Crime & Deviance

A set of revision cards to help study for the unit three exam of the WJEC A2 Sociology course.

  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 14-09-11 19:51

Crime and Deviance

Key Terms

Crime: crime is behaviour that strays outside of the formal, written laws of a society. It is thought of as more serious than deviant behaviour and usually has more serious consequences.

Deviance: this means to literally move/stray away from set standards in society, it is much more general than crime and refers to behaviour that while different to the norm, it is not necessarily controlled legally.

Anomie: this is when a person is insufficiently intergrated into society and therefore more individualistic, consequently the individual becomes less sure of prevailing norms and values and in severe cases can sometimes result in suicide.

Social Control: social control is there to ensure that society runs according the expectation of the society in question, different types of social control varies depending on the theoretical perspective in question. For example marxism would look at state apparatus, as a form of control, whereas functionalism would compare the informal/formal versions of social control.

Underclass: the lowest and least priviliged social class 

Delinquency: a mild crime that is often commited by young people eg: loitering.

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Crime and Deviance

Key Terms

Moral Panic: a sense of fear intensely expressed by a population in regards to an issue which threatens social order.

Hidden Figure of Crime: this is the number of crimes that are either undiscovered or hidden by police and therefore affect the validity of official crime statistics.

White Collar Crimes: these are crimes typically committed by the middle classes " a crime commited by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation" eg: fraud

Amplifications of Deviance: this is when the media focuses heavily on negative behaviour within a deviant group which, these portrayals can sometimes go so far as creating a moral panic leaving said group as a scapegoat for societies problem eg: "hoodies"

Victim Studies: these are studies asking a number of people which crimes have been committed against them and how many of the crimes they reported.

News Values: these determine how much prominence a news story is given by a media outlet, and the attention it is given by an audience.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance



-Durkheim argued that crime and deviance is functional in that it helps promote innovation in society and clarifies the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.

-HOWEVER he also argued that crime is dysfunctional as it challenges and works against the norms and values that otherwise unite society.

-Durkheim believed the cause of crime to be the result of anomie this is the feeling of being isolated/unaware of societies norms and values and rebelling.

-As there is a general consensus, Durkheim argued that there must be forms of social control enforced in order to maintain the social order this is a positive Functionalist ideal and is done so by various agents of social control eg: education

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Strengths and Weaknesses




-Durkheim's theories have provided valuable research and influence for other sociological theories.


-It is unclear as to when crime stops being necessary and beneficiary to society.

-The functionalist approach tends to assume that if something exists, it must have a purpose, this is not always the case.

-Does not give reasons as to why certain people commit crime and others don't

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Robert Merton

-British/American society socialises individuals into wanting to achieve specific goals and follow approved routes into achieving them. 

HOWEVER there is a strain between these goals  and being able to achieve them, this is a result of an unequal class structure which blocks peoples attempt to achieve these goals. He identified five different responses to anomie.

-Conformity: individuals  accept the values and believe that they will achieve their goals if they stick to what is expected of them.

 -Ritualists: they believe they have little chance of actually achieving any gain but continue in order to function. 

-Retreatists: they completely reject societies norms and values and renounce socially desirable behaviour.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Rebellion: they reject the goals and means but try and replace them with alternative values.

Innovators: they wish to obtain their goals but will do so even if it means rejecting the legitimate ways of achieving it. 


-Merton does not explain where these goals and means have come from or for what purpose.

-Does not explain crime that has no economic gain. 

-Ignore environmental factors that may have an effect on the willingness to commit crime eg: peer pressure.

-Anomie is difficult to operationalise.

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Theory Criticisms


-Marxists would argue that consensus is an illusion created by the ruling class in order to conceal the reality of a dominant class and that the values are not shared by society as a whole, but are a reflection of what the ruling class thinks should be so. All those considered a threat can be controlled.

-Functionalist theories ignore the group dynamics that can lead people to crime.


-Functionalism is a approach which revolutionised the manner in which crime is evaluated, differing highly from the psychological/biological theories that preceded,

-They are correct in saying that in order for a society to function there must be some element of consensus and agreement although they do neglect the idea that different systems have more power and the existence of contrasting value systems.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-cultural Theories


Albert Cohen: 

-The structural origins of crime are based in the status frustration of working class youths and their failed attempts at achieving middle class goals.

