Sociology - Crime Theories Making Sense Out Essay

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Sociology - Crime Theories


Several hundred years of social theorizing have produced numerous different explanations for the evolution of criminal conduct in human societies. Initially, criminal behavior was considered to be mainly a function of rational choices made by individuals for whom crime presented greater opportunities than conventional, socially acceptable avenues of providing income and tangible conveniences. Alternative, biologically-based explanations conceived of crime as behavior determined by inherent biological inclination, going so far as to try to predict criminal conduct by dubious disciplines like phrenology.

Sociologists suggested various theories of social deviance, including those that pertained to the relationship between the individual and society, as well as those that described the perceived struggles between and among different social classes and subcultures. Contemporary theorists no longer attribute criminal conduct exclusively to any specific origin, although they do acknowledge the general relevance and validity of many different concepts of criminal behavior that incorporate elements of traditional views about the causes of crime in society.

Considering Various Explanations for Crime:

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According to the rational choice perspective of crime, individuals engaging in criminal behavior do so purely by volitional choices rather than because of more complex reasons or external influences on their behavior. This point-of-view accounted for the harsh treatment of convicted criminals in the United States prior to the first experimental approaches to prison reform and the introduction of the concept of rehabilitation in the 19th century (Adler, Mueller & Laufer, 2008).

TOPIC: Essay on Sociology - Crime Theories Making Sense Out Assignment

Also during the 19th century, Emile Durkheim introduced the Anomie theory of crime, proposing that increasing crime in modern society was the result of decreased emphasis on social norms and standards of behavior in society, partially attributable to the relaxation of religious (and other) traditional social values. Contemporaries of Durkheim like Merton further developed that concept of crime to include social strain theories, according to which crime was a function of the growing disparity between the rich and poor and the comparative unavailability of social opportunity to less advantaged individuals. According to Merton, the psychological strain resulting from unachievable social goals produced a form of modern social disillusionment that contributed to deviant behavior and crime as an alternate means of achieving some of the benefits of modern industrialization in the absence of socially acceptable methods of their attainment (Adler, Mueller & Laufer, 2008).

Similar theories focused less on the social discord of individuals in relation to society and emphasized the purported class struggle that produced conflict between different segments of society in the general form of antipathy and antagonism on the part of the disadvantaged classes for the more privileged classes. Likewise, the view of 19th century radical criminology suggested that crime is largely a function of deliberate attempts of the underclass to usurp some of the benefits of the higher social classes by force.

In the 20th century, social theorists and criminologists began examining the evolution of criminal behavior and other forms of social and cultural deviance as a function of social learning among the many deviant subcultures and high rates of juvenile delinquency that seemed to correspond to social learning within the many criminal and quasi-criminal subcultures prevalent in underprivileged communities (Adler, Mueller & Laufer, 2008). In that regard, Walter Miller proposed a specific mechanism prevalent within underprivileged communities, linking high rates of delinquency, criminal behavior, and violent subcultures to the high incidence of single-parent homes in which mothers provided the only parental authority because of the phenomenon of absent fathers in those communities. According to Miller, entire generations of youths… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Sociology - Crime Theories Making Sense Out.  (2009, January 31).  Retrieved October 16, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Sociology - Crime Theories Making Sense Out."  31 January 2009.  Web.  16 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Sociology - Crime Theories Making Sense Out."  January 31, 2009.  Accessed October 16, 2021.