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Explain the differences between treatment and punishment concepts.


Prior to beginning work on this assignment, read Chapters 3, 4, and 5 from Introduction to Juvenile Justice. It is also recommended that you review the upcoming Week 3 Final Paper Outline assignment along with your Week 5 Treatment Versus Punishment: That Is the Question! Final Paper instructions. An Annotated Bibliography (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  is a great way to organize your research and prepare you for completing  the Final Paper Outline in Week 3 and your Final Paper in Week 5. The  purpose of an annotated bibliography is to find, summarize, and critique  scholarly and/or credible sources that you will use to complete your  Final Paper. You will also use the information gained from the required  readings this week to complete this assignment.

The Final Paper requires you to identify resources that will support  your argument of whether treatment, punishment, or a combination of both  treatment and punishment are most effective in reducing juvenile crime  rates and recidivism. Like the Final Paper due in Week 5, this  assignment will focus on analyzing some of the research in targeted  areas of juvenile criminal behavior.

In your Annotated Bibliography, identify at least five scholarly  and/or credible sources, which includes the source you are reviewing,  two sources that support or contradict the initial article, and any  other sources that support your analysis in the Week 5 paper, which  calls for you to:

  • Explain the differences between treatment and punishment concepts.
  • Evaluate types of treatment and types of punishment options for violent and non-violent juvenile crimes.
  • Examine the research as to whether treatment, punishment, or a  combination of both (treatment and punishment) is most effective for  reducing recidivism in juvenile offenders.
  • Identify the prevailing perspective (treatment, punishment, or  combination of both) in your jurisdiction and one other jurisdiction  [Note: this may come from a government or other equally credible  source].
  • Analyze the research on recidivism rates for each jurisdiction  (yours and the other you chose) to determine which has lower recidivism  rates.

For each of your critical analyses of your sources for the points listed above,

  • Summarize each source’s thesis and/or main points in one paragraph.
  • Evaluate the relevance of the data used to support the thesis of the source.
  • Briefly critique the accuracy, acceptability, strengths and weaknesses, and overall soundness of the article.
  • Explain, in one to two sentences, how each source supports your thesis and/or resolution.
  • Provide the formal APA reference entry for each source.

The annotated bibliography must be 750 to 1250 words in length,  excluding title and reference pages, and formatted according to APA  style. You must use at least five scholarly and/or credible sources,  which includes the source you are reviewing, two sources that support or  contradict the initial article, and any other sources that support your  analysis. Visit the Ashford University Library to review the Criminal Justice Research Guide which may help in your research. You may also find the Ashford University Library Quick N’ Dirty (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. tutorial, The Research Process (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. tutorial, and the Advanced Search Techniques (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  tip sheet helpful as you conduct your research. As you conduct your  research, the Ashford University Library also provides the RefWorks tool  that will help you organize your research, create APA reference entries  and citations, and more. Creating a RefWorks Account (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. will assist you in creating an account in order to start using the tool.

Learning Objectives After studying this chapter, you should be able to accomplish the following objectives:

▪ Define criminology. ▪ Explain the classical and neoclassical theories of crime. ▪ Summarize early biological and psychological theories of crime. ▪ Analyze modern biological and psychological theories of crime. ▪ Describe sociological theories for understanding crime. ▪ Evaluate how crime is understood according to learning theory perspectives. ▪ Explain how social bonding theory helps us to understand crime. ▪ Evaluate the role society plays in criminal behavior.

Theories of Delinquency


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Chapter Outline 3.1 Introduction

3.2 Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime

▪ Classical School ▪ Neoclassical School – Rational Choice Theory

– Routine Activities Theory

▪ Theories in Practice 3.3 Early Biological and Psychological Theories

3.4 Modern Biological and Psychological Theories

▪ Biosocial Approach ▪ Personality Theory

3.5 Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

▪ Social Disorganization Theory ▪ Anomie Theory: A Breakdown in Values ▪ General Strain Theory ▪ Cultural Deviance Theory

