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Structural Explanations for Delinquency. Defining Structural Theories. Characteristic features of structural theories Focus on rates of crime rather than why individuals commit crime Crime rates are explained in terms of the structural features of society

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defining structural theories
Defining Structural Theories
  • Characteristic features of structural theories
    • Focus on rates of crime rather than why individuals commit crime
    • Crime rates are explained in terms of the structural features of society
  • Two broad types of structural theories
    • Strain Theory
    • Cultural Deviance Theory
strain theory

Strain Theory

Economic Inequality

Delinquency

historical foundation of strain theory
Historical Foundation of Strain Theory

The Legacy of Emile Durkheim

  • Two themes dominate Durkheim’s work on crime
    • The normality of crime
    • Crime and anomie
robert merton
Robert Merton
  • Robert King Merton is one of the most influential sociologists in the field of criminology
  • At age 27, (1938) he wrote a definitive article entitled “Social Structure and Anomie”
  • This article still serves as an anchor in our understanding of delinquency
social structure and anomie
Social Structure and Anomie

Merton’s theory of “anomie” stressed two structural conditions:

The interaction of these conditions produce five adaptive responses:

differential opportunity theory
Differential Opportunity Theory
  • This theory was developed by Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin
  • Agree with Merton that not everyone has equal access to social rewards, producing strain
  • However, suggest that there is also an “illegitimate” opportunity structure with differential opportunities there as well.
  • Failure to succeed in either the legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structure results in “double failure.”

Lloyd Ohlin

differential opportunity s three subcultural responses
Differential Opportunity’s Three Subcultural Responses
  • Criminal Subculture
    • Occurs in neighborhoods where there are adult criminal role models
    • Here, the delinquent youth succeeds in the illegitimate opportunity structure
  • Conflict Subculture
    • Adult role models are not available for successful crime
    • Delinquent youth becomes angry and engages in violent crime
  • Retreatist Subculture
    • Adult role models are not available for successful crime
    • Rather than angry retaliation, the youth withdraws or retreats, typically into a world of drug use.
cohen s subcultural strain theory
Cohen’s Subcultural Strain Theory
  • Cohen suggests that one of the central problems in life is conforming to social expectations.
  • Since these expectations are largely determined by the middle class, Cohen calls these “middle class measuring rods.”
  • The lower class has a much more difficult time in conformity than the middle class.
  • For lower class youth, the context for this difficulty is typically the school.
  • Lower class youth are confronted by “status frustration,” and turn to other youth for solutions.
  • For Cohen, this is the genesis of the delinquent gang.
cohen s adaptive responses to status frustration
Cohen’s Adaptive Responses to Status Frustration
  • Corner Boy Response
    • Youth psychologically disengages from MC goals and accepts more humble goals
    • This is the most common lower class response
  • College Boy Response
    • Lower class youth accepts the MC challenge and competes for MC goals
    • Involves a rupture in his relationship with LC friends, a cost
  • Delinquent Subculture Response
    • Involves a direct repudiation of MC values in the form of delinquency
    • Characteristics of the delinquent subculture
      • Non-utilitarian
      • Malicious
      • Negativistic