SOC212: Chapter Notes Package 2:
- This approach shows that social conditions are structured to unintentionally produce
o Chicago school said weak structure caused deviance.
o Functionalists said that the structured created structural strain, which caused
- Lack of effective supervision & control in the medical occupation sphere for example,
plus cultural expectations & structural realities causes deviance.
- Subcultural solutions to strain: Police - put in a position of strain b/c they are expected
to serve, protect & control all at once – but they’re not always compatible.
o EX: Arresting someone for smoking weed at a rock concert may cause life-
threatening disorder, also police have more freedom as others so they may misuse
o So, repeated strain, plus misuse by police all leads to fostering a subculture that
supports behavior viewed as brutal/corrupt.
- Strain-induced deviance is not always supported by a subculture.
o EX: Amedical intern strained from long stressful hours in the emergency ward
may resolve this with readily available drugs – but they are unlikely to find a
group (subculture) of people who will support obtaining illegal drugs.
Organic and Cybernetic Models
- Early functionalist and Disorganization theorists shared a view of society as a
- Organic Model: if changes occurs in an environment, the society responds adaptively
to protect/improve it’s well-being
- Like the human body, society has a head (management functions), circulation
(communication, defense, & delivery functions).
- In this view, deviance is much like an illness – we need exposure to germs (crime) to
maintain our immune system (society), but some deviance, like some germs, may be too
- Havard’s Talcott Parson: mechanistic, cybernetic model of society – society is a
homeostatic, self-regulating system that maintains a balance of its internal parts in the
face of a changing environment as long as it is healthy.
Strategic Assumptions of Functionalism: 2 basic strategies in their approach
- 1. Functional requirements of system survival: every social system has to adapt to
it’s external environment, meet some basic goals, maintain a minimal level of integration,
replace it’s members over time. - ^ Deviance can occur when the approved means of achieving the above aren’quite
adequate or are poorly intergrated.
- Functionalist claim that society naturally responds by regulating dysfunctional activities.
- The fact that cults must initially recruit young people from their families and turn them
against their original faith makes cults disreputable in the wider society.
- 2. Look at deviance that has persisted and try to figure out what effects it produces that
would explain it’s contribution to the survival of the system.
The Central Concept f Functionalism
- Apart or process of the social system is functional to the extent to which it contributes to
the maintenance of the system.
- Saying something is functional does not particularly mean it’s a good thing.
- There are different, functional ways of achieving the same end: deviance can be
discouraged by penalizing it or by rewarding other kinds of behaviors.
Manifest and Latent Functions:
- Merton’s manifest functions: those with visible & comprehensible consequences.
Latent functions: those whose consequences are less obvious and often
- Some manifest functions at the outset gradually become latent.
- Early functionalism was Panglossian – it assumed that if anything existed for a long
time, it must have a good reason or purpose.
- Merton: dysfunction – occurs when a part or process lessens the effective equilibrium of
a system & contributes to stress or strain instead of the smooth operation of the whole.
- Dysfunctional elements which can be manifest or latent, are analogous to serious
bacterial or viral infections in the human body.
The Positive Functions of Deviance:
- Functionalism challenges us to look for the latent positive consequences in deviances.
- Pathologists would examine what is wrong with prostitutes, whereas functionalists
would consider that there are dysfunctions and eufunctions.
The Positive Consequences of Deviance:
1. Clarification of rules.
2. Testing of rules.
3. Alternative means of goal attainment.
4. Safety valve. 5. Tension release and solidarity.
6. Boundary Maintenance.
8. Raising the value of conformity.
9. Early Warning System.
10. Protections of vested interests.
The Functions of Social Control: 4 ways control can have negative consequences.
1. Too much regulation can reduce learning self-control & may stifle creative responses to
2. Regulations means giving some people more power than other, which can be abused.
3. Regulation intended to reduce one problem may lead to others.
4. The treatment of deviants may actually reduce their motivation to return to conformity or
even make it possible.
- Gary Marx lists many situations where social control contributes to, or generates, rule-
breaking behavior. Ex: Police efforts to make a crowd move on, can create deviance such
as resistance/disorderly behavior.
Deviance at a Distance: Parsonian Functionalism
- Talcott Parson’s Parsonian Functionalism looks at crime and deviance as problems of
- Parson says structural changes in the occupational system of society have lead to male
o Modern economy takes farther out of home for most of day.
o The mother raises both boys & girls so the assume that being good and following
expectations of society are feminine traits.
o In manhood, the boys reject this model & in place of the absent male they act out.
o Thus, boys are more likely to engage in antisocial & destructive behavior.
- Parson’s: it is the structure, not individual mortality, that explains behavior.
Functionalist Theory Applied to Women:
- Gender was a basis for the division of labor, whereby men & women were functionally
interdependent on the basis of gender-appropriate tasks.
- Durkheim: Women belonged in “asocial family functions” aka “natural, physical
functions-reproduction, nourishment, cleanliness, etc.- that are universal biological
imperatives” ~ Men belonged in the “social”(cultured and productive) realms.
Classical Strain Theory (CST): Merton, Cohen, & Cloward & Ohlin:
Robert Merton: Anomie/Anomia
- Merton’s version of functionalism was a middle-range alternative to Parson’s highly
abstract grand theory. - Merton focused on specific, delimited forms of social behavior: deviance, political
crime, the social organization of science, propaganda, mass persuasion, etc.
- Merton’s Anomie: the strain between aspirations & expectations in society.
- Anomie was the state of structural strain between the universal cultural goals of the
American dream and the much more restricted institutionalized means of achieving
- Merton’s strain doesn’t challenge the desirability of theAmerican dream but predicts that
deviance will occur mainly among the poor.
- Merton says that the primary cause of deviance is those in all social classes want what
those in privileged classes have.