-The cultural causes of crime and deviance are a rejection of mainstream norms and values, these are replaced with alternative delinquent subcultural norms and values, giving an alternative means of gaining status and rebelling against the system that names them as failures.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-cultural Theories


Cloward and Ohlin:

They accepted Cohens arguments on structural origins of crime.

Cultural causes of crime are based around access to illegitimate opportunity structures. There are three types:

-Criminal: when youths have access to adult criminal subcultures and turn to crime, focusing on material crimes eg:burglary

-Conflict: when youths lack access to adult criminal networks but live in "gang areas" commiting crime to defend their territory.

-Retreatist: when youths have no access to crime so instead turn to drugs etc.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theories


Walter Miller:

Miller rejects the idea of anomie being a cause of crime in working class youths, arguing that youths never accept mainstream norms and values. Arguing that it lies in cultural causes of crime.

Lower class youths are socialised into a set of lower class values or focal concerns eg: toughness, smartness, excitement, fatalism.

In order to conform to peer pressure, youths act on these concerns often leading to crime.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theories

Evaluation of Functionalist Theory


-These theories have generated alot of research, making these theories a major contribution to the study of crime and deviance.

-These theories have gained support from others eg: postmodernist, Morrison and Willis. 


-These theories are too easily accepting of official statistics. 

-Matza argued that subcultural theories for overestimating juvenile delinquency and that individuals drift in and out of delinquency.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theories


-The Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies saw subcultures within a wider structural context, as a response to the problems of being working class in a capitalist society.

-They provide a "magical solution" according to Brake.

-The style of each subculture is very important as it helps differ between the groups a each group is responding to a different situation.

-These styles are a form of resistance to the capitalist agenda and are used by sociologists as a means of reading the groups dynamics as done so by Phil Cohen in his study of skinheads.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theories

Criticisms of Marxist Theory

-Stan Cohen argued that the decoding of subcultures was flawed and biased and that they tend to see what they want to see, analysing everything in terms of capitalism and biased towards its political agenda. The interpretation may not be accurate.

-The middle class tends to be ignored and only focused on the minority of youth who turned to crime, the rest were ignored.

-Feminists criticise this theory for ignoring the role of women in crime and only focusing on working class males. However these techniques were applied by McRobbie in her later study on "bedroom culture"

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theory

Left Realist

-Lea and Young applied subcultural theory to ethnic minorities in particular.The "resistance through rituals" tradition in Rastafarianism had previously been studied.

-Lea and Young argued that young black males have different aspirations to the traditional cultural values of their parents and base their goals on those found in British society. The barriers to these goals cause them to to turn to petty crimes.

-Asian cultures, however, provide moral clear alternatives to mainstream culture, giving their own statuses and rewards, leading to lower crime rates.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theory

New Right

-This approach argues that there is an underclass who's reliance on welfare and rejection of mainstream values eg: working to earn a living, causes crime.

-Murray claims the underclass is the main cause of crime.

-The only way to change this is to make the committing of crime too much of a risk and expensive. Removing benefits would also force people to work.

Criticisms of the New Right sub-cultural theory.

-Ignores white collar crime.

-Taylor argued that the rise of underclass is due to a lack of demand for unskilled labour.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Sub-Cultural Theory

Evaluation  of Sub-Cultural Theories

-It is now harder to identify subcultures, as it could be argued our modern society is now so fragmented with different cultures its hard to identify the dominant. And if the subcultures have become nothing more than meaningless fashions then they have outlived their usefulness.

-Matza accuses the functionalist and subcultural theories as being too deterministic, as they argue that social forces are inevitable and unavoidable.

-Matza also argued that criminals and deviants do conform to mainstream values in society. They are not necessarily different.

-Matza argued that mainstream norms and values are often neutralised through denial, responsibility etc. 

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Assumptions: They reject official statistics, making them part of the study. They reject structural causes of crime eg. Functionalist, looking instead at the way crime and deviance is socially constructed. They favour in-depth questionnaires.

Reaction to official statistics: Interactions argue that statistics are socially constructed and they underestimate the extent of crime. There is a significant amount of under reporting and therefore the statistics aren't accurate.

Deviance is socially constructed: Becker argues that what we count as crime and deviance is based on what we are told by "moral entrepreneurs" or agents of social control. Ethnomethodologists support this arguing "deviance is in the eye of the beholder", eg: conceptual art.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Extent of deviance being constructed: 

Becker argued powerless groups are much more likely to be labelled deviant, as the distribution and amount of crime is dependant on the "social actors" involved and the interaction between the deviant and the powerful.

