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Chapter 6 Social Structure Theory Socioeconomic Structure and Crime The U.S. is a stratified society: social strata are created by the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and prestige.

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Chapter 6

Social Structure Theory


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Socioeconomic Structure and Crime

  • The U.S. is a stratified society: social strata are created by the unequal distribution of wealth, power, and prestige.

    • Social classes are segments of the population who share attitudes, values, norms, and an identifiable lifestyle

    • The poverty rate is 2003 was 12.5 percent

    • Nearly 36 million people live in poverty



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Socioeconomic Structure and Crime

  • Child Poverty

    • Poverty during early childhood has a more severe impact than during adolescence

    • Low income children are less likely to achieve in school and more likely to suffer health problems

    • Social problems in lower-class slum areas are epidemic

    • Nearly 25 percent of children under age 6 live in poverty



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Socioeconomic Structure and Crime

  • Weblink

    www.aecf.org/kidscount


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Socioeconomic Structure and Crime

  • The Underclass

    • Culture of poverty is passed from one generation to the next

    • Gunnar Myrdal suggested that an “underclass” was cut off from society

    • Unemployment and underemployment disrupts family life and creates despair


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Socioeconomic Structure and Crime

  • Minority Group Poverty

    • 20 percent of African Americans and Hispanics live in poverty

    • 10 percent of Whites live in poverty

    • William Julius Wilson suggests disadvantaged minorities direct their aggression toward those close to them


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Social Structure Theories

  • Social and economic forces in deteriorated lower-class areas push residents into criminal behavior patterns

  • Social structure theories include, social disorganization, strain theory, and cultural deviance theory

  • Each theory suggests that socially isolated people living in disorganized areas are the ones most likely to experience crime-producing social forces



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Social Disorganization Theories

  • Links crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics

  • Social disorganization includes low income groups with large single-parent households and institutions of broken down social control

  • Residents in crime-ridden areas are trying to leave at the earliest opportunity



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Social Disorganization Theories

  • The Work of Shaw and McKay

    • Linked transitional slum areas to the inclination to commit crime

    • Transitional neighborhoods are incapable of inducing residents to defend against criminal groups

    • Concentric zone mapping identified the inner-city transitional zones as having the heaviest concentration of crime.

    • Slum children choose to join gangs when values are in conflict with existing middle-class norms

    • Crime rates correspond to neighborhood structure according to Shaw and McKay



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Social Disorganization Theories Chicago

  • The Social Ecology School

    • Community deterioration: Associated with crime

    • Disorder, poverty, alienation, dissociation, and fear of crime are characteristic of community deterioration

    • Poverty concentration: Economically disadvantaged neighborhoods have higher rates of serious crimes (concentration effect)

    • Chronic unemployment: Limited employment destabilizes households


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Social Disorganization Theories Chicago

  • Community fear: Social and physical incivilities increase the fear of crime (i.e. graffiti, prostitutes, dirt, and noise)

    • Race and fear: Fear by Whites is based on racial stereotypes. Fear by minorities is greater

    • Gangs and fear: Open activities of brazen gang activity creates community fear

    • Mistrust and fear: A “siege mentality” develops based on mistrust of the outside world

  • Community change: Communities undergoing rapid structural changes experience great changes in crime rates (gentrification)

  • Change and decline: Neighborhoods most at risk contain large numbers of single-parent families and social strain



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Social Disorganization Theories Chicago

  • Collective Efficacy

    • Cohesive communities develop interpersonal ties and mutual trust

    • Informal Social Control: Involves peers, families, and relatives

    • Institutional Social Control: Involves schools, churches, businesses, social agencies

    • Public Social Control: Policing

    • Social support/Altruism: crime rates are lower in areas with a positive social climate


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Theories that view crime as a direct result of lower-class frustration and anger.

    • Anomie (from the Greek word a nomos, without norms) – in an anomic society rules of behavior have broken down because of rapid social change, war, or famine.

      • Mechanical solidarity: pre-industrial styled societies held together by traditions and shared values

      • Organic solidarity: Complex post-industrial societies which are interdependent for services and needs



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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Theory of Anomie (Robert K. Merton)

    • Merton argued that socially mandated goals are uniform throughout society and access to legitimate means to achieve those goals is bound by class and status

    • Some people have inadequate means to attain societal goals.

