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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

socioeconomic structure and crime
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
socioeconomic structure and crime4
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
socioeconomic structure and crime6
Socioeconomic Structure and Crime
  • Weblink

www.aecf.org/kidscount

socioeconomic structure and crime7
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
socioeconomic structure and crime8
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
social structure theories
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
social disorganization theories
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
social disorganization theories13
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
social disorganization theories15
Social Disorganization Theories
  • 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
social disorganization theories16
Social Disorganization Theories
  • 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
social disorganization theories18
Social Disorganization Theories
  • 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
strain theories
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories21
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories23
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories24
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories25
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories26
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories28
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories29
Strain Theories
  • Sources of Strain
    • Social sources: Peer and social groups
    • Community sources: Relative deprivation producing negative affective states in large population segments
strain theories30
Strain Theories
  • 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
strain theories31
Strain Theories
  • 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
cultural deviance theory
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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
cultural deviance theory34
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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
cultural deviance theory35
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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.
cultural deviance theory36
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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
cultural deviance theory37
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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)
cultural deviance theory38
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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
cultural deviance theory39
Cultural Deviance Theory
  • 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
public policy implications of social structure theory
Public Policy Implications of Social Structure Theory
  • 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