 months, and if they reported them. covers crimes against the person. does not cover victimless crimes, murder or fraud.

self report studies- question people about their offending. OCJS measures the extent of self reproted offending, drug use, and antisocial behaviour in england and wales particularly among those aged 10-25. provides information on offenders and offences that are not necessarily dealt with by the police or courts

official statistics recorded by the police-published by the home office each year. secondary source. helpful in enabling researchers to identify trends in recorded crime over time. helps in identifying trends in the rate of particular crimes over time. allow comparisons of crime rates in different parts of the UK.

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social construction of crime stats

discovery and witnessing crime- if a crime has not been witnessed or discovered it cannot be reported to the police. it cannot therefore be counted in the official statistics. e.g. owner may not be aware of the crime. or e.g. the victim must recognise and define an incident as criminal

reporting crime- many less serious offences are not reported and so cannot be recorded. reasons include- too trivial, police could do nothing, suffered no loss, police will handle it insensitively, may consider crime to be private, companies may just dismiss employee in the case of crime in the workplace

recording crime- police may think crime is too trivial, may doubt honesty or accuracy of report, may decide there is not enough evidence

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crime and age

younger people are more likely to be involved in crime than older people

younger people who do engage in crime tend to commit relatively minor offences

peer group pressure

young people may seek excitement

may have been breakdown in social control of some young people

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crime and gender

females tend to be less involved in crime because of gender socialisation

girls are expected to be more passive and boys more active

girls behaviour is more closely monitored

chivalry effect- girls will be treated less harshly than boys in the justice system

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women's increasing involvement in crime

women have lost many of the constraints or controls that kept them away from crime

more women than men live in relative poverty

chivalry effect is less common

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ethnicity and crime

some ethnic groups are over represented in the prison population

black people are more likely than white people to be in prison

black people are more likely to be stopped and searched than white people

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patterns in statistics on crime

if we said that there are more black people in prison compared to the population because they commit more cirme than other ethnic groups, one possible explanation is that higher proportions of black people experience unemployment

the statistics exaggerate crime among particular ethnic groups. can be seen as reflecting the way that policing is carried out and bias within the criminal justice system

black people are more likely to be targeted, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for longer periods of time than other ethnic groups

institutional racism

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class and crime

over representation of working class people in the prison population

most people want to be successful and affluent. working class have fewer opportunities to succeed through legal channels so turn to crime

working class subcultures may stress criminal or deviant behaviour, can bring status

may be bias in the justice system

crime rate is higher in urban areas than rural areas

more opportunities to commit crime in urban areas

cities may have lower levels of social control

different policing methods

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impact on victims

measurement research- examines types and number of people who are victims of crime

class, gender, age, ethnicity

the poor, living in private rented housing


the young

minority ethnic groups

studies of the impact of crime- crime impacts on victims in different ways. may be physical, financial, psychological or social

studies of the role of victims in the criminal justice process

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