Functionalist views of deviancy

HideShow resource information


Durkheim argues that young people commit crime when they lose their way from childhood to adulthood and become in a state of anomie. He said anomie is a temporary state until the institutions bring them back into consensus, teach them that their behaviour is wrong and they regain the accepted social norms and values. They will then continue on their path to adulthood. This would help explain why crime is common between the ages of 15-25.

Criticism: Many young people continue to reoffend into adulthood and so anomie is not necessarily temporary.

1 of 7


Merton argues that young people sometimes face a strain trying to achiever the values that society rewards. This is because young people are treated differently and often unfairly in comparison to adults. This ties in with Rosak's study that age is the new social divide. For example, young people cannot drive until they are 17 which restricts them from getting jobs which are far away from home and stops them having independance. The media's portrayal of youth is often negative which isolates them from other age categories. Young people also find it hard to get a job due to lack of experience but they cannot get experience without having a job. When they are given jobs, they tend to be low level jobs with tasks that no one else would want to do. Society deters young people from being succesful and the strain of this leads them to become deviant, according to Merton.

Criticism: Doesn't take into account the upper classes who have more opportunities and don't commit much crime. Also, there are young people who commit crime for fun, not because they feel a strain.

2 of 7

Cloward and Ohlin

They say that working class youths are neglected and given few legitimate opportunities which can allow them to become succesful. The type of school they go to may limit their opportunities as they may not gain the qualifications they need to go onto further education as they would in private education. A lack of money or intelligence could stop them from going to university also. Cloward and Ohlin say the working classes are denied soem opportunities to be succesful but everyone has the opportunity to be deviant. The working class therefore may use deviant or criminal means such as theft to get what they want because its an easy solution when you compare it with the barriers that society puts in their way.

Criticism: There are working class people who grow up and become succesful through hard work.

3 of 7


Millar argues that the working classes are socialised to have a different set of norms and values to the rest of society. They can be seen as ones which are closely related to or lead into deviancy.

Toughness- the belief that being tough is positive-they use violence and don't talk about their feelings

Smartness- overconfident-can be arrogant and will not be proven wrong no matter what

Excitement-seeks thrills and takes risks to feel alive. They live in the moment and deal with the consequences should they arise.

Fate-whatever will be will be. Working classes tend to be negative about their future and don't think they'll go very far.

Autonomy- Not to let yourself be pushed around by others-a view which the punks shared.

4 of 7


He said that youth culture is a safe room. He said because of peer pressure you may become deviant in order to fit in with your peers so you succumb to peer pressure, even if its something you don't necessarily want to do. Deviancy binds people together in groups.

Criticism: Deviancy can have the opposite effect. Girls for example who are socialised to avoid danger and be very well behaved may avoid the deviant for fear of getting involved in their trouble.

5 of 7


Cohen updated Merton's theory. He said rather than having deviant individuals, you have groups. They don't do it because they need to but because they want to and it confers status upon them. We see that the SYSC were groups of deviants. For example the right wing skinheads were racist and may have attacked ethnic minorities. Cohen said that the groups couldn't meet the social norms and values which society sets so they created their own within the subculture. So within their own subculture, they were in concensus and not being deviant. However, the rest of society would've viewed it as deviancy because they didn't follow the original conventional norms and values.

Criticism: Deespite it beign a social norm, most people in SYSCs grew out of it once they reached adulthood. This could mean that because they stopped following the SYSCs social norm, they were in deviancy for the rest of their life, which seems unlikely. Also, crimes such as burglary happen by individuals and not groups because they are less likely to be heard and caught on their own.

6 of 7


Matza said that deviancy is something which all young people move in and out of. He said that all young people have two sets of norms and values. They have normal values which take them into adulthood and subterranean values which lead to delinquancy. Matza argued that a certain amount of deviancy is necessary when growing up in order to learn from it. You can test your own boundaries in society and test how you will be sanctioned as a result of your deviancy.It is almost as if it is not deviant to be deviant as a young person-it is natural and normal.

Criticism: Some people don't learn from their mistakes and continue to reoffend into adulthood. Not all young people commit crime either, for example soem upper class youths.

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

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