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Theories of Delinquency

Theories of Delinquency. What to look for in a theory. What are the central concepts (causes) Is the theory empirically supported? Survey research, experimental research Does the theory make an assumption about human nature? What are the policy implications?

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Theories of Delinquency

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  1. Theories of Delinquency

  2. What to look for in a theory • What are the central concepts (causes) • Is the theory empirically supported? • Survey research, experimental research • Does the theory make an assumption about human nature? • What are the policy implications? • Every theory has a policy implication • Every policy implication is derived from a theory

  3. Individual Level Sociological Theories: • The Big 3 • Social Learning Theory • Social Control Theory • Strain/Anomie Theory • Others: • Deterrence Theory • Labeling Theory

  4. Social Learning Theory • Edwin Sutherland • Differential Association Theory • Crime learned in intimate personal groups • Communication, “definitions” and techniques • Ronald Akers’ Social Learning Theory • Differential Associations, Definitions, Imitation, Differential Reinforcement (Process)

  5. Evaluating Social Learning • Empirical Support • Delinquent Values, Delinquent Peers • Assumptions about human nature? • Policy implications? • Use learning to shape behavior away from crime and towards prosocial activity

  6. Strain Theory • Robert K. Merton • Social Structure and Anomie • The “American Dream” is criminogenic • Modes of Adaptation • Rebellion • Innovation • Retreatism • Heavily Criticized: • Why do people adapt do strain differently? • Only explain lower class, economic crime • Poor empirical support

  7. Evaluating Strain • Agnew’s General Strain Theory • Strain = stress, some people better equipped to handle stress • More empirical support • Policy implication of strain theories? • Assumption about human nature?

  8. Informal Social Control Theory“Control” theories • Three Types of Informal Social Control • Direct • Indirect • Internal • Hirschi’s social bond theory • Gottfredson and Hirschi’s “Low Self-Control” • Gerald Patterson’s Social Interactional Theory

  9. Evaluating Control Theory • Direct Control Supported Most (parenting) • Some support for “bonds” • Assumption about human nature? • Policy Implications?

  10. Review of the “Big 3” • Social Learning Theory • Social Control Theory • Strain Theory

  11. Deterrence Theory • Like “control” theory, but emphasize formal control • Swift Certain Severe punishment reduces crime • Specific vs. General Deterrence • “Marginal Deterrence”

  12. Evaluating Deterrence • General Deterrence • Death penalty, clearance rates (certainty), etc • Specific Deterrence • Regular probation vs. ISP • The effect of “arrest” or “imprisonment” • Sherman’s D.V. studies • Policy Implications? • Assumption about human nature?

  13. Rational Choice Theory • Flipside of Deterrence: • How “rational” are delinquents? • The “criminal event” and “criminal involvement” • Policy Implication of the Criminal Event • “Situational Crime Prevention”

  14. Labeling Theory • Context of the 1960s/1970s • Theory with “ironic twist” • Government intervention designed to help kids actually makes matters worse • Arrest change in self concept change in behavior (secondary deviance)

  15. Evaluating Labeling • Empirical tests difficult • Effect of arrest? (See p. 90 of book) • Assumption about human nature? • Policy Implications • OJJDP 1974 • The “Four D’s”

  16. Recent Revisions of Labeling • “Informal” labeling • John Braithewaite • Crime Shame and Reintegration • “Reintegrative Shaming” • Deterrence and labeling theory both wrong…and both right

  17. Macro Level Explanations • Focus on differences in group rates across some “aggregate” • State, city, neighborhood, country • Example: Social Disorganization Theory

  18. History of Social D. • Chicago School of Crime • Theories of the “city” and the “immigrant” • Concentric Zones and city growth • Shaw and McKay • Methodology • Findings

  19. The Decline and Resurgence • Decline in Popularity • Number of Criticisms (official data, classist/racist) • Resurgence (1980s-present) • Recast as “social control” • Consistent empirical support Ecological  Social Control  Crime (Collective Efficacy) • Policy Implications? • The “Truly Disadvantaged” and Concentration of Poverty

  20. What to Make of Poverty, Unemployment, or SES • Cox et al. Book: Delinquency spread evenly across classes: Is this true? • Self-report data (limitations) • Individual vs. Aggregate (neighborhoods) • Hinges on what type of delinquency you are talking about • New role of poverty in theory • Old theory rather simplistic (blocked opportunity) • Newer: effects on family, neighborhood, catch up with children

  21. Psychological Theories • Behaviorism (Overlap with learning and control theories in sociology) • Operant conditioning = “direct control” • Vicarious learning = “social learning” • Personality • IQ • Cognitive • Again, overlap with sociological theory

  22. Biological Explanations • Genetics • Neurological Deficits • Biological Harms • Pre/Perinatal risk • Toxins (Lead) • Theories? “Biosocial” • Moffitt’s Dual Taxonomy

  23. Feminist Theory • Feminist theory and the JJS • Feminism and Theories of Delinquency • The Gender Ratio • The Gender Gap

  24. Debates • Doing Research—Specific Web sites, what is a “good” source

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