Crime and Deviance Key Theorists

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  • Created on: 22-12-12 22:41

Biological/Psychological Explanation of Crime & De

Lombrosso (1876): Biological Explanation

  • Italian criminologist
  • Founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology
  • Believed a person's physical characteristics could determine their level of criminality.

Bowlby (1946): Psychological Explanation

  • Maternal Deprivation-Believed that if a child was deprived of a loving relationship with their mother, a psychopathic personality could develop.
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Howard Becker (1963): Labelling Theory

  • Believed that there is no such thing as a deviance act.
  • Once an individual is labelled negatively, others see them only in terms of that label.
  • This label becomes a 'master status'.
  • This may produce a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the individual sees themselves in terms of the label, and becomes the label.

Cooley: Looking Glass Self

  • We build our identity primarily as a result of how others act and respond towards us.
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Jock Young (1971): Labelling and Marijuana Users

  • Police viewed hippies as 'dirty, lazy drug addicts'.
  • Police action against marijuana users unites them and makes them feel different.
  • This results in them retreating into small groups.
  • Police react more strongly to the deviancy that they have helped to create.
  • Deviant sub-culture evolves and deviant self-concepts are reinforced. This creates difficulty for the group to return to conventional society.
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Lemert (1972): Societal Reaction-The cause of deviance

  • Looked at stuttering which was common amongst a Native American group living on the Pacific coast.
  • Public speaking was highly regarded amongst this group.
  • He believed that any sign of a speech defect was met with such horror that it actually caused the stuttering.
  • The primary deviance of the speech defect was not that important, it was the secondary deviance i.e. the response to the speech defect, which was important and actually led to thr stuttering.
  • Primary Deviance-The act before it is labelled as deviant.
  • Secondary Deviance-The public's reaction to the act.
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Goffman: Interactions in institutions

  • Was concered with how through a series of interaction, pressure is placed upon inmates to accept the institution's definition of themselves. i.e. their label.
  • Spent one year observing interaction in a mental institution in Washington D.C.
  • Believed that one's self-concept changed because one was away from friends and family.
  • Mortifying experience-the lack of freedom of movement and inability to make decisions.
  • On release, many have accepted the definition of themselves as being failures. Some become institutionalised and are unable to function in the outside world.
  • The effects are not usually lasting, but there is a period of disculturation.
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Role of the Mass Media in constructing crime & dev

Stanley Cohen (1972): Mods and Rockers

  • Studied the fighting between the Mods and Rockers in 1964.
  • Journalists exaggerated the fighting between the Mods and Rockers, which led to a media moral panic.
  • Journalists found themselves short of 'hard' news reports, and distorted the events.
  • The newspaper reportings influenced the police and magistrates. As the police had become 'sensitised' by the media, they reacted at the slightest hint of trouble.
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Role of the mass media in constructing crime & dev

McRobbie & Thornton (1995): Criticism of Media Moral Panics

  • Suggested that Cohen's idea of moral panics is an outdated idea due to; Frequency, Context, Reflexivity, Difficulty & Rebound.
  • Frequency-There is an increased amount of moral panics, so people are no longer panicked.
  • Context-Society is too fragmented, so it is harder to apply a moral panic.
  • Reflexitivity-People create moral panics for publicity.
  • Difficulty-Definitions of what is good and what is bad is different for different people.
  • Rebound-People are reluctant to create moral panics, for fear of it rebounding.
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Role of the media in constructing crime & deviance

Miller & Reilly (1994): Media as 'moral crusaders'

  • See some media moral panics as being used to soften up public opinion and thus act as a form of 'ideological social control'.
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Traditional Marxism


  • Argues that capitalism causes class inequalities in; wealth, income, poverty, unemployment and homelessness.


  • The law is an ideological state apparatus which makes sure it remains normal to have some that are obscenely wealthy and others that are obscenelt poor.