This is supported by evidence that shows blacks are five times more likely to stopped and searched than whites, RESULTING IN amplification and this labelling being assumed as a persons master status, creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

Lemert supports this theory by arguing that primary deviance does not cause problems for those involved until it becomes secondary and is labelled.

This has been shown in USA where Triplett noted a tendency to see young offenders as evil and enforcing harsher punishments, this has increased crime.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Evaluation of Interactionist views on crime

Strengths: These theories have generated alot of research into labelling making a valid contribution. eg: Rist (1970) showed the effects of teachers expectations in the classroom.

They gained empirical and theoretical support, Goffman (1968) showed that hospitalising mentally ill resulted in labelling/self fulfilling prophecy. And phenomenologists also focus on individuals and ethnomethodologists: deviance is subjective.Suggesting validity. 

Weaknesses: too dismissive of official statistics as they can show a basic reality of crime according to realists. 

Fails to say why crime is socially constructed according to Marxists. And ignoring the real social reasons (Lea and Young)

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Society is determined by its economic base which determines the shape of it superstructure. And society is based on a conflict between the classes, the ruling (bourgeoisie) and the working (proletariat). Law is a reflection of ruling class ideology and the bourgeoisie use the law to criminalise the working class.

View of Crime

Criminogenic Capitalism: capitalism causes crime in that it creates greed and encourages the working class to aspire to consumer goods that may not be able to afford therefore they turn to utilitarian crime. But white collar crime must also be recognised

Gordon (1976) Crime is a rational response to the capitalist system and is found in all social classes.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

View on Crime (cont.)

State and Law Making: law making is only in the interests of the ruling class. Snider (1993) capitalist system reluctant to pass laws that regulate capitalist activities, Chambliss (1975) laws to protect private property are very important.

Selective Enforcement: the justice system selectively enforce people ignoring middle class or upper class crimes.  While criminalising the working class and ethnic minorities. 

Reiman (2001) the more likely a crime is to be committed by the higher classes, the less likely it will be considered a criminal offence.

Gordon (1976) the selective enforcement creates an illusion in which, the working class are to blame for societies problems, instead of capitalism.

Pearce (1976) some laws benefit ruling class as by creating "caring laws" eg: health and safety, give capitalism a caring image, creating a false consciousness.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Evaluation of Marxist explanations of crime

Strengths: Useful information on the relationship between crime and capitalism, shows the link between law making and law enforcement

Offers solution to crime (communism) and casts doubt on official statistics.

Weaknesses: Not all laws are obviously in the ruling classes favour eg: traffic law.

It ignores individual motivations and the relationships between crime and ethnicity/ gender.

Not all poor people commit crime. Not all capitalist societies have high crime rates.

Prosecution for white collar crime does happen.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Neo-Marxists are sociologists who have been influenced by Marxism but recognise that there are flaws in its explanations. They also combine Marxism with other theories eg: labelling.

New Criminology (Taylor et al)

Crime is a voluntary act and not the result of economic necessity. Criminals have political motives and do so in an attempt to challenge capitalism. eg: steal from the rich, give to the poor.                                                                                         Fully social theory of deviance is sourced from traditional marxist ideas and interactionism eg. labelling theory.

Bringing together six different aspects: wider and immediate origins of act, wider and immediate social reaction, the act itself and the effect on the deviants future action. 

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Neo Marxism

Evaluation of New Marxist theory

-Feminists criticise this theory for being "gender blind" ignoring female criminality, it could also be argued that it ignores ethnicity.

Left Realists criticise this theory for:

-Romanticising working class criminals as "Robin Hoods", when often they are just people preying on the poor committing selfish crimes.

-They ignore the effect of crime on working class victims.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Realist approaches focus on the reality of crime and looks at how to prevent it from happening, as opposed to Interactionism and Marxism, which provides excuses for crime. It falls into two categories, the left realist approach and the right realist approach.

Right Realism: people are selfish, will take what they can, harsher sentences are the only way to combat this, people are responsible for their crimes.

Murray blamed the welfare state in the USA for creating dependency and weakening the work ethic and the decline in the nuclear family, giving boys no father figure..

