SOC – Chap 7 Notes: Deviance and Crime
The Social Definition of Deviance and Crime
Deviance: breaking a social norm; not merely a departure from the statistical average, but
rather a violation of an accepted rule of behaviour
Informal punishment: mild and may involve raised eyebrows, gossip, shaming, or
o When people of Stigmatized, they are negatively evaluated because of a marker
that distinguishes them from others
Formal punishment: results from people breaking laws- which are norms stipulated and
enforced by government bodies. Ex: jail time or community service
John Hagan classified various types of deviance and crime along 3 dimensions:
o Severity of the social reaction (ex: murder)
o Perceived harmfulness (ex: tattooing)
o Degree of public agreement about whether the act is actually deviant (ex: smoking
John Hagan’s analysis allows us to classify 4 types of deviance and crime:
o Social diversions: minor acts of deviance such as participating in fads/fashions
like dying your hair purple
o Social deviations: more serious acts that a large number of people agree are
deviant and harmful. Ex: a boy having long hair in Japan
o Conflict crimes: deviant acts that the state defines as illegal tht whose definition
is controversial in the wider society. Ex: having a beard in 17 century Russia
o Consensus crimes: acts widely recognized to be bad in themselves; little
controversy over their seriousness.
Social Constructionism: a school of thought that suggests various social problems, such
as crime, are not inherent in certain actions themselves. Instead, some people are in a
position to create norms and pass laws that stigmatize other people.
o Power is a crucial element in the social construction of deviance and crime
White-collar crime: an illegal act committed by a person of respectability and high social
status in the course of his occupation. Ex: embezzlement, tax evasion, fraud, etc.
Street crime: robbery, assault, arson, etc. Offenders are disproportionately lower class
White collar crimes result in few prosecutions and convictions because: white collar
crimes take place in private (usually by executives) and corporations can afford legal
experts, public relations firms, etc. to bend and pass certain laws
Information about crime rates is taken from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey.
There are several drawbacks of relying on official crime statistics:
o Much crime is not reported to police. Victimless crimes: gambling, prostitution,
and use of illegal drugs.
o Authorities and the wider public decide which criminal acts to report and which to
ignore. Cracking down on drugs does not mean more drug deals- it means there is
more police focus in this area
o Changes in legislation can create new offences or amend existing offences Self-report surveys: respondents are asked to report their involvement in criminal
activities, as perpetrators or victims
Victimization surveys: people are asked whether they have been victims of crime.
4 explanations exist for the decline in Canadian crime rates:
o The “war against crime” is increasingly being fought by large numbers of law
enforcement agents who have more man power and technical sophistication now
o Young men are most prone to street crime and Canada is aging and the number of
young people in the population has declined.
o Since 1991-93 there has been economic growth which may have favoured a
decrease in crime rates. The variable most strongly correlated with crime rate is
the male unemployment rate.
o Declining crime rates may be linked to the legalization of abortion
Social control: methods of ensuring conformity
The 15 to 24 year old age cohort is the most prone to criminal behaviour (for males and
Explaining Deviance and Crime
Why is engaging in crime attractive; why does deviance occur at all? There are 2 main
types of theories:
o Motivational theories: identify the social factors that drive people to commit
deviance and crime
o Constraint theories: identify the social factors that impose deviance and crime on
o Strain Theory: extends on Durkheim’s idea that an absence of social norms
(anomie) causes an increase in deviant behaviour. Cultures often teach people to
value material success, but do not provide enough leg