3.6 Learning Theories: Learning to Be Criminal

▪ Differential Association/Social Learning ▪ Neutralization Theory

3.7 Social Bonding Theory: Absence of Controls

3.8 The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories

▪ Labeling Theory ▪ Conflict Theory

On Friday morning May 18, 2018, a 17-year-old student armed with a shotgun and a revolver entered his high school 30 miles southeast of Houston, Texas, and killed 10 people. Of those killed, eight were students and two were teachers. The gunman entered a classroom and began shooting. He reportedly taunted students in the room who were hiding and showed no remorse during the shooting. After the event, students who knew the shooter offered a mixed account of his personality and motive. Some suggested he was the subject of bullying and was a loner; oth- ers said he was a typical kid and didn’t show any outward signs of impending violence.

What sets this mass school shooting apart from others of recent times is that the gunman surrendered to the officers who confronted him. Capturing the shooter may enable us to understand his mindset as communities are left grappling with many questions. Why would

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Section 3.2Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime

someone enter a school and inflict such violent destruction? How does someone so young even gain access to the weaponry? How can someone so young carry out acts so unthinkable and gruesome?

Another important question is whether violent behavior develops spontaneously or is due to specific factors. Although the perpetrator was 17, it is hard for many people to conceive that he woke up one day and simply became a murderer. Rather, many theories argue that crimi- nal behavior emerges from a variety of circumstances and situations that develop over time. Explaining delinquency requires us to simultaneously examine juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behavior. As such, the theories that we will discuss in this chapter often apply to both adults and juveniles.

3.1 Introduction Criminology is the scientific study of criminal behavior. Scientific simply means that crimi- nologists use a variety of methods to study why people commit crime. The methods used to study crime can have a big impact on how resulting theories develop. For example, if researchers choose to examine why juve- niles commit murder, they might use homicide statistics collected through the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The homi- cide rates would allow them to examine whether there are patterns for murder. The researchers may ask the following types of questions: Is murder more likely to occur in particular areas? Are men more likely than women to be arrested for homi- cide? If the answers to these questions are yes, then researchers can theorize about whether environmental factors or gender are important in explaining why murder occurs. By contrast, if criminologists want to examine why juveniles might use drugs, they wouldn’t rely on the UCR. The UCR would provide the number of people arrested for drug possession but no information about why individuals choose to use drugs. Self-report surveys would be a better mechanism for studying drug use. Utilizing a variety of methods enables criminologists to provide theories that offer a deeper understanding of why people engage in deviant behavior.

3.2 Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime The field of criminology is fairly new relative to other fields such as psychology. Although one of the field’s theories, deterrence, emerged in the 18th century, criminology as a field of study did not begin to fully emerge until the early 1900s. It is important to understand how and

Brian Hill/Daily Herald/Associated Press High school students in Illinois walk out in protest of gun violence in schools one month after a deadly shooting in a Parkland, Florida, high school.

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Section 3.2Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime

why these theories developed because nearly every criminological theory in existence was influenced by the historical context at the time it developed. In this chapter we will discuss the major criminological theories and their relevance to explaining juvenile delinquency.

Classical School One of the oldest theories to explain crim- inal behavior is deterrence theory. Accord- ing to deterrence theory, often referred to as the classical school of criminology, people decide to commit crime when the benefits outweigh the potential costs. Although developed in the mid-1700s, the theory is still very relevant today. Deter- rence theory developed during a time referred to as the Age of Enlightenment. Before that time, torture and other severe punishments were commonplace. In the Middle Ages, the focus of punishment was often harsh and based on the belief that people were evil. The punishments often included public hangings, drowning, and other forms of torture with the intent of ridding the person or society of the evil forces. The focus on evil is compatible with the belief that people are born bad or are influenced by internal forces. Blaming an individual’s behav- ior on factors outside of their control is referred to as determinism.

