Crime and Deviance: Functionalist Theory

Revision cards for functionalist theories of crime.

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  • Created by: Pheebie
  • Created on: 27-10-12 12:34

Key Words


  • SOCIALISATION: Instils shared cultures into into members and helps to ensure people have the same norms and values.
  • SOCIAL CONTROL: Mechanisms include reward for conformity and punishment for deviance. Helps ensure individuals behave e.g. police.
  • SOCIAL SOLIDARITY: Value consensus of shared beliefs, goals, morals norms and values.
  • BOUNDARY MAINTENANCE: Crime produces a reaction from society, this reinforces shared norms and values and stigmatises wrong-doers.
  • ADAPTATION AND CHANGE: Crime challenges norms and values. Gives new culture and morality in the long run e.g. homosexuality.


  • SAFETY VALVE: Little amounts of crime prevent lots of crime from happening.
  • WARNING LIGHT: If crime levels become too high and shows there is a problem with society. 
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Functionalism and Crime:

  • Society is based on value consensus.
  • Crime is inevitable in society and helps with socialisation and social control to achieve social solidarity.
  • Crime performs a function for society.
  • Little crime prevents a lot of crime from occurring as the criminal is 'ostracised' by society.


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Crime has Positive Functions:

"Prostitution is a safety net as men alleviate sexual frustration instead of ****** a partner. Therefore it does not threaten the nuclear family."


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Evaluation of Functionalism


  • It explains the functions of crime in society.


  • Society does not create crime in advance.
  • Explains how it is functional society but not the individual. It begs the question 'Functional for whom?'
  • Crime can do the opposite than promote solidarity in society.


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