Criminological Theories

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Woodsworth College Courses
Scot Wortley

Classical Criminology: Crime occurs when the benefits outweigh the costs- when people pursue self-interest in the absence of effective punishment. Crime is a matter of free-will. (Punishment should be certain, swift & severe) Positivist Criminology: People have limited free will & the little that you do have will be controlled by the environment you’re in. Crime is caused or determined b/c ppl are born a blank slate. Relies on science & empirical data. Rational Choice Theory: Crime is influenced by its costs & benefits (its rationality). It will be more likely deterred if the costs are raised & if they are certain and immediate. Ppl can learn about costs/benefits through direct experiences w/punishment or indirectly by observing other criminals. They will avoid punishment. Routine Activities Theory: Crime is a product of a convergence of a motivated offender, suitable target & lack of guardians. Ppl’s daily activities can affect the likelihood that they will be a target. Changes in routines in society can also affect crime (women going to work). Biological Theories: Genetic and psychological make-up contributes significantly to human/criminal behaviour. Mental processes learning abilities, impulsivity, etc. all affect criminal behaviour & they differ by individual. Evolutionary Theories: Genetic and psychological factors interact with the environment to produce crime. (Reproduction, etc.) Social Disorganization Theory: Disorganized communities (poverty, etc.) cause crime b/c informal social controls break down and a criminal culture emerges. They lack collective efficacy to fight crime and disorder. Social Ecology School: crime is caused by community deteriorate, high unemployment, weak social controls & a lack of social altruism (lack of care for your neighbors) Anomie Theory: Communities that have high crime have lost control over people’s values, goals & desires. There is a gap btw the American Dream’s goal of economic success and the opportunities to obtain this goal create structural strain. Norms weaken and “anomie” ensues, creating high crime rates. Institutional Anomie: when institutional imbalance exists, the crime rate is very high. Strain Theory: social adaptations to the gap between culturally defined goals & the socially accepted means of achieving them. When ppl cant obtain success goals, they experience strain. Under these conditions, they are likely to respond to this strain through crime. Relative Deprivation: When you have populations that are poor living in close proximity to populations that are rich, the poor begin to compare themselves relative to the rich and then engage in crime. Cultural Deviance: ppl who were denied access to normal routes of success will develop a new way to find success, and over time these values are passed down & become integrated in certain communities. Differential Opportunities: legitimate & illegitimate opportunities are not equally distributed across society. Criminal activities reflect these opportunities. Social Learning Theories: Idea that criminal behaviour, techniques & motives are produced through a learning process involving human interactions. Differential Association: criminal behaviour is learned just like conventional behaviour, within social groups. A person becomes deviant when they experience more favourable than unfavourable definitions towards crime. These definitions vary according to frequency, duration, intensity and priority. Interaction w/anti-social peers is also an important contribution. Differential Reinforcement: Ppl commit crimes b/c they have learned to balance the costs & benefits. They use
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