Deterrence theorists Jeremy Bentham and Cesare Beccaria argued that behavior is not the result of internal forces beyond the individual’s control. Rather they believed that deviant behavior, or all human behavior for that matter, results from a calculated and rational thought process. They held that individuals possess free will to choose the way they act. Beccaria and Bentham argued that people behave in ways that benefit them or have utility. When deciding whether a situation has utility, individuals must weigh both the costs and benefits of a par- ticular action. For example, if someone is deciding whether to steal an iPad left lying on a table in the library, that person would most likely weigh the outcome of getting caught (e.g., arrest, shame, parental reaction) against the benefit of possessing the iPad. If the person views the negative consequences of this action as outweighing the positive, that person is less likely to engage in the deviant behavior. The decision to act in this way is influenced not by factors out- side the individual’s control (e.g., psychological defect, satanic possession) but rather simply by the decision to maximize pleasure over pain (Devine, 1982).

Deterrence theorists argue that people make rational decisions with the hope of maximizing benefits while avoiding consequences. To deter someone from engaging in criminal behav- ior, the consequences must outweigh the gains associated with the crime. Several features of punishment must exist in order for deterrence to work. First, punishment should simply be proportionate to the crime committed. Second, the consequences of the behavior should also be fair, balanced, and calculated to just offset the gains of crime. Third, for the punish- ment to offset the gains of crime, it needs to be swift and certain. If a youth thinks there is a

Creatas Images/Thinkstock According to deterrence theory, people weigh the outcome of getting caught against the benefits of the deviant behavior.

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Section 3.2Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime

low likelihood of getting caught or being punished even if caught, then he or she is likely to choose the gains crime provides. Finally, punishment should serve two purposes: to deter an individual from committing a crime in the future (specific deterrence) and to send a message to would-be offenders to dissuade them from committing a crime (general deterrence).

One might argue that torture and even death could deter someone from committing crime, but deterrence theorists do not believe that these types of punishments are needed. They argue that torture, death, or the use of excessively severe sanctions is inappropriate. For example, losing one’s hand for theft (not uncommon at the time deterrence theory was developed) was too severe. Deterrence theorists argued that fines or incarceration instead of such barbaric means could deter someone. In addition, they were concerned that severe sanctions could escalate criminal behavior. The concept that it is more effective to punish serious crimes with severe punishment is referred to as marginal deterrence. If petty crimes are subject to the same harsh punishments as serious crimes, a person may choose the more serious crime with the potential of a larger payoff. For example, if all crimes resulted in death or torture, there would be little to dissuade a juvenile from murdering potential witnesses to avoid detection (Stigler, 1970).

Deterrence theory fell out of favor by the mid to late 1800s. One of the major criticisms of the theory rested with its inability to explain why some crimes seem less rational than oth- ers. For example, some people make clearly calculated and rational decisions (e.g., a juvenile who plans how he or she will commit a robbery), while other criminal behavior appears to be more spontaneous (e.g., crimes of passion) or influenced by other factors (e.g., drug use or mental illness). This approach to understanding crime has resurfaced more recently but in a slightly different form. The theory tends to focus now on how individuals perceive the threat of sanctions differently, in particular how an individual perceives situations and relative risk when making decisions (Apel & Nagin, 2011).

Neoclassical School The early and mid-20th century focused on rehabilitation for criminal behavior rather than punishment. But in the 1970s, rehabilitation began to wane as an approach for dealing with juvenile crime. The focus on the juvenile’s rights made punishment that was fair, balanced, and proportionate more attractive. In addition, there were concerns that juvenile drug use was on the rise, and many observers began to see the system as too soft on crime. Some criminologists began resurrecting the virtues of the classical school. The revised approach is often referred to as the neoclassical school, which includes both rational choice and routine activities theories.

Rational Choice Theory Rational choice theory borrows from the foundation of deterrence theory and retains the focus on rational decision making but argues that people carefully consider other factors such as their skill level and target suitability. The theory assumes that those who engage in crimi- nal behavior decide that the behavior is worth the risk of apprehension. While Beccaria and Bentham focused on the rational aspect of crime, they failed to detail the factors that influ- ence decision making. Rational choice theory argues that a variety of factors may impact how and why individuals decide to engage in criminal behavior.