    • Modes of Social Adaptation

      • Conformity

      • Innovation

      • Ritualism

      • Retreatism

      • Rebellion



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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Evaluation of Anomie Theory

    • Social inequality leads to perceptions of anomie

    • People innovate to resolve goals-means conflict

    • Merton’s theory does not explain why people choose certain types of crime


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Institutional Anomie Theory (Steven Messner & Richard Rosenfeld)

    • Update of Merton’s theory describes the “American Dream” as both a goal and a process

    • Goals refer to material goods and wealth

    • Process involves being socialized to pursue material success

    • Certain institutions have been rendered powerless and obsolete in controlling anomie such as religious and charitable institutions

    • Economic terms are part of the common American vernacular


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Relative Deprivation Theory

    • Perceptions of economic and social inequality lead to feelings of envy, mistrust, and aggression

    • Lower-class people feel both deprived and embittered

    • Minorities feel relative deprivation more acutely than nonminorities


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • General Strain Theory

    • Robert Agnew GST explains why individuals who feel stress and strain commit crime

    • Negative Affective States: anger, frustration, and adverse emotions emerge in destructive relationships



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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Multiple Sources of Stress

    • Criminality is the direct result of negative affective states

    • Failure to achieve positively valued goals

    • Disjunction of expectations and achievements

    • Removal of positively valued stimuli

    • Presentation of negative stimuli

    • Agnew suggests the greater the intensity and frequency of strain experiences, the more likely criminality will occur


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Sources of Strain

    • Social sources: Peer and social groups

    • Community sources: Relative deprivation producing negative affective states in large population segments


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Coping with Strain

    • Juveniles high in negative emotionality and low constraint are likely to react with antisocial behaviors

    • Crime provides relief from strain and stress for some people

    • Expectations increase with maturity, which may reduce the sources of strain


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Strain Theories Chicago

  • Evaluating GST

    • Sources of strain vary over the life course

    • Empirical evidence supports that indicators of social strain are linked with criminality

    • Gender issues: GST does not adequately account for gender differences in crime rate.

    • Females may be socialized to turn stress inward, whereas males turn their frustration outwards through aggression

    • Evidence suggests that people who fail to meet success goals are more likely to engage in criminal behavior


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Combines the effects of social disorganization and strain to explain criminality

    • Lower classes create an independent subculture with its own set of rules and values

    • Subcultural norms clash with conventional values



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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Conduct Norms

    • Thorsten Sellin suggested criminal law is an expression of the rules of the dominant culture

    • Culture conflict occurs when the rules expressed in the criminal law clash with the demands of conduct norms


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Focal Concerns

    • Walter B. Miller identified the focal concerns of the lower-class environments

      • Trouble

      • Toughness

      • Smartness

      • Excitement

      • Fate

      • Autonomy

    • clinging to lower class focal concerns promotes illegal or violent behavior.


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Theory of Delinquent Subcultures

    • Albert Cohen suggests lower-class youths protest again the norms and values of the middle class (status frustration)

    • Teachers, employers, and authority figures set the standards referred to as middle-class measuring rods

    • Cohen contends lower-class boys will form deviant subcultures when frustrated


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Formation of the Deviant Subculture

    • Corner boy: Most common response to middle-class rejection, engages in petty or status offenses

    • College boy: embraces cultural and social values of the middle class, is ill-equipped academically, socially, and linguistically to achieve

    • Delinquent boy: adopts values and norms in opposition to middle-class values, engages in short-run hedonism (reaction formation)


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Theory of Differential Opportunity

    • Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin suggested people share the same goals but have limited means to achieve them

    • Because of differential opportunity, young people are likely to join gangs

      • Criminal gangs exist in stable neighborhoods

      • Conflict gangs develop in areas unable to provide legitimate or illegitimate opportunities

      • Retreatist gangs are double failures constantly searching for a way to get high


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Cultural Deviance Theory Chicago

  • Evaluating Social Structure theories

    • The core concepts appear valid

    • Factors that cause strain produce social disorganization

    • Critics charge lower-class crimes rates are attributable to biases in the criminal justice system

    • Not all members of a disorganized community respond by committing crime


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Public Policy Implications of Social Structure Theory Chicago

  • Social structure theory has significantly impacted public policy

    • Public welfare programs

    • Chicago Area Projects

    • War on poverty

    • Head Start, Neighborhood Legal Services, and Community Action programs


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