Chambliss (1978): Study of Seattle, 1962-1972

  • Suggests that the ruling class is an integral part of the criminal world.
  • Found that there was a link between the ruling class and the Mafia in Seattle.
  • However, most of the arrests made were due to drunkenness. Therefore, the law was not applied to those with power.
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Traditional Marxism

Pearce (1978):

  • Argued that many laws which appear to benefit only the working-class, in reality, benefit the ruling class too. e.g. factory legislation.

Snider (1993): Big corporations benefit from the legal system.

  • The capitalist state is often reluctant to pass laws that threaten the profitability of large businesses.
  • Capitalist states often use vast sums to attract investments from big corporations.
  • They offer new investors; tax concessions, cheap loans, grants, build infrastructures to help capitalism.
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Neo Marxism

Taylor, Walton & Young (1973): The New Criminology

  • Believe that crime is a voluntary act.
  • Crime has a political motive, for example, to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor.
  • Criminals are deliberately striving to change capitalism.
  • Aim for a 'Fully Social Theory of Deviance' which aims to understand the meanings and motives of the criminal act and the public's reaction to the act.

Paul Gilroy: Conscious deviance among ethnic minority groups

  • Crimes committed by ethnic minorities is a conscious and deliberate act to oppression and racism which they experience.
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Neo Marxism

Brake (1980): Marxist Subcultural

  • Joining subcultures offers 'magical solutions' to the problems of urban decay, low wages and unemployment.
  • These factors lead to anger, frustration and marginalisation.

Hall & Jefferson (1976): Marxist Subcultural

  • Young people cannot articulate their anger at the capitalist system.
  • They express themselves through subcultures i.e. their dress.
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Left Realism

Kinsey, Lea & Young (1984):

  • Aim to provide solutions for policymakers.
  • Identified a number of problems with contemporary policing.
  • Belived the police too often resort to 'military policing' which alienates the community from them.
  • They argue that to improve this relationship, the pubic should have more of a say in shaping police policy.
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White Collar Crime

Edwin Sutherland (1940):

  • Defined white collar crime as "Crimes committed by persons of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupations."

Pearce: Differences in power

  • Argues laws governing corporate crime and the enforcement of them, reflect the inequalities in society.
  • Those that own the companies are the ruling class who ensure that laws reflect their interests.

Tombs & Whyte: Media representations of crime

  • Corporate crimes are rarely considered newsworthy as they are dull and have no clear victims.
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White Collar Crime

Tombs: Lack of research

  • Points out that the British government spend a lot of money yearly finding out about general crime, but don't do the same for corporate crime.

Conklin: Economic impact in the USA

  • Cost of conventional crime=4 billion.
  • Cost of corporate crime=40 billion.

Carson: Loss of Life

  • Studied the loss of life in the exploration for oil in the North Sea, which resulted from a lack of concern about the safety of the workers-Piper Alpha Oil Rig Disaster=168 people died.
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White Collar Crime

Gross: Explaining Corporate Crime-Personality based explanations

  • Successful business people share similar personalities e.g. ambitious.

Sutherland-Explaining Corporate Crime- Differential Association

  • The culture of the organisation may justify committing dubious acts inorder to achieve the organisation goals.

Ditton (1977) & Mars (1982): Explaining Occupational Crime

  • Many employers thought it was a 'perk' of the job and legitimate to steal from their workplace.
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Gender & Crime

Frances Heidensohn (1989):

  • Women are ignored in sociological research due to; male dominance of offenders, male domination of sociology, vicarious identification and sociological theorising.

Talcott Parsons (1955):

  • Differences in the gender roles in the conventional nuclear family such as men taking the instrumental breadwinner role and women taking the expressive role can lead to crime and deviance.
  • Boys seek to distance themselves from such models by engaging in 'compensatory compulsory masculinity'.
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Gender & Crime

Sandra Walklate (2003):

  • Criticised Parsons for assuming that because women have the biological capacity to bear children, they are best suited to child-rearing.

Pollack: Chivalry Thesis

  • Some argue women are more deviant that they appear but they are protected by a 'chivalry factor' by police anc courts.