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Section 3.2Classical and Neoclassical Theories: Choosing Crime

Rational choice theorists argue that peo- ple consider not only the risk of apprehen- sion but also the seriousness of the pun- ishment, the outcome of the behavior (e.g., property gained, status incurred, reduc- tion in peer pressure), and their immedi- ate need for the value or result of the crim- inal behavior (e.g., financial need, need for status, peer approval). To increase their chances of success, people will carefully choose targets and evaluate their own skills. Choosing targets may include evalu- ating security devices (e.g., cameras, guard dogs, fences) or ease of escape (e.g., access roads, unguarded entry, and exit points). They will also evaluate their own ability and individual traits (e.g., physical require- ments of crime, skill/knowledge) neces- sary to be successful (Ward, Stafford, & Gray, 2006).

One type of crime that lends itself well to the principles of rational choice theory is drug trafficking. Selling drugs often requires some degree of planning and forethought to avoid apprehension. Bruce Jacobs and Jody Miller (1998) interviewed drug dealers and found that they often went to great lengths to avoid detection. For example, the drug dealers in Jacobs and Miller’s study indicated that they hid their drugs in numerous obscure locations includ- ing curtain rods, in a bowl of popcorn on the living room coffee table, or in hollowed-out ear muffs. Others found that drug dealers will keep only smaller amounts of drugs on hand in case of detection (Jacobs, 1996). Jacobs and Miller also found that female traffickers took a number of steps to protect their self-images. In particular, they dressed in a way that would not call attention to themselves, they avoided public areas for transactions, and they even portrayed themselves as simply strung-out users. Dealers also were careful to sell only during the hours when stores and bars were open. However, Jacobs and Miller reported that dealers would take their chances on the first of the month when people received their checks and were more willing to purchase additional drugs. On those occasions, dealers made the calcu- lated risk to stay out all night to serve demand.

Each of these examples portrays drug dealers as calculating entrepreneurs weighing costs and benefits to make their business more successful. In fact, theorists would argue that crimi- nals are not completely unlike conventional citizens. The criminals are making decisions to better their financial standings and obtain the American Dream (discussed further in the “Anomie Theory” section), albeit through unconventional means.

Routine Activities Theory Another criminological theory developed around this time, routine activities theory, is sim- ilar to rational choice theory in that both theories recognize that criminal behavior is a choice. However, according to routine activities theory, the environment limits the delinquent’s

Associated Press In 2009 the FBI arrested a dozen people for drug trafficking after discovering 33 pounds of heroin worth $30 million stuffed inside Build- a-Bear toys.

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Section 3.3Early Biological and Psychological Theories

ability to make choices. The theory, developed by Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson (1979), outlines three factors related to crime:

• Availability of suitable targets • Absence of capable guardians • Presence of motivated offenders

Cohen and Felson (1979) conclude that crime is more likely to occur when these three fac- tors converge in “time and space.” Similar to rational choice and deterrence theories, routine activities theory argues that people weigh the costs and benefits of crime before they act. In particular, they recognize that capable guardians (e.g., police, cameras, alarm systems, guard dogs) increase the likelihood of getting caught. If these capable guardians exist, the crimes become riskier and criminals are potentially dissuaded from acting. Similarly, the would-be delinquent will consider suitability of the target. Suitability can include whether the item is portable (e.g., an iPad is easier to steal than a desktop computer) or has higher likelihood of value (e.g., jewelry store versus convenience store).

Theories in Practice All three of these theories—deterrence, rational choice, and routine activities—are the foun- dation of a number of policies we see in the field every day. With regard to deterrence theory, Scared Straight programs, boot camps, and chain gangs were implemented in the 1980s and 1990s with the goal of increasing the severity of the criminal justice system. Similarly, man- datory minimum sentences for drug offenses or determinate sentencing policies were cre- ated with the goal of certainty in mind. With regard to routine activities and rational choice theories, metal detectors in schools, police foot patrol, cameras in downtown public areas, guards in banks, or undercover officers in stores are all trying to address the issue of capable guardianship. Similarly, stores go to great lengths to protect suitable targets such as by plac- ing jewelry, iPads, and other electronic devices under lock and key. Easy-to-steal items such as cigarettes and lottery tickets are placed behind the counter. Each of these policies is designed to protect the target (also referred to as target hardening) in an effort to tip the balance when a person is considering whether it is reasonable to commit a crime.

