Theories that explain crime by examining the structure of society are only one of three major sociological approaches to crime causation. The other two are social process theories and social conflict approaches. Although sociological perspectives on crime causation are diverse, most build upon the principles of, social groups, social institutions, the arrangements of society, group dynamics, subgroups relationships, the structure of society and its relative degree of organization or disorganization, and the statistical estimates of group characteristics that specific types of crime.
Sociological theories is a group of perspectives that focus on the nature of the power relationships that exist between social groups and on the influences that various social phenomena bring to bear on the types of behaviors that tend to characterize groups people. Sociological theories analyze institutional arrangements within society that is social structure and the interaction among social institutions, individuals, and groups (social processes) as they affect socialization and have an impact on social behavior (social life).
Sociological theories examine he nature of existing power relationships between social groups and focus on the influences that various social phenomena bring to bear on the types of behaviors that tend to characterize groups of people. In contrast to more individualized psychological theories, which what is called a “micro” focus, sociological approaches utilize a “macro” perspective, stressing the type of behavior likely to be exhibited by group members rather than attempting to predict the behavior of specific individuals.
All sociological perspectives on crime share the same characteristics; certain theories give more or less weight to various components of social life. There are three key sociological explanations for crime. First, crime is the result of an individual’s location within the structure of society. This approach focuses on the social/economic conditions of life.
The primary features of social structure theories are poverty, alienation, social disorganization, weak social control, personal frustration, differential opportunity; alternative means to success, deviant subculture, subculture values that conflict with conventional values. Secondly, crime is the end product of various social processes, especially inappropriate socialization and social learning.
The primary characteristics of social process theories and social development theories are interpersonal relationships, the strength of the social bond, a lack of selfcontrol, and the personal and group consequences of societal reactions to deviance as they contribute to crime. Lastly, Crime is the product of class struggle. This perspective emphasizes the nature of existing power relationships between social groups, the distribution of wealth within society, the ownership of the means of production, and the economic and social structure of society as it relates to social class and social control.
These are the primary features of conflict theories. Social structure theories suggest people’s places in the socioeconomic structure influence their chances of becoming a criminal. Poor people are more likely to commit crimes because they are unable to achieve monetary or social success in any other way. Social disorganization, strain, and cultural deviance theories are the three social structure theory schools of thought.
Structural theories predict that negative aspects of societal structures, such as disorganizations within family, poverty or income inequality with the economic arrangements of society, and disadvantages brought about by lack of success for some in the educational process, produce criminal behavior. Social structure theories assert that disadvantaged economic class position is a primary cause of crime. Economics and disenfranchisement are fundamental causes of crime.
Environmental influences, socialization, and traditional and accepted patterns of behavior are all used by social structuralists to portray the criminal as a product of his or social environment. The three major types of social structure theories are social disorganization theory, strain theory, and culture conflict theory. Disorganization theory describes conflict, change and the lack of consensus, as the main cause of deviance and crime.
During the 1900’s some of the communities were looked at enclaves of larger prospering communities. It was not hard to discern that in the area where displaced people dwelled crime was higher which led to a status of social disorganizations. The inability of the immigrants to successfully instill values for their homeland to their new homes in America added social conflict. Sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) believed that crime was a normal part of all societies and that law was a symbol of social solidarity.
In the 1920s and 1930s through their work at the University of Chicago, developed what is known as social ecology. Social ecology may be broadly defined as the study of the social and behavioral consequences of the interaction between human beings and their environment. It specifically explores the causes and consequences of the interaction between human beings and their environment. Ecological models build upon an organic analogy and it is easy to portray social disorganization as a disease or pathology.
Social pathology was as human actions which runs contrary to the ideals of residential stability, property ownership, sobriety, thrift, habituation to work, small business enterprise, sexual discretion, family solidarity, neighborliness and discipline of will. The term referred simply to behavior not in keeping with the prevalent norms and values of the social group. The greatest contribution the ecological school made to criminological literature can be found in its claim that society, in the form of the community, wields a major influence on human behavior.
Ecological investigators were able to show that life experience varied from one location to another and that personal involvement in crime had a strong tendency to be associated with place of residence. Ecological approaches to crime causation has found a modern rebirth in the criminology of place. The criminology of place also known as environmental criminology is a perspective that emphasizes the importance of geographic location and architectural features as they are associated with the prevalence of victimization.
Hot spots of areas can include very small units of analysis such as buildings or addresses, block faces, or street segments, or bigger units such as clusters of addresses, block faces, or street segments. The ecological approach is clearly not an adequate explanation for all crime, nor for all types of crime. The Strain theory is defined as the strain and stress that people feel when trying to reach social goals in any class or level in society.
Strain theory is also defined as delinquency in the form of adaptive problem solving behavior in response to undesirable social environments. The goals that are deemed acceptable in a functioning of society are personal happiness, status, and wealth. These goals should be obtained through saving, hard work, and receiving a good education. When these goals are not met in a way acceptable by society is when crime and deviance increased leading individuals to feel the strain and attempt to find other ways to be successful.
People not equipped with the tools necessary to acquire or reach acceptable goals are the main people that end up possibly leading a life of deviant and criminal behavior. Robert K. Merton, who developed the concept of anomie meaning normlessness, uses the term as a disjunction between socially approved means to success and legitimate goals. Merton maintained that legitimate goals, involving such thing as wealth, status, and personal happiness are generally portrayed as desirable for everyone.
The acceptable means to these goals, including education, hard work, and financial savings, are not equally available to all members of society. As a consequence, crime and deviance tend to arise as alternative means to success when individuals feel the strain of being pressed to in a socially approved ways but find that the tools necessary for such success are not available to them.
Merton mode of adaptation is conformity signifies acceptance of goals that society holds as legitimate for everyone, innovation form arises when an emphasis on approved goal achievement combines with a lack of opportunity to participate fully in socially acceptable means to success, and ritualism describes the form of behavior that arises when members of society participate in socially desirable means but show little interest in goal achievement, retreatism is the behavior of those who reject both the socially approved and means.
They become drop-outs, drug dealers, and homeless, and rebellion is a person who wants to replace social approved goals and means with some other system. The third ingredient of the social structure is the Culture Conflict Theory. This theory is also known as the cultural deviance theory. This can be defined as the “social clash” between the different social groups when looking at what is described as acceptable and proper behavior. Two types of culture conflicts exists; the primary conflict and the secondary conflict.
The primary conflict is regarded as the clash between cultures while the secondary conflict takes place when values of smaller culture belonging to a larger culture clash. The subculture theory is in reference to a smaller group of people within a larger group. The larger group might be the poverty stricken lower class society, and a sub culture to the larger group might be a smaller group such as the gangs that plague or cities and streets.
Another category of the cultural conflict theory is the “delinquency and drift”. This category describes the whys and how delinquents and criminals commit law breaking acts and their justification for the apparent lack of guilt for committing those crimes. There are five types of justifications: (1) Denying responsibility, backgrounds as well as upbringings are said to be the reasons for committing crime.