Leonard (1982):

  • Challenges the chivalry thesis, by pointing out that bad women are treated more harshly than some men.
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Gender & Crime

Freda Adler (1975): Liberation Thesis

  • Argued that female crime rate was increasing and that this increase was due to women's liberation.

Chesney-Lind (1997): Criticism of the Liberation Thesis

  • In the USA, poor and marginalised women are more likely than liberated women to be criminals.

Betsy Stank (2000): Women as Victims

  • Found an act of domestic violence is committed every 6 seconds in Britain.
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Gender & Crime

James Messerschmidt (1993):

  • Argues there is a hegemonic masculinity, which males have to constantly work at.
  • Sees crime and deviance as resources that different men may use to accomplish masculinity.
  • White middle-class males commit white collar crime anc corporate crime to achieve hegemonic masculinity.
  • Poorer groups may use street crime to achieve masculinity.

Lyng (2002):

  • Young men search for pleasure through risk-taking.
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Social Control

Stephen Box (1983):

  •  5 elements which can weaken the bonds of capitalist society and propel people into committing crimes such as; secrecy, skills, supply, symbolic support and social support.

Stan Cohen (1985):

  • Changes in social control such as; the media and education help people to conform, more and more people need to be processed through the Criminal Justice System due to society increasing and control used to be public but there are more subtle forms now.
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Social Control

Feeley & Simon (1992):

  • Social control has changed from controlling deviant behaviour to controlling potentially deviant behaviour.

David Garland (2001):

  • Argues that the US and UK (to a lesser extent) are moving into an era of mass incarceration.

Michael Foucault (1977):

  • Sovereign Power-Punishment used to be public.
  • Disciplinary Power-Shift from controlling the body to controlling the mind.
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Social Control

Reiner (1992): Police Discretion

  • Identified 3 categories of police discretion as being; Individualistic, Occupational Cultural and Structural Approach.
  • Individualistic-Police use their own discretion and apply the law accordingly.
  • Occupational Cultural-Police officers have their own values and beliefs.
  • Structural Approach-The definition of the law is biased in favour of the powerful groups in society and against the working class.
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Right Realism

James Wilson & Richard Hernstein (1985):

  • Crime is a mixture of biological and social factors.
  • Primary socialisation teaches us self-control and morals. The best place for this is the nuclear family.

Charles Murray:

  • There is an underclass in society because of the rise of single-parent families.


  • Crime is a choice based on rational calculations.
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Right Realism

Wilson & Kelling: Broken Windows Thesis

  • The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crimes.
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Emile Durkheim (1895):

  • Some crime and deviance is necessary for a society to function properly.
  • Proposed 6 functions of crime and deviance: 1-Acts as a warning device, 2-Provides employment, 3-Helps society to progress, 4-Acts as a safety valve, -Creates social cohesion, 6-Reaffirms social boundaries.
  • 3 dysfunctions of crime; People feel unsure about their place in the world due to; 1-New economic processes, 2-Technological changes, 3-Social and geographical mobility.

Erikson (1966):

  • The law acts in the interests of the powerful.
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Merton (1938): Strain Theory

  • Crime is the result of a strain between an individual's goals and the means of achieving them.
  • Results in conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion.
  • Conformity-The individual agrees with the goals of becoming wealthy and achieves them through legitimate means.
  • Innovation-The individual agrees with the goals of becoming wealthy, but achieves them through illegitimate means.
  • Ritualism-The individual works hard but has forgotten why. Therefore, they do not achieve the means of becoming wealthy.
  • Retreatism-They reject the goals and means of retrieving them.
  • Rebellion-Rejects the goals and the means of achieving them. They instead create new goals and new means.
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Hirschi (1969): Social Bonds Theory

  • Criminal activity occurs when the individual's bond to society is weakened.
  • Attachment Concerns-The extent to which we care about other people's feelings and opinions.
  • Commitment-The personal investments which we make in our lives..
  • Involvement-A person's level of legitimate activity in society.
  • Belief-A person's attitude towards the law and values of society.
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Subcultural Theory

Shaw & McKay (1931): Chicago School

  • Deviant groups in society had different norms and values of their own that led to deviant behaviour.
  • Plotted the addresses and locations of those who committed crimes in Chicago.
  • Found Zone 2, nearest to the city centre, had the highest crime rates.

