Crime and Deviance - Subcultural Theory

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US Studies

Albert Cohen

Linked crime and deviance with education. Argued that delinquent behaviour was most likely to develop among working class boys doing badly as school. He argued bthat they suffered from status frustration. Instead of gaining status through education they gain status from their peers by being good at delinquent behaviour.

Cloward and Ohlin

Argued that working-class boys belonged to three subcultures

  • Criminal subculture - Most likely to be found in stble woking class areas. Status is gainded through gang membership and promotion is possible within the gang. Most crimes involve making financial gain.
  • Conflict subculture - If no criminal subculture. This subculture is more concerned with anti-social, violent and aggressive behaviour
  • Retreatist subculture - Puts the main focus on alcohol or drugs


Argued hat many working class boys get into trouble with the poilice simply because they have different focal concerns (norms and values)

Key focal concerns

  • Trouble - accepting that life involves violence
  • Toughness - "real men" fight drink and womanize
  • Excitement - always on the lookout for fun

Miller isn't arguing that working-class men intend to break the law, but that the focal concerns they hold make it inevitable


Studied young black gang members in an inner city area of Philadelphia. he showed that the gang members want to acheive the American Dream of having the latest consumer goods. However as they are excluded educationally, economically and politically they are…


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