Felson gave a similar argument, stating that to deter crime, there must be a capable guardian to protect and oversee and rather than this guardian being formal, it is often best that it be an informal eg: neighbourhood watch.

Rational choice theorists such as Ron Clarke argue that the decision to commit a crime is based on weighing costs against benefits, implying that harsher punishments must be given.  

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Right Realism:

Tackling Crime

In order to reduce crime, it must made to be seen less attractive eg: target hardening: surveillance, neighbourhood watch schemes and better security, Or harsher penalties to be given.

Wilson argued that in order for a crime to be controlled there must be a zero tolerance for crime. And society as a whole must be kept as controlled as possible. eg: neglect and weakness being targeted. By controlling the minor crimes it deters people from committing the more serious.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Evaluation of Right Realist theories of crime

-Right realism ignores wider structural causes such as poverty.

-It ignores corporate crimes, focusing too much on street crime.

-Triplett's study in the USA argued that harsher penalties encourage young offending rather then deterring them. Jones agreed with this arguing that right realist policies have failed to prevent crime rising.

-Rather than attempting to tackle the causes of poverty and areas of disorder, it overemphasises tackling the crime itself. eg: ignoring lack of investment or education in areas,

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Left Realism

This view sees crime as a result of the economic structure in society and emphasises that it is the weaker parts of society that bear the costs of the crime. eg: lower working class Asians and Afro-Carribeans.

They use relative deprivation, marginalisation and subculture to explain crime.

Relative deprivation refers to the gap between what people hope to achieve and the reality of what they can.  This occurs frequently in Afro-Caribbean males, who find their paths blocked by discrimination.

Marginalised groups refer to those that lack clear goals and organisations to represent their interests, therefore given them little power in society. Because of this they must resort to violence as a means of expressing their frustration.

Subcultures are created in response to these values, creating groups with common interests.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Left Realism:

Tackling Crime

Accountable Policing: 

Left realists argue policing must be more accountable to local communities and must deal with local problems. Routine beat patrols are ineffective in detecting or preventing crime and stop and search tactics tend to cause conflict and resentment.

Tackling the structural causes of crime:

However their solution is not to increase policing but to lower the difference between the classes and deal with inequality of opportunity.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Left Realism

Evaluation of Left Realist theories of crime

-It does offer a solution to crime

-Young advocates a multi agency approach to created support for those that need it, benefiting families, youth and the unemployed.

-Hughes has argued however, that the approach has little new theories, promotes stereotypes by purely studying the ethnic minorities and ignores corporate crime.

-Realism as a whole have been very beneficial in that they have actually offered solutions and some of these have been put to use. However the benefits of the right realist approach have been questioned.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Developed in the late 60s, feminism argues that male dominance in society is reflected in the male dominance in crime

Why are women ignored in the study of crime?

Heidensohn argues that sociology is dominated by men, who are uninterested in female criminality. Male sociologists are more attracted to male crimes and therefore their theories show no account of female criminality.

Do women commit more crime?

Reports and statistics generally show that men commit more crime, but is this because women are better at hiding crime? Box argues that the 5:1 ratio given on serious offences is accurate.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance

Harsh or Lenient?

It has been argued that there is a chivalry factor in the way women are prosecuted, but on the other hand in offences where the women completely reject the typical feminine stereotype eg: child abuse, Smart (1976) argued women get harsher penalties.

Why do women commit less crime?

Heidensohn argued that women are socialised differently in which they learn norms less likely to lead to deviance eg: softness, femininity and those they commit are stereotypically female eg: shoplifting. Women are subjected to social control and have less chance to commit crimes. Lees also showed how girls suffer from great peer pressure and therefore find it difficult to deviate.

Then why do some women commit crime?

Carlens research showed how female offenders tend to reject the "gender deal", ignoring the female roles they're typically given.

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Theories of Crime and Deviance


Evaluation of Feminist theory of crime

-Feminist theory has contributed a lot of valid points to the study of crime and deviance.

-It provides a new focus on female offending and the victimisation faced by women particularly male physical and sexual violence.

-Challenges the popular misconception that women enjoy being treated differently.

-Helps provide a new focus on gender identity which can then be applied to different theoretical perspectives eg: control theory, labelling theory.

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Really helpful :D thanks


This is a really great resource, thank you. :) 



This is the best resource!..thank you!!



This basically covers nearly everything - thanks a bunch ^^



Thank you soo much! So helpful especially w/definitions!

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