William Foote Whyte: Street Corner Society

  • Participant observation in a slum district of Boston, which was inhibitated mostly by Italian immigrants.
  • Found "corner boys" and "college boys".
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Subcultural Theory

Albert Cohen (1955): Status Frustration

  • Delinquent behaviour was most likely to develop amongst working-class boys who were performing badly in school.
  • Instead, these boys gain status through crime, instead of educational success.

Cloward and Ohlin (1961): Illegitimate Opportunity Structure

  • Working-class boys can belong to 3 subcultures; Criminal, Conflict and Reatrist.
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Subcultural Theory

Nightingale (1993):

  • Studied young black gangs in the USA.
  • Found they wanted to achieve the American Dream of being wealthy.
  • But as they were excluded from society, they are forced to achieve their goals throught crime.

Korem (1994): Middle Class Gangs

  • Gangs become a substitute family for middle-class boys.
  • This is usually due to family problems, or because their parents are too busy for them.
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Subcultural Theory

Miller (1962): Focal Concerns

  • Working-class American boys get into trouble with the police because they hold different norms and values to the rest of society-known as Focal Concerns.
  • These men do not intend to break the law, but the focal concerns they hold make it inevitable that they will commit crimes.

David Matza (1964): Subterranean Values & Techniques of Neutralisation

  • People have two levels; conventional values and underlying values which are usually controlled. Delinqunts are more likely to exhibit these values.
  • Delinquents attempt to justify their actions as exceptions to the general rule.
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Ethnicity & Crime

Graham & Bowling:

  • Found that blacks (43%) and whites (44) had similar rates of offending.
  • Whilst Indians (30%), Pakistanis (28%) and Bengladeshis (13%) had lower rates of offending.

Sharp & Budd:

  • Found that whites and people of 'mixed' ethnic origins were more likely to say they had committed an offence (around 40%), followed by blacks (28%) and Asians (21%).

Phillips & Bowling:

  • Notes that there have been many allegations of oppressive policing of minority ethnic groups since the 1970s.
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Ethnicity & Crime

Lea & Young (1993): Left Realist Explanation

  • Racism has led to the marginalisation and economic exclusion of ethnic minorities, who face higher levels of unemployment, poverty and poor housing.
  • Simultaneously, the media's emphasis on consumerism promotes a sense of relative deprivation by setting materialisatic goals that ethnic minorities are unable to reach by legitimate means.

Gilroy: Neo Marxist Explanation

  • Argues the idea of black criminality is a myth created by racist stereotypes.
  • Ethnic minority crime can be seen as a form of political resistance against a racist society.
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Ethnicity & Crime

Stuart Hall et al: Neo Marxist Explanation

  • The 1970s saw a moral panic over black muggers that served the interests of capitalism.
  • Mugging was just a new name for the old crime of street robbery.
  • Hall et al note that there was no evidence of an increase with this crime at the time.
  • The myth of the black mugger was used as a scapegoat to distract attention away from problems such as unemployment.
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Victims of Crime

Christie (1986):

  • The term 'victim' is socially constructed.

Miers (1989): Positivist Victimology

  • Defined positivist victimology as having 3 features;
  • Aims to identify the factors that produces patterns in victimisation.
  • Focuses on inter-personal crimes of violence.
  • Aims to identify victims who have contributed to their own victimisation.

Hans Von Hentig (1948):

  • Identified 13 characteristics of victims such as female, elderly or mentally subnormal.
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Victims of Crime

Wolfgang (1958):

  • Studied 88 homicides in Philadelphia, United States.
  • Found 26% involved victim precipitation.

Tombs & Whyte (2007): Critical Victimology

  • Safety crimes are often explained away as accidents.

Newbourn & Rock (2006):

  • Found homeless people are 12 times more likely to experience violence than the general public.
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