- Durkheim’s anomie: disorganization ~~ Merton’s anomie: stress or tension
- Merton said needs are socially constructed via socialization to cultural norms.
- Merton’s 5 modes of adaption: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism,
- Merton’s schema is alsways misinterpreted as an individualistic, social-psychological
explanation for deviance, when it is actually a structural explanation of the conditions
where many people adaptations to be the preferable choice.
- He does not think that everyone who experiences strain will become deviant.
Albert Cohen and Status Frustration: 4 basic assumptions
- His explanation for male, lower-class delinquency was that strain exists between middle-
class standards of the public system & the resources and needs that lower-class boys
bring into the classroom.
1. Lower-socioeconomic-class youth tend to do poorly in school because of the use of
middle-class (universalistic) standards of evaluation.
2. Poor school performance leads to gang formation, as those rejected from the system join
3. The function of the gang is an alternative status system of enjoying acceptance and
4. The values of the delinquent gang are triumphantly & flagrantly oppositional to those
taught in the schools.
- Cohen: gangs don’t just reject middle-class norms, they just refuse to obey them.
- There are other paths that lower-socioeconomic class boys can take on – overcoming
completely and going to college – or becoming corner boys who settle for working class
- Elliot & Voss: Delinquency peaked just before dropout and subsequently declined.
- Willis & Sullivan: phase 1 – acting out against school or social norms, often through
humorous & naughty ways that bring status in an alternative status system ~~ phase 2 –
despair as routes to real social status evaporate.
Cohen’s Strain Theory Applied to Women:
- Women’s deviance is treated as trivial & men’s as worthy or interest. - Cohen says women’s goal is to have successful relationships & marry well and since
men’s masculine interests do not interest girls, they do not experience strain in the same
way that boys do.
Richard Cloward, Lloyd Ohlin, & Differential Opportunity Theory:
- Learning environments & opportunities are not equally distributed in the social system.
- Aperson’s class, gender, ethnicity, & neighborhood can make access to particular kinds
of deviance or conformity easier or more difficult.
- Cloward & Ohlin extends Merton’s anomie by introducing differential illegitimate
- ^ Their theory only represents delinquents that are supported by delinquent subcultures.
- ^ Their 3 kinds of delinquent subcultures: criminal, conflict & retreatist
- Acriminal pattern of gang behavior is an economic response to strain.Although the
criminal gang breaks the law, it is not usually negativistic or disorderly.
- Conflict becomes a way of asserting control in a disorganized environment & earning
success and status.Achieve through violence & intimidation.
- Double failures are youths unable to take successful advantage of legal or illegal
opportunities – they result in retreatist gangs that are dominated by escapist activities
like drug use, acting as pimps, shop lifting, etc.
- Cloward & Ohlin shared with Cohen that middle-class offender is more amenable to
individualized forms of control or therapy, which parent or community can provide.
Lower class on the contrary, needs to be uprooted from culture to be “cured”.
- Spergel’s Racket Neighborhood: found that juvenile delinquency was linked to
organized crime such as loan-sharking. **
- Cloward & Ohlin’s theory provided a basis for a massive antipoverty programme in
the 1960’s, but it didn’t work because of turf wars.
General Strain Theory (GST) Agnew: more individualized, social-psychological version.
- Revised Merton’s strain theory by proposing 3 forms of strain.
- Strain occurs when we fail to achieve goals, when others take from us valued stimuli
(property or respect), or when we are confronted with unpleasant circumstances (aversive
- Agnew says that negative circumstances alone do not translate into deviance – it only
occurs when the conditions of strain are coupled with a psychological state of “negative
effect” (disappointment, anger).
- 4 categories of school strain: negative peer relations, negative teacher relations,
low grades, general dissatisfaction with school.
- GST says strain contributes to motivation to offend.
- People have said this theory should be linked with social learning theory and social
General Strain Theory & Women: - Agnew’s females scored much higher than males on measures of strain.
- Interpersonal strain more popular among men.
- GST are testing 4 ideas that males & females: (1) experience different kinds of strain, (2)
have different subjective interpretations of the strain they experience, (3) having different
emotional reactions to the strain, and (4) may differ in their propensity to translate their
feelings about strain into deviant actions.
- Social support is an important buffer that appears to moderate women’s responses to
- Buffers against deviance – University students:Anger management ~~African
- Functionalist approach focuses on the interrelationships of parts of society with one
another and with society as a whole and looks for unsuspected and unintended
linkages between the parts.
- The core of functionalism is the idea that deviance is a natural product of social order
and may even have positive effects on the system,
- If the purpose of the the behavior is not obvious, we must be more persistent in our
search for the social functionit is fulfilling.
- Rules and rule enforcement are part of the processes that hold the social system
- Unlike classical theory, functionalism has rarely focused on the subject of the crime.
- Mainstream functionalist attempt to show that social conditions are frequently
structured in such a way that they unintentionally produce deviance.
- Functionalist claimed that the structure produced structural strain that caused
- Strain-induced deviance may not always be supported by a subculture
- Early functionalist view society as a super organism
- Organicmodel-if changes occurs in that environment, the society responds adaptively
to protect itself or even to improve its well-being
- Parts perform a specialized function on behalf of the organism; those that no longer
serve a purpose die out.
- Deviance is much like illness..we need expose to germs to maintain our immune
system, but not too much.
- Figure 8.1 - Strain and Subcultural Models (pg.267)
- Talcott Parsons shifted from the organic analogy to a more mechanistic. cybernetic
- In this model, society is a homeostatic, self-regulating system that (as long as it’s
healthy) maintains a balance (equilibrium) of its internal parts in the face of a changing
environment. - The relation between deviance and control is an endless feedback loop in a computer
like mechanical system. (Ex.Thermostat analogy)
- Functionalism helps us understand the inconsistency of social reactions to deviance.
