Crime and Deviance (sociological theories)

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Deviance and Crime

Deviance- deviance is when someone breaks an unwritten rule of society.   - That person will behave in a way that is unusual and unexpected.  

Crime- is when someone breaks the law

 - laws are the written rules of society.  

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Biological theories

Biological theories suggest that there is something in the genetic make-up of criminals that make them turn to crime.

LOMBROSO'S THEORY - Cesare Lombroso wrote 'The Criminal man' in 1876 to state that criminality is something that can be inherited.

He said that people could be 'born criminal' and that criminals can be identified by 14 different characteristics (Eg face and body shapes)

EG --- Unusually short or tall, deep set eyes, tattoos on the body, strong jawline, high cheekbones. He said that criminals tend to have reversed evolution to become more 'savage' or 'atavistic'. 

-phrenology which was very popular in Victorian times, believed that peoples personality could be explained by the shape of their skulls, criminals could be identified in this way.

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Criticisms of the biological theory

Psychologists have linked criminal behaviour to genetically based personality characteristics.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES - The presence of an extra Y chromosome can lead to extrovert personalities.

 -Modern technology using PET scans have shown that psychopaths often have brain abnormalities.

-Poor relationships with parents can explain criminal or deviant behaviour.

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Criticism of the psychological theories

Functionalist Theories- crime and deviance are socially constructed.

-Functionalists see that crime and deviance play a part in society, to help it function. 

-Durkheim (1982) said that crime was inevitable. He identified a number of benefits:

(1)It strengthens collective values of what is right or moral.

(2)Allows society to develop/ change.

(3)Acts as a 'safety valve' for stress in society.

(4)Acts as a warning device that there are underlying problems in society.

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Strain theory and anomie

Merton (1968) - crime and deviance exist because people are pressured to meet social goals and values. People want to achieve these social goals (e.g Wealth), but don't have the capacity to achieve them.

There are four forms of deviance:

Conformity- most of the population cope by doing their best and making the most of what society offers them

innovation- commitment to cultural goals may remain strong, but some people reject the conventional means of acquiring wealth and turn to illegal means.

ritualism-some people have lost sight of material goals, but derive satisfaction from fairly meaningless jobs

retreatism- a small number of people reject both the goals and the means, by dropping out of of society.

rebellion- people may rebel and seek to replace shared goals and institutional means with more radical alternativeness, and may use violent methods to avhieve this.

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Evaluation of Merton

Evaluation of Merton

-Merton doesn't explain why some individuals commit crime, yet others conform, retreat or rebel.

-Merton's theory explains crime that results in economic gain, but he doesn't explain many forms of violent and sexual crimes.

-Fails to explain crimes committed by young people in gangs, which do not seem to be motivated by material goals.

-white-collar and corporate crime arise from access to opportunities rather than the blocking of them.

-Merton fails to ask who benefits from the capitalist system and especially the laws that underpin it. Marxists, like Steven Box, suggest that the ruling capitalist class benefits most from the way laws are currently organised.

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Subcultural explanations of crime and deviance

Subcultural theories- focuses on explaining why young working class people commit crime.Known as juvenille delinquency, it is often malicious in nature and not linked to material or financial goals.

COHEN- argues delinquency is caused by a strain between cultural goals and the institutional means of achieving them. He suggests that young people want status, respect and to feel valued.

Evaluation of Cohen: - Willis concludes that the woking class youths in Cohen's study of working class underachievement didn't share the same definition of status as middle-class boys.

-Most working class boys actually conform at school despite educational failure

-Cohen ignores female delinquency.

Neglects the role of agencies of social control in the social institutions of delinquency.

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