Juvenile Delinquency

Sociological Theories

THREE big categories

Social structure theories Social process theories Social reaction theories

Social Structure Theories

FOUR versions

Social disorganization theory

Relative deprivation theory

Strain theory

Cultural deviance theory�Relative deprivation theory is primary assumption that brings all four together (Crime is a byproduct of social stratification which is caused by an unequal distribution of wealth and resources Difference in classes (poor, rich, middle class) Most heavy crime areas are in poor communities)

Social Disorganization Theory and critizism:

Social Disorganization Theory: Found that highest rate of crime takes place in poor inner-city communities that are transitioning from higher to lower. Poverty leads to a breakdown in social control institutions, which leads to social disorganization, which leads to crime. Is not an individual thing but environmental.

Criticism: Has to be some individual factor! If environment leads to crime then why don�t all people living in poor communities commit crimes?

Relative Deprivation Theory and critizism:

Based on same statistics (poor=crime) See there is a mix of social classes. It is the juxtaposition of classes. Where poor and rich people live next to each other they obtain income inequity which causes feelings of relative deprivation which causes feelings of anger leading to crime
Criticism: Calling sense of injustice an envious feeling. This theory is validating envy, which is not good. Very disempowering.

Strain Theory

[Robert Murtan (founder)]

All people share same values aspirations and beliefs. The ability to achieve these goals is stratified by economic status.

It�s easier for rich people to reach materialistic goals unlike poor people

Crime is a product of anger and frustration because poor people cannot reach goals

FIVE social adaptations (Balance materialist goals w/ way of achieving)



(most common) adaption. conforms to rules of society because they can afford it�.for middle-upper-class


(most important) Person who doesn�t have resources but cannot conform because they can�t afford it so they make own rules to get materials�leads to stealing and committing crimes

Ritualism and critisism

repression of materialistic goals to conform to a person�s means by subscribing to religious structures that serve no real purpose or goal�(Go to church, happy with themselves)

Criticism: Ritualism defeats whole theory. Assumes everyone shares same values and goals but then says some do not have same belief and �excuses� them away by ritualism.


cant afford material things so they retreat from reality through drugs and alcohol (but not only poor people do this)


Rejection of morality and goals and adopt a counter view-point (like communism, radicalism), because they can�t afford materialistic things

Cultural Deviance theory (aka Theory of delinquency subculture) and critisism

Albert Cohen�s (founder)

Where does subculture come from?

Cultural Deviance Theory: Delinquency subculture develops as a reaction or protest against standards of society that cannot be reached due to poverty (the inability to success according to certain standards)

Criticism: So�what do we do? Cohen is biased; it is surely possible that some poor people could measure up. He proposes no solution at all

Middle Class Measuring Rods

Standards of success placed by authoritative figures. (getting good grades, extracurricular activist, good job)

According to Cohen, poor people cannot be measured by measuring rods so they adapt their own view that is negative/opposite of middle class viewpoint. Usually criminal behavior

Social Process Theory

TWO branches of social process theory

Learning Theory

Control theory

Not concerned with structure�looks at fluid concept of socialization


Personality and behavior is formed by social relationships

Effect of interaction with others shapes our beliefs, values, looks around the world

Importance of family:

family is the most important component of socialization. Its where we first learn

Social Learning Theory:

Part of Social process theory

Criminal delinquency is learned�interaction with others and taught to be bad. (People are born good but through socialization become bad)

Control Theory:

Part of Social process theory

People are born bad and learn through socialization to become good.

Socialization created law abiding citizens

Theory is focuses on �the bond� (Don�t confuse with social disorganization theory)

Differential Association

Criminality learned through social interaction. Learn technique, motivation; justifications, attitude, beliefs

Intimate relationships have the most impact (family)

Edward realized everyone I exposed to different socialization

Favorable Definition:

Attitudes in socialization that allows someone to become law abiding citizens

Unfavorable Definitions and its critisism

Attitudes in socialization that allows someone to perform criminal behavior Criminality is created when unfavorable definition exceed in number or intensity favorable definition in their socialization (Sutherland)
Criticism: doesn�t explain where negative influence comes from

Deferential Reinforcement

Restatement of differential associationWe learn from post negative reinforce Crime is a rational choice based on what we have learned through socialization as good or bad

Neutralization Theory

Beliefs that limit a person and cause criminality

The key element of socialization that leads to criminality is rationalization that a person learns

Neutralization technique:

A rationalization that neutralized laws and morals to facilitate crime

FOUR Neutralization techniques

Denial of responsibility

Denial of injury (minimize the severity of the crime)

Denial of the victim (Blame/ marginalizing the victim making them unimportant

Condemnation of condemned: putting responsibility of your action on someone else

Travis Hershey:

developed newer control theory (the one we currently use)

Had experiments where he asked kids if they had friends

Kids who reported that they are friends had less crimes � � � No friends have more crime (detached loners)

Elements of social bond (Hershey)

Attachment (most important)

Commitment (energy directed to an activity

Involvement: amount of time spent of conventional act

Belief: the amount one subscribes to belief of society


The ability to invest energy into someone or something learned from parents: Parents are the role models of attachment and authorityEsteem and attachment are connected

Social Structure theory (solutions)

Job training, job programs, affirmative action programsRevive environment

Social Process (solution)

Improve socialization�community recreation events parenting class, extracurricular activities

Social Reaction Theory:

Not concreted with committing crime for the first time

Only concerned with societies reaction

Labeling Theory and solution

Person commits a crime and society �labels� you (criminal thief, rapist, etc.)

It�s the level that forms persons identity and that increased persons will to commit more crime

Can be fixed by avoiding labels ARD program: Accelerated rehabilitation disposition