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Chapter 8

Ch. 8 Sociological Theories

Course Code
CRIM 101
Bryan Kinney

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Sociological Theories
-Sociological approaches utilize a “macro” perspective stressing behavioural tendencies for
group members, rather than attempting to predict the behaviour of specific individuals.
-Three key sociological explanations for crime are identified:
1. Crime is a result of an individual’s location within the structure of society.
2. Crime is the end product of various social processes, especially inappropriate
socialization and social learning.
3. Crime is the product of class struggle.
Chapter 8 : Social Structural Perspective
-Major Principles of Social Structural Perspective.
1. Social groups, social institutions, the arrangements of society, and social roles all provide the
proper focus for criminological study.
2. Group dynamics, group organization, and subgroup relationships form the causal nexus out of
which crime develops.
3. The structure of society and its relative degree of organization or disorganization, are
important factors contributing to the prevalence of criminal behaviour.
Social stru cture theories :
Explain crime by reference to various aspects of the social fabric. They emphasize relationships
among social institutions and describe the types of behaviour that tend to characterize groups of
people as opposed to individual. There are 3 types of social structure theories: ecological
theories, strain theories, and culture conflict theories
1. Social Ecology:
An approach to criminological theorizing that attempts to link the structure and organization of
the human community to interactions with its localized
environment. Examines demographic and geographic aspects of groups.
2 . Strain Theory.
A sociological approach, which posits a disjuncture between socially and subculturally
sanctioned means and goals, as the cause of criminal behaviour.
a) Strain theory (Merton)
-Holds that crime is a means of problem-solving behaviour committed by individuals
who experience a frustration in achieving socially acceptable goals using conventional
means. Identified a number of modes of adaptation to relieve the strain between goals
and means including:
a. conformity - typifies most middle- and upper-class individual
b. innovation - results when an emphasis on approved goal achievement combines with a
lack of opportunity to participate in socially accepted means
c. ritualism - arises when members of society participate in socially desirable means but
show little interest in goal achievement
d. rebellion - people who wish to replace socially approved goals and means with other
b) Differential Opportunity (Cloward & Ohlin, 1960)
-Used the term illegitimate opportunity structure to describe pre-existing cultural paths to
success that are not approved by the wider culture. Delinquent behaviour may result
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