Defining Crime and Deviance

non-sociological theories = the cause of crime lies in the individual

sociological theories = the cause of crime lies in society

  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 12-04-14 16:29

definitions of crime and deviance

  • crime is mostly deviant, but not all deviance is criminal
  • Downes and Rock(1988) - "Deviance may be considered as banned or controlled behaviour which is likely to attract punishment or dissaproval"
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crime and deviance are socially constructed

  • both crime and deviance are culturally determined
  • Michael Foucault - Deviance changes with time and place as values, norms and social expectations change - it's relative
  • what's deviant for some groups in society is conformity for others
  • subcultures have different norms to mainstream society


  • the same act can be seen as deviant or non-deviant depending on the situation
  • societal deviance means acts which are seen by most of society as deviant - swearing at authority, random acts of extreme violence, child abuse
  • situational deviance means acts which can be seen as deviant or normal, depending on the situation - being naked(okay at home deviant in public), killing someone(okay at war, otherwise deviant)
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social order + social control create consensus

social order and social control create a consensus of how to behave

  • social order and social control maintain status quo and create a value consensus of how to behave
  • sanctions are rewards and punishments that reinforce social norms
  • positive formal sanctions - carried out by official agency. positive sanctions reward people for conforming. certificate for passing an exam, medal for bravery in army, cup for winning sporting event
  • negative formal sanctions - fine for breaking the law, points on a driving license, yellow card from referee
  • positive informal sanctions - carried out by the public. A pat on the back, saying 'well done' for good behaviour
  • negative informal sanctions - deliberately ignoring someone. Telling-off for bad behaviour
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sociologists are interested in social cause of C+D

  • sociologists are interested in C+D as a social phenomenon
  • the key questions are:
  • does crime have a purpose?
  • what are the causes of crime?
  • who commits crime?
  • what is the extent of crime?
  • studying deviance is less clear-cut, because there's deviance and social control in all areas of sociological study
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non-sociological theories of why crime exists

  • physiological differences say that criminals are physically different
  • Cesare Lombroso(1876) - criminals were generetically different.There were outward signs of criminality such as large jaws or extra fingers/toes
  • Moir and Jessel(1995) - argued hormonal and checmical imbalances make individuals more likely to be criminal. Imbalances affect men more than women. "The male mind whether for reasons of evolution or something else is wired and fueled to be more criminal"
  • psychological theories say that criminals are mentally different
  • Bowlby(1946) - individuals who are deprived of maternal love in the first years of life are likely to develop personality traits which lead them to commit crime.
  • Eysenck(1946) - individuals who commit crime have inherrited psychological characteristics which predispose them to crime.
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