Although these theories are popular, some observers believe that people are not always ratio- nal actors in their environment. The next group of theories examine whether abnormal bio- logical or psychological traits can influence deviance.

3.3 Early Biological and Psychological Theories Unlike rational choice theory, biological and psychological theories examine whether internal factors influence behavior. Early scientific studies of criminal behavior focused primarily on physical features. In particular, phrenologists believed that we could examine an individual’s physical features, primarily the skull, to determine the person’s brain size and therefore his or her propensity for criminal behavior. One of the most famous studies in the late 1800s was conducted by Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso used the bodies of executed criminals to argue that criminals shared certain physical characteristics that differentiated them from others. He

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Section 3.3Early Biological and Psychological Theories

argued that criminals were less evolved than others and were throwbacks to a more primitive savage group. The characteristics he proposed to be related to crime included large jaws and foreheads, eyes set farther apart, and excessively long arms (Gould, 1996). This theory was later discredited, as body type was not found to be associated with criminal behavior.

Similarly, William Sheldon (1949) developed his theory of criminal behavior by arguing that body typing, or somotyping, could predict behavior. He maintained that criminals were often physically stronger than others, and physical qualities could be used to predict delinquency. He developed three typologies to categorize these predictors:

• Mesomorphs: muscular, active, aggressive, and more likely to be violent • Ectomorphs: thin, tall, and less likely to be involved in crime • Endomorphs: heavier-set individuals; considered slower physically and, as such, will-

ing to commit crimes requiring less physical effort

Although these theories of brain size and other physical characteristics were compelling at the time, the research failed to find the connection between body type and criminal behavior. What somotyping failed to consider is why an individual may be strong or weak (e.g., diet, prenatal care) and why only some people who have these characteristics commit crime. In other words, we know that criminals come in all shapes and sizes.

From a psychological perspective, Sigmund Freud reasoned that unconscious psychological drives could influence behavior. His psychodynamic theory regards behavior as emanating from childhood experiences and attachments that exert great influence on future relation- ships, coping styles, and other behaviors. He claimed that each person has a personality comprised of an id, an ego, and a superego. The id represents the pleasure principle, or an individual’s intense need for instant gratification. If the id is left unchecked, people can act without regard for others. The second aspect, referred to as the ego, recognizes right and wrong but only in the context of rules or laws. This aspect of an individual’s personality pro- vides a strong sense of justice but has difficulty understanding the complexity of behavior. Finally, the superego recognizes right from wrong but understands complex moral issues as well. The superego may recognize that stealing is wrong, but it can also understand why a person might steal to survive. Ultimately, the ego and the superego would help to offset or mediate the impulses of the id. Freud claimed that those with an undercontrolled id or under- developed ego and superego were more likely to engage in crime. Although Freud’s psychody- namic theory is not considered a major player in criminological theory, more contemporary versions that consider the importance of early childhood experiences, particularly trauma, on future behavior are very relevant.

Psychological and biological explanations for crime have regained prominence in recent years and will be discussed in the next section of this chapter; however, by the end of the 1800s the field moved away from these theories of crime. The reason for this shift was twofold. First, many people had concerns about the theories’ policy implications. Specifically, many were concerned that individuals would be identified by their head size or body type, as discussed earlier, and labeled and confined based on these superficial differences (Andrews & Wormith, 1989). At the same time, these theories fell from favor because the field of sociology was gain- ing prominence. During the early 1900s, society was undergoing tremendous change. The United States began moving from an agricultural-based society to an industrial one, and as a result, urban areas were experiencing a substantial population boom. The movement to the

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Section 3.4Modern Biological and Psychological Theories

urban areas created a tremendous amount of instability as people from different areas and cultures settled into different neighborhoods. Although massive population shifts have sub- sided, the concern over environmental impacts on behavior remains.

3.4 Modern Biological and Psychological Theories Understanding the role of the brain, genetics, or personality in explaining criminal behavior is the subject of the next group of theories.

