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Chapter 6 Social Structure Theory. Criminology 9 TH Edition Larry J. Siegel. Questions. What is a stratified society ? What is the culture of poverty ? How do these two issues affect class, race, and culture?. Social Structure Theories. Criminal Behavior Patterns Are Affected By:

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chapter 6 social structure theory

Chapter 6Social Structure Theory

Criminology 9TH Edition

Larry J. Siegel

© 2003 Wadsworth Publishing Co.


What is a stratified society?

What is the culture of poverty?

How do these two issues affect

class, race, and culture?

social structure theories
Social Structure Theories

Criminal Behavior Patterns

Are Affected By:

  • Places - Places not people cause crime, i.e., deteriorated lower-class areas.
  • Socioeconomic placement in society can influence the potential for criminal behavior, i.e., unable to attain social or economic success.
social structure theories the underlying premise
Social Structure Theories:The Underlying Premise
  • The real crime problem is a lower class phenomenon.
  • Those that live in equivalent social environments tend to behave in a predictable fashion. If the environment did not affect human behavior, then crime rates would be dispersed equally across the social structure.


Crime is a product of

transitional neighborhoods

that manifest

social disorganization

and value conflict.


Identifies why crime rates

are highest in slum areas.

Points out the factors that

produce crime. Suggests

programs to help

reduce crime.

Social Disorganization Theory:Concentric Zone Theory

factors that affect crime the social ecology school
Factors That Affect CrimeThe Social Ecology School
  • Transitional neighborhoods
  • Community deterioration
  • Poverty concentration
  • Employment opportunities
  • Community fear, i.e., race, gangs, mistrust.
  • Community change
  • Collective efficacy, i.e., informal, institutional, and public social control

According to social disorganization theory,

how does fear

affect a ‘disorganized’ neighborhood?

strain theories
Strain Theories

Crime is a direct result of the

frustration and anger of the lower-class

to achieve culturally defined goals,

i.e., wealth, success, power;


the means to acquire these goals

are stymied by the stratification

of class and status in society.

  • Durkheim: Norms have broken down because of rapid social change, i.e., traditions and values.
  • Merton: Culturally defined goals and socially approved means for obtaining them have broken down, i.e., education and hard work.
  • Messner and Rosenfeld: The American Dream as a goal and a process. Crime becomes the strategy for attaining wealth.

Why would Durkheim suggest that crime

may be beneficial to society?

strain theory anomie

Major Premise

People who adopt the goals of

society but lack the means to attain them

seek alternatives, such as crime.


Points out how competition for success creates

conflict and crime. Suggests that social conditions

and not personality can account for crime.

Can explain middle- and upper-class crime.

Strain Theory: Anomie

Major Premise

Strain has a variety of sources.

Strain causes crime in the absence

of adequate coping mechanisms.


Identifies the complexities of strain in modern

society. Expands on anomie theory.

Shows the influence of social events

on behavior over the life course.

Strain Theory:General Strain Theory

sources of general strain individual
Sources of General Strain(Individual)
  • Social: peer or social group.
  • Community factors: ecological, i.e., goals, economic deprivation, interaction of frustrated individuals.
  • Negative affective states: failure to achieve goals or expectations, the loss of positive stimuli, i.e., friend or family member; and, presentation of negative stimuli, i.e., abuse. Causes: fear, anger, depression, frustration, and disappointment.
relative deprivation theory
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 non-minorities

How would trait theories interact

with strain theories?

Could strain theories explain chronic offending?

If so, in what way?

cultural deviance theory i combines the effects of strain and social disorganization

What are the elements of

cultural deviance theory?


Identifies the aspects of lower-class life that produce street crime. Adds to Shaw and McKay’s analysis.

Creates the concept of culture conflict


Obedience to the norms of their lower-class culture puts people in conflict

with the norms

of the dominant culture.

Cultural Deviance Theory:Sellin’s Culture Conflict Theory


According to Walter Miller,

what are the “focal concerns”

or values that affect lower-class culture.

How do these “focal concerns” affect

the lower-class and crime?

are social structure theories valid or invalid
Those who believe they are valid point to:

high crime and delinquency rates in inner-city slums

each branch seems to support and amplify the others

appearance that the concepts may be interdependent

Those who believe they are invalid point to:

lower-class crime rates may be artifacts of bias

a significant number of people living in the slums are not criminal

it’s questionable whether a distinct lower-class culture actually exists

Are Social Structure Theories Valid or Invalid?