- Our attitudes toward some kinds of behavior change when the needs of society
- Functionalist use 2 basic strategies in their approach to deviance:
- 1.Begins with assumptions about the functionalrequirementsof system survival.
- Social systems must adapt to its external environment to survive.
- Deviance may emerge when the approved means are not adequate or
- 2. To look at deviance that has persisted and try to find out what effects it
produces that would explain its contribution to the survival of the system.
- It suggests that the deviant is wrongfully punished for behavior that is
not only induced by the system but also serves its purpose.
- A part or process of the social system is functional to the extend to which it
contributes to the maintenance of the system.
- Merton : “Social function refers to observable objective consequences and not
to subjective dispositions (aims,motives, purposes)”
- To say that a particular practice is functional does not always mean it is a good
- Manifest functions are those with visible and comprehensible consequences
- Latent functions are those whose consequences are less obvious and often
- Despite their hidden nature, our understanding of social life cannot progress
without an appreciation of latent function
- Sometimes a function that is manifest gradually becomes latent
- Early functionalist tended to be Panglossian - assumed that if anything existed
for a long time, it must have a good reason/purpose.
- Dysfunction occurs when a part or process lessens the effective equilibrium of a
system and contributes to stress or strain.
- Dysfunctional elements are like illnesses, they can stimulate defense, or
- Clarification of Rules -> Deviance may cause an unclear rule to be stated specifically
and clearly. - Testing of Rules -> Deviants may break rules to challenge them..serves as a guinea
pig in the determination of which way the issues will be resolved.
- Alternative means of goal attainment -> Bell sees organized crime as a ladder out of
the ghetto for people with few or no legitimate job opportunities.
- Safety valve -> Deviance serves as a timeout from the demands of full conformity. (ex.
violence of soccer games, rowdiness of a hockey game, street disorder of Mardi Gras
all give people a break from the strains of responsibility)
- Tension release and solidarity -> The more extreme the deviant, the higher the group
- Boundary Maintenance -> The deviant becomes an external enemy against the rest of
society whom is united in opposition.
- Raising the value of conformity -> When deviant is punished, the value of conformity is
- Early Warning System -> Deviance may serve as an early warning system for
problems in the social order.
- Protection of vested interests -> The criminal justice and mental health systems
depend on the existence of deviance for their survival.
- 4 ways in which control can have negative consequences:
-Too much regulation may reduce the learning of self-control and may stifle
creative responses to new situations.
-Regulations means giving some people power over others, and this power can
-Regulation intended to reduce one problem may lead to others.
-The treatment of deviants may actually reduce their motivation to return to
conformity or make it impossible. (Criminal record when looking for
- Talcott Parson’s functionalism = “deviance at a distance” because of its focus on social
patterns many levels above the participating actors.
- When it looks at conflict and deviance, it tends to see them as problems for the social
order, not natural/beneficial.
- Parsons argues that structural changes in the occupational system of society have
affected the family in ways that tend to produce more delinquency.
- Father working, mother at home raising the children..with more feminine traits. When
boys reach manhood, they reject this model and tend to engage in antisocial and
destructive behavior in absence of male model to guide them.
- It is the structure not individual morality that explains the behavior.
- Durkheim argued that women belonged with family functions, while men belonged in
the social realms. - Women who don’t assume Earth-mother roles may be unnatural, dysfunctional and
deviant as men who nurture and perform affective tasks.
- Best known for his revision of anomie/anomia.
- Added the idea of strain, mainly the strain between aspirations and expectations in
- Anomie is a condition of stress or tension, not disorganization.
- Anomie was a state of structural strain between the almost universal goals of the
American Dream and the restricted means of achieving them.
- Primary cause of deviance as the socialization of individuals in all social classes to
want what only those in privileged social strata can obtain by non-deviant means.
- Needs are socially created, not inborn (challenged Freud)
- 5 alternative modes of adaptation to the means/end relationship exist:
- Conformity - Adapt when little strain exists between the goals and means.
- Innovation - Cheating, stealing. This response is expected when success is
- Any culture that puts great emphasis on wealth, power, and prestige but
doesn’t at the same time respect and emphasize the use of legitimate
means to attain it, is likely to have many innovators.
- Ritualism - Occurs when means are accepted but in a manner that is
disconnected from the declared goals.
- Retreatism - Occurs when the standard social goals and institutionalized means
are both rejected. Does not bother to cheat because goals do not seem worth
the trouble, and has no alternative agenda. (ex. suicide, alcoholics)
- Rebellion - Occurs when goals and means established in the society come
- Explained male, lower-class delinquency
- Gang delinquency is a group solution to status frustration
- 4 basic assumptions:
- Lower-socioeconomic-class youth tend to do poorly in school b/c of middle-
class standards of evaluation.
- Poor school performance leads to gang formation..those rejected by the system
join forces. Also, lower-socioeconomic-class tend to rely on peer groups
- The function of a fang is to provide an alternative status system in which
members can enjoy success and acceptance.
- The values of delinquent gangs are different to those taught in schools.
- Gangs reject middle-class norms
- “Corner boys” make the best of their situation and temporize with the middle-class
world, from which they will eventually seek working-class jobs.
- Correlation between school dropouts and arrests for delinquency
- Willis and Sullivan indicate 2 phases: -First phase is acting out against the school or social norms, often in humorous
ways that bring status in an alternative status system
-Second phase is despair as routes of real social status evaporate
- Treat women’s deviance as trivial, and men’s deviance more worthy of interest and
- Girls do not experience strain the same way as boys do.
- Delinquent girls is mainly sexually promiscuous
- Learning environment and opportunities are not equally distributed in the social
- See delinquent as performing subcultural delinquent roles, not as expressing individual
psychopathology or engaging in individual deviance without the knowledge of their
- 3 kinds of delinquent subcultures :
-Criminal pattern of gang behavior is an economic response to strain. Criminal
gangs seek monetary gain through crime. The juvenile thief gains status by
“pulling off a big score” and having money to spend.
