Functionalist, Strain and Subcultural theories of crime


Durkheims functionalist theory

  • Society uses socialisation and social constrol to keep it stable 
  • Crime is inevitable due to inadequate socialisation 

Crime fulfills two positive functions:

  • 1: Boudnary maintenance-  crime produces a reaction from society, uniting them against the wrongdoeers and reinforcing commitment to a value consensus. This is the function of punishment (reafirm shared rules and social solidarity)
  • 2: Adaptation and Change: all change starts as deviance. If this was suppressed, society wouldnt be able to make adaptive changes. 

Other functions:

Davis- safety valve ( prostittues relase sexual frustration etc)

Cohen- warnign light (deviance indicates malfunction

1 of 4

Merton's Strain Theory

Reason for devinace: people cannot achieve by legitimate means 

American Dream 

Merton finds 5 ways that people adapt to the strain:

  • conformity 
  • Innovatio
  • Ritualism
  • Retreats
  • Rebellion

+ shows both normal and deviant behvaiour can come from same source 

+backed by official stats

- subcutural strain theories critisise; devience is due to delinquent subcultures offering low society members illegtitimate means of success

2 of 4

Cohens status frustration

Reason: WC inability to acheive legitimately 

He critisises merton; ignores group devience, focuses on utalitarian crime

Alternate status hierarchy: subcultures offer illegitimate opportunity structure for boys:

- winnign through delinquency 

- values are spite and malice, inverting norms 

3 of 4

Clowards Three subcultures

Reason: not everyone adapts to lack of legitimate opportunities, some turn to drugs and violneve 

There is also not universal access to the illegitimate oppirtunity structure. Different neighborhood offer different opportunties to learn crime. 

Criminal subculture: apprentiship in utalitarian crime 

Conflict subculture: loosely organised gangs, violence releases frustration

Retreatist subcultures: double failures (me lmao) 

- ignore crimes of the wealthy 

- they segregate the subcultures when in relaity they overlap

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »