Realist theories of crime

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Right Realism

Poverty, unemployment and crime

Right realists question whether unemployment and poverty are responsible for the rising crime rate. Wilson argues affluence may go hand in hand with crime.

Explaining rising crime

Wilson and Hernstein point out that crime amongst young men living in cities is extremely high. They explain this by saying 'it is likely that the maleness and youthfulness on the tendency to commit crime has [biological] and social origins' - this means crime is do with the biological status of being male, and how they are treated by those close to them and society. 
     Wilson and Hernstein picture young men as 'temperamentally aggressive'; this is partly based on their biological makeup and makes them prone to crime. 
     This means an increase in the proportion of young men in the population is likely to increase the crime rate. In the USA and Britain in the 70's both the proportion of young men and amount of crime increased. However, since the 80's the proportion of young men has decreased but the crime rate increased. They offer a social explanation.

Culture and socialisation

Wilson and Hernstein argue the way young men are socialised throughout their lives effects their behaviour. Consistent discipline in and out the home encourages conformity to societies norms and values. 
     Wilson and Hernstein see the growth of a culture which emphasises immediate gratification  (immediate satisfaction of wants and desires), low impulse control (less control over desires and emotions) and self expression (outwards expression of feeling). These aspects have produced a less effective learning environment for many young men and reduced the restraints on their behaviour. This results in less conformity to socities norms and values and more people turning to crime. 

Costs and benefits

Wilson and Hernstein argue the crime rate will change in the costs and benefits of crime, particularly property crime. The more benefits rise, the more the crime rate will rise. 

Social control

Control theory

Many right realists argue people are more likely to commit crime when the social constraints on their behaviour are weakened. Control theory identifies the factors that prevent individuals from committing crime. 
     Hirschi believed none of us are immune from the temptation of crime. What stops us from doing so is our social bonds. These consist of attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. The stronger our attachments to key social institutions, the more we develop commitment to those involved. These commitments encourage a belief in conforming to the rules. Effective social bonds mean we have too much to lose by committing crime - it would risk losing a good opinion from those that matter to us.
     In support of this, 
Hirschi reported the findings of a self-report study of over 4000 young people aged 12-17 in California. The variation of social bonds was more significant than economic factors in terms of delinquency. Hirschi argues that the primary feature of offenders is a lack of self-control. This

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