-Conflict form of gang behavior - Violence between gangs become a way of
asserting control and achieving reputation through violate and intimidation.
-Doublefailures- those who succeed neither at school nor delinquency. Reject of
both conflict and criminal gangs. These youths may form retreatist gangs..drug
-Middle-class offenders can be “solved” easier than lower-class gang offenders.
- Youth participated at lower levels and gradually worked their way up to more
“responsible” positions within the criminal organization.
- Agnew proposes 3 forms of strain
-Strain occurs not only when we fail to achieve goals, but also when others take way
from us valued “stimuli” or when we are confronted with unpleasant circumstances.
- Provides a more individualized, social-psychological version of strain theory
- Deviance will occur only when the conditions of strain are coupled with a psychological
state of “negative affect”
- Individuals may attempt to deal with their feelings by instrumental, retaliatory or
- GST argues that strain contributes to motivation to offend.
- High-crime communities are those that attract and retain strained individuals and
continue to keep them in strained conditions conducive to criminal and deviant
- Suggested the GST > CST because it includes a more sophisticated and testable
- GeneralStrainTheoryandWomen - Agnew suggests that interpersonal strain, is even more important among males than
among females...because males are more disturbed by poor peer relations
- Functionalism and strain theory highlight the consequences of deviance
- Functionalism focuses attention on behavior that despite its deviant status is almost
Chapter 8: Functionalists and strain perspectives
· More theoretical and less descriptive than the Chicago school theory
· Focuses on the interrelationships of parts of society with one another and
society as a whole
· Deviance is a natural product of the social order and may even have positive
effects on the system
· Any behavior that persists in the face of strong disapproval must be
contributing in some way to the survival of the system otherwise it would die
· Attempt to show that social conditions are frequently structured in a way that
they unintentionally produce deviance
· Chicago school blames weak structure for permitting deviance, while
functionalists believe the structure produced structural shame that caused
· Subcultural solutions: the combination of repeated strain and opportunity
that police officers all have in common fosters a subculture that supports
behavior some might see as brutal or corrupt
· Strain induced deviance may not always be supported by a subculture
Organic and cybernetic models
· Early functionalists shared with disorganization theorists a view of society as
a super organism
· Every society acts to maintain itself in its environment
· Organic model: if change occurs in an environment the society responds
adaptively to protect itself r even to improve its well-being
· Society may evolve over time through internal development · In this view deviance is like an illness
· Parson’s cybernetic model: society is a homeostatic, self-regulating system
that maintains a balance of its internal parts in the face of a changing
Strategic assumptions of functionalism
· 1st strategy, Functional requirements: each social system if it is to survive
must adapt to its external environment, meet some basic goals, maintain a
minimum level of integration, and replace its members over time , deviance
occurs when the approved means are not met or are poorly integrated
· Society naturally responds by regulating dysfunctional activities
· 2nd strategy: look at deviance that has persisted and try to find what effects
it produces that would explain its contribution to the survival of the system
Functionalism and the survival of experimental social systems
· Continuance: long-lasting groups had mechanisms to ensure that new
members had a stake in the community (nonreturnable investments like time,
rituals, goods etc)
· Cohesion: belonging secured by processes that made members renounce
personal relationships that might interfere with their full commitment to the
group as a whole
· Control: mortifying group members old social self and inducing a new
transcendent identification with the group also fostered commitment.
Achieved through group criticism or public self-criticism
· A part or process of the social system is functional to the extern to which it
contributes to the maintenance of the system
· Saying something is functional does not mean it is good or the best option,
often functional alternatives exist
Manifest and latent functions
· Intended functions are called purposes
· A function is a less obvious process that was discoverable through a
theoretical analysis of specific cases · Merton’s functionalism: Manifest functions are those with visible and
comprehensible consequences, while latent functions are those whose
consequences are less obvious and often unrecognized
· Sometimes a function that is manifest at the outset of a practice gradually
· Early functionalism tended to be panglossian; it assumed that if anything
existed for a long time, it must have a good reason or purpose
· Merton explained dysfunction as occurring when a part or process lessens the
effective equilibrium of a system and contributes to stress or strain instead of
the smooth operation of a whole
Positive consequences of deviance
· Clarification of rules: deviance may cause an unknown or unclear rule to be
stated specifically and clearly
· Testing of rules: although ever society needs rules, it does not follow that all
rules are good. Deviants may break rules to challenge them
· Alternative means of goal attainment: a ladder out of the ghetto for people
with no legitimate job opportunities
· Safety valve: a certain amount of deviance in a society serves as a kind of
safety valve, a timeout from the demands of full conformity.
· Tension and release of solidarity: groups characterized by high tension and
stress regularly seem to find or produce at least one deviant member
· Boundary maintenance: deviance may provoke a response that helps
integrate society, supporting a value that has been violated helps to reinforce
the value and integration of the community
· Scapegoating: a search for scapegoats when things go wrong
· Raising the value of conformity: when the deviance is punished the value of
conformity is enhanced
· Early warning system: deviance serves as early warning system for problems
in the social order
· Protection of vested interests: the criminal justice and mental health
programs depend on the existence of deviance for their survival
Functions of social control · Too much regulation may reduce the learning of self-control and may stifle
creative responses to new situations
· Regulation means giving some people power over others, and this power can
· Regulation intended to reduce one problem may lead to others
· The treatment of deviants may actually reduce their motivation to return to
conformity or even make it impossible
· Gary marx argues that preemptive police actions (dispersing a crowd) may
create deviance such as resisting arrest of disorderly behavior
Deviance at a distance
· Davis calls parson’s ivory tower version of functionalism “deviance at a
distance” because it focuses on social patterns many levels of the
· Gives little consideration to the disruptive, the deviants, the tension-
producing, conflict-generating, and change-inducing factors of human social
· Parsons argues structural changes in occupational system of society have
affected the family in ways that tend to produce male delinquency
· Boys are more likely than girls to engage in antisocial and destructive
· Some systems suppress overt aggression, creating a large reservoir of
aggressive impulses that may pose problems if a channel such as out-group
hostility becomes available to them
Functionalist theory applied to women
· Many females functionalist were to the very limited extent that they
acknowledged gender at all
· Durkheim argued that women belonged in the realm of social family functions
· He believed men belonged in the social realms
Classical strain theory: merton, cohen, and cloward and ohlin
· Merton focused on specific, delimited forms of social behavior: deviance ,
political crime, the social organization of science, propaganda, mass
persuasion etc · Merton’s anomie: the idea of strain between aspirations and expectations in
society, the state of structural strain between the almost universal cultural
goals of the American dream and the much more restricted institutionalized
means of achieving them
· Merton’s strain theory does not challenge the desirability of the American
· It predicts believes deviance is a form of adaptation to the strain that exists
between culturally prescribed aspirations and socially structured avenues for
realizing these aspirations
· He locates the primary cause of deviance as the socialization of individuals in
all social classes to want what only those in privileged social strata can obtain
by non-deviant means
· Mertons anomie is a condition of stress or tension, not of disorganization
· He believes needs are socially created, not inborn
· Merton’s five alternative modes of adaptation to the mean/end relationship
o Conformity: to the rules is most likely adaptation when little strain
exists between goals and means or few alterations, upper-middle class
children with caring parents less likely to deviate than lower class kids
with same goals
o Innovation: covers behavior such as cheating, stealing, or creative
solutions, expected when success is heavily emphasized but much less
attention is given to the means used. Any culture that puts great
emphasis on wealth, power, and prestige but does not at the same
time respect and emphasize the use of legitimate means to attain it, is
likely to have many innovators.
o Ritualism: occurs when the means are accepted but in a manner that is
disconnected from the declared goals
o Retreatism: occurs when the standard social goals and institutionalized
means are both rejected. The retreatist does not bother to cheat
because the goals do not seem worth the trouble. Retreatist has no
alternative agenda, often associated with passive drug use and other
forms of escapism.
o Rebellion: occurs when the goals and means established in the society
come under attack
· A structural explanation of the conditions under which a significant number of
individuals find the adaptations to b preferable choice · His strain theory does not explicitly address individual differences in response
to strain, nor does it focus on differences between males and females or
people from non-western cultures
Albert Cohen and status frustration
· Strain exists between the middle class standards of public school system and
the resources and needs that lower-class boys bring into the classroom
· Gang delinquency is a group solution to status frustration
o Lower-socioeconomic class youth tend to do poorly in school because
of the use of middle-class standards of evaluation
o Poor school performance leads to gang formation, as those who have
been rejected by the system join forces, rely heavily on the peer group
for guidance and on the street as a meeting place
o The function of the gang is to provide an alternative status system in
which its members can enjoy acceptance and success
o The values of the delinquent gang are triumphantly and flagrantly
oppositional to those taught in the schools, they are non-utilitarian,
malicious and negativistic. Characterized by short-run hedonism and
an emphasis on autonomy of the gang
· Cohen believes middle class values are rejected in favor of free rogue values
· some may be able to overcome their disadvantaged position and compete in
the universalistic status system,
· others who are not attracted to the aggressive gang may become corner
boys. They make the best out of their situation and generally temporize with
the middle-class world from which they will eventually seek working class
· Elliot and voss found that delinquency peaked just before school dropout and
Cohen’s strain theory applied to women
· Cohen sees the delinquent boy as an admirable specimen of rogue male
whose masculinity has a certain aura and glamour of romance
· Girls have only one important goal which is to have successful relationships
and marry well
· They do not experience strain in the same way boys do · The delinquent girl is mainly sexually promiscuous, she is not able to succeed
in personal relationships without cheating in this way
Richard cloward, Lloyd ohlin, and differential opportunity theory
· According to cloward and ohlin, learning environments and opportunities are
not equally distributed in the social system
· A persons class, gender ethnicity, and neighbourhood can make access to
particular kinds of deviance or conformity easier or more difficult
· Slum kids have less access to legitimate careers and they also experience
differential access to illegitimate careers
· They see delinquents as performing subcultural delinquent roles, not as
expressing individual psychopathology or engaging in independent deviance
· A criminal pattern of gang behavior is an economic response to strain,
criminal gangs seek monetary gain through crime. Emerges when there is
visible, successful adult criminal activity in the neighbourhood that allows
boys to see a career path toward criminal success. No purposeless crime.
· Conflict form of gang emerges when the neighbourhood lacks a stable
pattern of adult criminal behavior , or when youths do not mix with older
criminals. They gain reputation through violence and the intimidation of
· Double failures: unable to take advantage in the legal or illegal world
· Retreatist gangs: dominated by escapist activities such as drug use
· Middle-class offender is more amenable to individualized forms of control or
therapy in which parents can provide, the lower class member cannot readily
be reached by individualistic solutions but rather needs to be uprooted from
the culture to be cured
· Spergel and racket neighbourhood: juvenile delinquency was linked to
organized crime through such operations as loan-sharking. Youths
participated at lower levels are gradually worked their way up to more
responsible positions in organized crime
· Many antipoverty programs failed because they did not cope well with turf
wars and came up against powerful vested interests
General strain theory · Agnew: three forms of strain, when we fail to achieve goals, when others take
away from us valued stimuli, and when we are confronted with unpleasant
· Negative circumstances alone do not translate into deviant action
· Will occur only when the conditions of strain are coupled with a psychological
state of negative affect by instrumental, retaliatory, or escapist behavior
· Classifies social strain into four categories: negative peer relations, negative
teacher relations, low grades, general dissatisfaction with school
· General strain theory: strain contributes to motivation to offend. High-crime
communities are those that attract and retain strained individuals and
continue to keep them in strained conditions conducive to criminal deviant
General strain theory and women
· Interpersonal strain is more important among males than females
· Four ideas: male and females experience different kinds of strain, have
differing subjective interpretation of strain, have differing emotional reactions
to strain, may differ in propensity to translate their feelings about strain into
· Social support is an important buffer that appears to moderate women’s
responses to strain, it is held disproportionately by women
Chapter 9: Subcultural and social learning theories of deviance
· Subcultural Theories – explain deviance as behaviour or ideas that are produced in
subcultures and transmitted by learning.
· Some of these theories focus on characteristics that make particular subcultures more likely
than others to produce deviance. In such cases, deviance is blamed on the beliefs and patterns
of the subculture, whether it is ethnic, occupational, leisure, age-groups or class subcultures.
· Other theories focus on the process of learning, arguing that deviance is a learned behaviour.
· Culture – Tyler defines culture as that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art,
morals, law, customs and many and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society. it is a composite of our learned ways of thinking and behaving.
· Some cultures are dominant and have enough power to impose their norms and values on
majority of people in the society. Others are subcultures that coexist with but differ from the
mainstream. · Subcultures often involve values and norms, either a result of collective resolution of strain
or simply a product of differential history, that are considered deviant by the wider cultures.
· Argot: This subculture is often characterized by the use of an insider language. Particularly
true when the subculture is ethnic or an oppositional subculture, but also applies to mixed
groups such as, computer subcultures. Leetspeak – elite language used by gamers/hackers.
Such language is a sign of insider status and a way of keeping unfriendly outsiders from
knowing the group’s business.
· Vocabularies of Motive: includes justifications and excuses for behaviours that serve to
neutralize the demands of the dominant cultures. Gang members see gang behaviour as
brave, heroic. White-collar criminal may believe government laws are ill advised.
· Distinctive clothing and body language often mark subcultures. The gay
community on 1970s used elaborate code of signals.
· Subcultures may be characterized by beliefs and norms that diverge from the
mainstream. But considerable variations may exist in a particular subculture. Therefore, it
will be incorrect to see every member of that subculture as a mindless follower of its dictates.
Many factors could lead them to interpret their worlds in their own way and behave
· Some subcultures are developed through repeated contacts and maintained in mutually
supporting networks. It is difficult to cure a deviant who derives his deviance from
participating in a subculture. It could lead the deviant to depend even more on the subculture
for physical, material and psychological needs. It is particularly true of the countercultures
whose norms are the mirror image of the cultural norms of the mainstream society. The
person’s behaviour is not likely to change unless the group changes or the individual leaves
Ethnic and Racial Subcultures:
· Cultural differences can play a role in deviance.
· Such differences need to be recognized by the authorities but not allowed to prevent
awareness that limits to cultural explanations exist.Although a particular group has higher
rate id drug abuse than another, it is probable that most of the members of that group do not
use drugs. So if the group is required to take urine tests, it will not stop deviance. It will feed
public prejudice against the group. Therefore, police need to be aware of how subcultural
differences will affect police-citizen interactions.
· Stereotypes exaggerate cultural deviance and treat whole groups as deviant. Various groups
in Canada have been targeted in this way for their assumed involvement for certain forms of
· These stereotypes are poor representations of the real behaviour of most members of the
group. Also, attention is diverted from the wrongdoings of the people who are not part of that
group. Also it becomes harder for the targeted people to have a fair hearing.
· ElijahAnderson – began ethnographic study of the life of black youths in inner city
Philadelphia in 1970s. Her findings:
a) Decent and street people alike learn to use or be used by the “code of the streets”.
b) Abandoned by protective law enforcement and decent jobs, they think that violence is the
only way of survival and gain respect. c) The street code comes with its own rules, language, dress code, hierarchy.
d) This culture strengthened by accessibility of guns and drugs.
e) Current socioeconomic trends have led to undermining of good social roles set by ‘decent
daddy’, grandmothers in the past which stabilized the society.
f) Predators and families mixed together make it difficult for outsiders to identify them as
· Due to the stereotypes innocents are convicted.
· Case of Donald Marshall – 17 yr old Micmac Native. Convicted of murdering a black youth.
Sentenced to life imprisonment. Found not guilty after 10 yrs in prison.Aroyal commission
of inquiry found that there was serious miscarriage of justice – grossly improper police
procedures, process tainted by racism to the highest level. Police conduct inadequate,
incompetent and unprofessional. Prosecution, defence, judges behaved in a manner that was
not constant with his rights to equal justice before the law. In jail, Marshall adapted inmate
code and subculture of drugs etc, and had great difficulty returning to normal life after
· Objective – to be impenetrable to outsiders, especially adults.
· Not rigid, do not have stable boundaries.
· Youth subcultures main arise out of strain or simply out of gathering together and segregation
of large numbers of young people in schools and leisure activities.
· Characteristics shared by these subcultures in western societies:
a) Based on leisure more often than on work or family.
b) Tend to be organized around peer group rather than around individual friends, family or
c) Usually focused more on style than on political or social ideology.
· Brake divided youth cultures into 4 groups – respectable youth (involved in socially
approved activities), delinquent youth, cultural rebels, and politically militant youths. There
is also good deal of movement between some groups. Respectable youth sometimes
participate in tagging and piecing that expresses their subcultural identities.
· Youth subculture further divided by variations based on gender class, ethnicity, nationality,
· Punk: difference b/w English and Canadian ‘Punk’subcultures.
a) In England subcultures are a result of strain in educational and employment systems.
Educational streaming channels some people towards boring, over supervised and poorly
paid occupations. Hence, they form a subculture and attract other alienated individuals.
b) In Canada, two forms – original generic punk rockers (punk is only fashion for them) &
“gutter punks” who are basically street kids.
c) Due to less clear cut social class delineation of youths in Canada, punk is more a matter
of style and shared activities when compared with status lines in Britain and income
inequality in US.
d) Unclear why Britain produces a punk culture.
e) Deselection conditions in US produces street elite fighting gangs.
f) In Canada – reluctant rebels.
· Straight Edgers: also known as sXs kids, emerged in 1980s within the punk rock
movement on the east coast US. a) Is distinctive in its militant opposition to drug and sex.
b) Boundaries for members.
c) Challenged by the darker side – goth and grunge.
d) Hate edgers – use violence against those less pure than themselves.
e) Like punk, straight edge music pay lip service to gender equality, but men vastly
outnumber women, so inclusiveness is not achieved.
· Graffiti: main activities associated – tagging and piecing.
a) Tagging – writing of stylized version of individual’s subcultural nickname or tag., or the
tag of the crew to which the individual belongs. The latter form is a claim to territory or
dominance and can lead to violence.
b) Piecing – elite form of graffiti, painting of large murals.
· Cross-culture influences strongly affect youth subcultures. Element that is a solution to a
problem in one country or area may be adopted as a fashion statement or a consumer culture
variant in another.
· Prostitution, thieving, gambling and drug trafficking all develop their own subcultures, which
are in part a reaction to the dominant respectable culture and expression of common
problems and experiences that cannot be shared with outsiders.
· Prostitutes – in their subculture, they see their role as equal or superior to women who marry
for money or security. This subculture also supports the view that prostitution is better work
than low paid, insecure jobs that often involve sexual harassment.
· Mars divides occupations into – hawk, donkey, wolf pack and vulture types.
· Hawks – found in occupations that emphasize individuality, competition, corner-cutting
autonomy such as professionals and business entrepreneurs.
· Donkeys – found in jobs characterized by isolation and subordination (supermarket cashier).
Their deviance – excessive sickness, absenteeism, cheating at cash register, sabotaging
· Wolves – traditional working class occupations e.g. mining, where work is organized into
teams. Team work is important for success and security.
· Vultures – travelling sales representatives, driver deliverers, and others with considerable
freedom and discretion during the workday.
· Mars emphasized that cause of deviance is the behaviour enforced by the workgroup
themselves, not the anarchic behaviour of bad apples.
Lower-class gang subcultures:
· Walter Miller – male juvenile gangs are a by-product of the lower socioeconomic class’s core
culture. Unlike strain theorists, miller does not see the delinquent subculture as an
oppositional response to strain.
· Unique in boasting a ‘distinctive tradition many centuries old with integrity of its own’.
· There are six focal concerns: become part of their subcultures when low class youths form
a) Trouble – individuals are evaluated in terms of their actual and potential involvement in
b) Toughness – importance given to physical prowess, skill, fearlessness, and daring.
Women are treated as objects of conquest. c) Smartness – Street smarts not intelligence.
d) Excitement – most lower class work boring, so this puts premium on thrills and
excitement. This can lead to run ins with the police or high risk or high reward projects
e) Fate – more likely to see future as a matter of fate.
f) Autonomy – express ambivalent feelings toward autonomy. Lower class males associate
being externally controlled with being cared for and frequently test authority to see
whether it is firm.
· Two additional focal concerns in the gang milieu:
a) Belonging – concern about obtaining good membership in good standing
b) Status – concerned about being respected.
Edwin Sutherland and differential association (DA):
· Differentially associated are not people but definitions. Definitions are normative meanings
assigned to behaviour. They define an action as right or wrong. They can be nonverbal
expressions of approval or disapproval.
· Most of us exposed to both kinds of definitions.
· DAattempts to explain conformity as well as deviance. It explains how we become who we
· Sutherland presented this theory in a series of 9 propositions:
a) Criminal behaviour is learned.
b) An individual learns criminality through interaction and communication with others.
c) The kind of interaction that matters most takes place within small, intimate groups.
d) What is learned in intimate interaction includes both technique of crime and the motives
e) The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes
as favourable or unfavourable.
f) The ratio of favourable to unfavourable “definitions” of the law as communicated within
the group is determinant of criminal behaviour.
g) Certain variables affect the impact of favourable and unfavourable definitions. These
variable are – frequency (likely to be influenced by the ideas of a person or group we
associate with frequently), duration, priority (associations formed early in life more
fundamental than those formed later in life), intensity (strength of association).
h) Learning criminal behaviour is just like any other kind of learning. Only difference is
what is learned not how it is learned. Criminals are normal people who have learned the
i) The criminal is not exceptional in what he or she wants. People in legal occupations are
in it for the money just as thieves and prostitutes.
· Thus for Sutherland, explanation for deviance is found in what people learn. Companies and
their personnel see their actions as ‘just business’when violating laws.
Ronald Akers and social structure and social learning theory (SSSL):
· Akers argues that social behavior is acquired through psychological process of operant
conditioning and through imitation and modelling.
· Deviant behaviour becomes dominant in specific situations due to differential reinforcement. · This theory provides more scope for learning from vicarious experience and identification,
but it is otherwise consistent with Sutherland’s approach.
· Deviance is more likely to result if an individual associates with deviants who commit
deviant acts, model them and support the behaviour.
· Small, intimate groups in which learning takes place are important because people we like,
respect and spend time with, control our most important supply of reinforcement.
· Social structures also matter as they affect the probability that individuals will be exposed to
deviant behaviours. Thus the theory includes variables such as race, religion, and
· When a person attacks another, he/she
a) Has experienced incidents of similar nature that have been rewarding.
b) Is not controlled by strong moral injunctions against violence.
c) Has learned violent patterns of thought and actions.
· One implication of the theory is that violent people can be taught to recognize and alter the
thoughts that provoke their violent behaviour.
· Like Sutherland, Akers developed a theory that has little to say about structured gender
differences and their impact on the likelihood of exposure to definitions favourable to deviant
Social learning theory and TV violence:
· Three classes of effects:
a) Aggression – attractive rather than unattractive are likely to be intimidated. Justified
violence is more likely to be followed, as is violence that is rewarded by adulation and
victory. Boys are more likely to respond to TV violence than girls as they are more likely
to interpret TV violence as real, exciting and correct.
b) Desensitization – people have become much more habituated to violence. However, it is
not clear whether it is a reason for callous or violent behaviour. People watching violent
programs do not usually commit violence following their entertainment.
c) Fear – children report higher levels of fear when setting is realistic and depiction is
graphic rather than when violence is part of a fantasy world. This fear is lessened by
maturation and possibly by desensitization.
Gresham Sykes, David Matza, and neutralization theory:
· Neutralization theory fits well in combination with learning theory but also fits well with
interaction theory and control theory.
· Sykes and Matza note that most delinquents are not deviant all the time. They often
participate along with non-delinquents in many conventional activities and respect role
· So it cannot be said that they are deviant as they are associated with a deviant subculture as
they do have attachments to the predominant forms of society.
· Delinquents drift b/w conventionality and deviance.
· They use following neutralization techniques to excuse their actions:
a) Denial of responsibility
b) Denial of injury
c) Denial of or blaming the victim
d) Condemnation of the condemners e) Appeal to higher loyalties
g) Everybody does it
· Paul Cromwell and Quint Thurman add two more neutralizations – justification by
comparison (shoplifting lesser evil of two or more choices) & postponement (just don’t think
· According to Scott and Lyman “accounts” are stories that we use to account for our
behaviour. The two categories are – excuses and justifications. Scully and Marolla’s study
showed the use of excuses and justifications by rapists in order to diminish responsibility and
make their behaviour seem acceptable.
· Moshe Hazani explained neutralization theory to include the idea that each subcultures
provide “symbols banks” that are used by deviants to formulate approved accounts.
· Research shows that the theory is most effective when applied to middle-class, white-collar
offenders than to most juvenile delinquents; at least with respect to neutralizations that
conform to the theory by acting on behaviour before rather than after it occurs.
· The stand-up guy or right guy in the street or jail is the one that does not use excuses, does
not justify behaviour and does not respect people who do so.
· Alternate evidence shows that white-collar criminals justify criminal acts they are about to
· According to Cressey, in the absence of such culturally approved rationalizations, they would
not have committed such acts. Companies should protect themselves by attacking roots of
Chapter 10: Interaction Theories
· Deviance is a human creation; a social construction that emerges out of interaction,
becomes real and affects subsequent events
o Deviance is a part of social construction
· Interaction theories focus on the interpretation (social meaning) given to behvaiour and
on the way such interpretation helps to construct the social world, the identities of people
and how they behave
· Interaction theories focus on the communication aspects of interaction, whether verbal or
· Different from absolutist theories
o Deviance is relative to the judgments made by others and often on the basis of
characteristics of the social actors and the situation/context in which it is judged
· Main characteristics of Interaction theories
o All interaction theories are concerned with the way meaning is constructed
o Most interaction theories pay little eattention to norm-violating acts that are not
remarked on by observers or treated by the deviant as a permanent part of his or
Primary deviance: unnoticed
Secondary deviance: noticed and reacted to
Tertiary deviance: noticed or sought
o All interaction theories are sequential o All interaction theories deal to some degree implicitly or explicitly, with the idea
o Most theorists in the interaction paradigm engage in “underdog sociology”
o Most interaction theorists are tacitly supportive of the deviants they study
Early Interaction Theory
George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)
· Associated with the Chicago School
· Framework for understanding how the social self is created in interaction, sometimes
known as the the I and the me
· “I” is independent of particular situations and a receptive “me” that is situated and
· The self can have many “me” parts (ie. as a parent, friend, etc)
· Shape of the me= mirrors of the self
· Individuals can react in one of the three ways when the “me” gets affected
o Accept the situation
o Attempt to change the messages by presenting a new image to the world
o Challenge the reflection by questioning its accuracy
Symbolic Interaction Theory
· Symbolic interactionism emphasizes how meaning emerges in social interaction, how the
social self is produced in socialization and influenced
Societal Reaction Theory
· Emphasizes when, under what circumstances, and how social responses are formulated
· Deviance is the process whereby members of the society interpret a behaviour as deviant,
define people who engage in it (or seem to) as deviant, and then treat them in whatever
way they have deemed appropriate to that class of deviant
· Societal reaction theorists focus on the agencies of social control and how factors may
influence the issue of who is treated as a deviant and under what conditions
· Central concept of societal reaction approach is social distance
o Bogardus scale, finds that particular kinds of deviants are not welcome to share
the same planet
· Originates from Howard Becker idea
· “The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour
is behaviour that people so label”
Frank Tannenbaum and the Dramatization of Evil · Dramatization of evil
o “the making of the criminal…is a process of tagging, defining, identifying,
segregating, describing, suggesting, emphasizing, making conscious and self-
conscious; it becomes a way of stimulating, suggesting emphasizing and evoking
the very traits that are complained of”
· Also known as “deviance amplication effect”
· He believed that policing of juveniles was actually causing crime rather than reducing it
Edwin Lemert: Primary and Secondary Deviance
· Primary deviance
o Unnoticed or neutralized/rationalized by others or the self, is situationally induced
and not part of the self- image
· Secondary deviance
o Result of labels and sanctions;