Criminological Theory Exam Review
Social Ecology Theories-Assumes people are inherently good but are vulnerable to their
environment which is the cause crime and where people live as well as the physical environment
makes crime normal. Crime is an outcome of poverty stricken areas.
-High crime neighbourhoods are overpopulated, rundown buildings, homelessness, renting
homes, distinction between rich and poor, low level of education, transitional neighbourhood,
however, low crime areas are the opposite.
Concentric Zone model by Park and Burgess-Discovered 5 zones in Chicago that were natural
areas that had taken a life of its own.
1) Central Business district which is at the centre of the city and is largely industrial
2) Transitional zone where there are recent immigrant groups, deteriorated housing, factories and
abandoned building. Crime flourishes here.
3) Working Class Zone if filled with single family tenants.
4) Residential Zone is single family homes with yards and garages.
5) Commuter Zone is the suburbs where people eventually move to.
Delinquency Areas by Shawn and McKay-56000 juvenile court record and how they are
distributed across the zones. Look longitudinally at the change in crime rates from 1900-1933
which were years of high migration and immigration. They hand plotted each crime on a map.
-Remarkable stability in high delinquency areas over time despite population changes.
Something distinct about areas and thus disorganized places produce crime. Also more likely to
have other issues such as illness in the transitional zone too.
Social disorganization-Inability of a community to realize the common values of its residents
and to maintain effective social controls. Regulate members to achieve desired goals such as
neighbourhood watch, intervening in crimes. Massive social changes such as migration,
urbanization, immigration and industrialization break down social bonds and social controls
which leads to crime.
Key facts of disorganized communities-1)Low SES/poverty so they stop here first
2) Less social cohesion because off disagreement over norms and controls because of population
3)Residential mobility shows that groups are always moving in and out so it makes it hard to
organize community groups, most advantaged leave first and they would be the ones that would
make social programs, transition removes social cohesion, dont trust each other and thus are less
willing to engage in informal social control.
4)Urbanization leads to much more animosity which leads to less intervention of crimes.
5)Family disruption through single parent households and female headed households.
Criticisms-Definitions of a neighbourhood are census based and thus convenience based and are
not accurate indicators of the community as defined by people in the city. Toronto/Canada is
really trying to eliminate this by relaying on people defined communities.
-Relays on official crime data that doesnt include all crimes that actually happen.
-Relationship between social disorganization and crime may be reciprocal i.e. crime leads to
-There are different effects on individuals in the same environment and used to explain lower
class crime only.
Criminal justice implications-Reduce crime by reorganizing communities that are socially
disorganized and reorganizing the communities using existing neighbourhood leadership to
increase neighbourhood control, guardianship and community involvement. However, community members are unwilling to participate in community reorganization and if it does
work it takes a long time to actually work.
Broken windows by Wilson and Kelling-Broken in a window is not fixed, people like breaking
will assume no one cares and break more windows and soon the building will have no windows
-Crime is the result of lax social control efforts, crack down on low level crime is best.
-Police can help prevent crime by cracking down on low level crime, also by fixing up the little
broken things in the community can help foster more community control and cohesion.
-In New York they cracked down on low level crime and rates went down, however, this was
already part of a downward trend. Residents feel less safe so dont want to go out so removes
Social Control Theories-Ask why dont we all commit crime instead of why do some commit
crime? Looks at things like family, morals, fear of punishment, no opportunity and attachment.
-Look at factors that prevent crime and not factors that motive crime. Wonders why people
conform to rules and norms. We conform in response to controlling forces, when controls are
absent we are more likely to commit crime and the more attached a person is to the community
the less likely they will commit crime.
-Pull theories ask what pulls people away from crime?
Assumptions-Humans are self-interested so we dont need understand why people offend,
rational actors but depends on peoples attachment to conventional society. More morally and
socially concerned than Rational choice. People are born to break the law and should unless
socialized to prevent offending.
-Crime is exciting, opportunistic, requires little skill, dont need to be taught. Crime provides
immediate and easy gratification, immediate gains with little investment. People are unable to
defer gratification, focused on the short term. Believe people commit a range of crimes.
-Free to commit crime because their ties/bonds to conventional society are broken or weakened
and thus do not feel obligated to society.
Hirshis Social Bond Theory-Most prominent control theory.
-Attachment, commitment, involvement and belief make fewer social bonds which leads to crime
-everyone has the ability to commit crime but bonds to society stop us from offending as well as
a stake in conformity.
Attachment-strength of ties to parents, family and teachers. Sensitivity to interests of others.
Parental attachment is most important, good attachment means thinking of what parents would
think of their choice.
Commitment-Dedicated to conventional activities and fearing consequences of crime.
Involvement-Proportion of time dedicated to conventional activities because it limits the
opportunities for crime.
Beliefs-Respecting the law, immoral to commit crime and see rules as fair.
Gottfredson and Hirshi-This is a general theory of crime of social control to explain crime
-Sees inherent differences between people that leads to offending specifically self-control.
-Crime provides easy, immediate gratification, requires little skill, exciting, people are hedonistic
-Low self-control is a stable contrast over the lifespan and develops through early childhood
socialization. Those with low self-control also engage in excessive alcohol consumption,
smoking, risky behaviours and other deviant behaviour.
Family socialization-Lack of nurture, supervisions, inability to correct bad behaviour, parental
low self-control, family size, inadequate ineffective and inconsistent family socialization. Socialization at school-Teachers likely call on children for bad behaviour, social comparison,
easy monitoring because of lots of time spent there. School comes too late because self-control is
set by age 7 or 8. The younger the child is put in school setting the more influence it has.
Characteristics-Impulsivity, avoidance of difficult thinks, risk seeking (test yourself now and
them by taking risks), physical activity (better on the move than sitting), self-centeredness,
Criticisms-Is motivation really irrelevant? These theories assume we dont need to know why
people commit crimes as well as what holds people back from committing crimes.
-Ignores crime in groups and sees crime in an individual case only
-Ignore situational/structural factors. Only your bond to society or level of self-control is
-Causal order is important; does weakened bonds lead to crime or does crime lead to weakened
Labelling Theory-Focuses on formal and informal responses to the individual
-Humans are passive, forced into the role of the criminal by definitions of society, not entirely
passive, not completely deterministic. We participate in actions that define our self-concept.
-Society consensus definitions of what is crime, conflict based approach, rules are socially
constructed, laws benefit those in power and the powerless are more likely to be penalized.
-Nothing inherently harmful or dangerous to the crimes acted but saw as deviant through the
cultures eyes, explains minor crimes better.
-Social reaction to crime questions when we call someone a criminal do we increase crime?
The looking glass self by Charles Cooley-Our self-image is based on how others see us, thus, our
self-concept is based entirely on our social interaction which begins at an early age. Constantly
build and change our self-concept to match changing meanings derived from our interactions.
One implication is the self-fulfilling prophecy where we get a label and change our self-concept
to become that label.
Primary Deviance-Deviance that is situational, occasional and can be excused by the actor and
the audience. Generally a good person just doing a bad act. This offending is usually small and
Secondary Deviance-Core of labelling theory. Deviance that occurs more often and is solidified
in the persons self-concept. Not a first offence but a combination of the crime committed and
the social reaction. Once this is the primary definition the person cannot escape the label, they
begin to reorganize their behaviour and self-concept to match this dominant label. Re-
socialization into the deviant role and deviant amplification effect.
Howard Becker outsiders-Social change occurring at the time (1960), suggests we dont
focus on the offenders but why we label such behaviours as deviant.
-In crime statistics we find only pure deviants and the falsely accused who are fundamentally
different but the the fact that they are both label