Biosocial Approach Modern trait theories recognize the importance of both the environment and individual dif- ferences that exist among people. Biosocial trait theories argue that understanding crimi- nal behavior rests with how biology and the environment interact. This school of thought contends that someone’s biological makeup can influence how they respond to their envi- ronment and that the environment can also have a reciprocating impact on behavior. Unlike Lombroso and Sheldon, modern trait theorists recognize the complexity of biological factors at work. It is not that someone is simply born with a “bad” biological trait (or a body type as argued by Sheldon); rather, the biological trait provides a basis for how individuals might interact in their environment (Ellis & Walsh, 1997; Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012).

Proponents of genetic explanations for behavior point to the results of twin and adoption studies as evidence to support their approach. Twin studies examine whether identical twins are more likely to share similar behaviors due to their identical genetic makeup. Some studies find that identical twins are similar in various ways, including level of aggression, verbal skills, conduct disorder, impulsivity, and callous and unemotional behavior (Dionne, Tremblay, Boivin, Laplante, & Perusse, 2003; Rowe & Osgood, 1984; Scourfield, Van den Bree, Martin, & McGuffin, 2004; Taylor, Loney, Bobadilla, Iacono, & McGue, 2003). Others argue, however, that the similarity is due to the fact that twins are often treated alike, and the behav- ior of siblings, while often similar, can simply be the result of environmental impacts such as exposure to the same schools, peers, and family.

Given this criticism, researchers have examined adopted children to explore whether their behavior is more similar to their adoptive parent or their biological parent. Such studies are called adoption studies. Biological theorists would argue that the behavior should be more similar to the biological parent even when they do not have exposure to that parent after birth. In fact, some studies do support this idea. An adoption study that examined children from Denmark found that the biological father’s criminality was strongly related to the child’s criminality (Hutchings & Mednick, 1977). However, others found that being adopted into a positive environment reduced the genetic effect (Cohen & Machalek, 1988), and still others have called into question whether people inherit criminal tendencies at all (Burt & Simons, 2014). More recent research suggests that biology and environment continually interact to influence behavior.

Other factors in addition to genetics may be correlated with crime. The factors vary and range from contaminants in the environment or the impact of poor nutrition during fetal development, to neurological disorders among violent offenders. There are many influences

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Section 3.4Modern Biological and Psychological Theories

to consider, but let’s consider some of the leading factors, namely environmental contaminants and hormones.

Environmental contaminants can include factors that we ingest, breathe, or are oth- erwise exposed to in our environment. Those contaminants can impact factors such as brain development, depression, anxiety, levels of aggression, and hyperac- tivity (Konofal, Lecendreux, Arnulf, & Mouren, 2004). Numerous studies have shown that exposure to lead can influence brain development, aggressive behavior, and lower IQ scores (Bellinger, 2004; Stretesky & Lynch, 2001). The relation- ship between IQ and crime is an interest- ing one. Theorists argue that people with low IQ scores are at a greater risk for delinquency given the potential impact on school performance. Those with low IQs are less likely to do well in school and are more likely to drop out of school, which is a significant risk factor for delinquency (Wilson & Herrnstein, 1985). Essentially, because their opportunities become more limited due to challenges excelling in school, individuals might be more susceptible to acting on criminal opportunities instead as a way of “getting along” or “making due” in life.

Hormones are also implicated as a correlate of crime. Criminologists have long theorized that testosterone has implications for behavior. Although animal studies have clearly shown this link, human studies are mixed. Studies in support of this perspective argue that hormones can impact the brain, making individuals less sensitive to stimuli, so that they in turn seek out more thrilling situations to stimulate their brain (Booth & Osgood, 1993). However, meta- analyses by Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey (2001) found only a weak relationship between tes- tosterone and aggressive behavior, whereas a study by Carré and Archer (2018) found that testosterone could influence aggression during an experimental competition. The research is still emerging, but biosocial theorists argue that environmental factors can influence an individual’s biological makeup and subsequently that person’s behavior.

Personality Theory Personality theory argues that individual traits such as psychopathy influence criminal behavior. Hans Eysenck (1983) studied personality and crime and found a link between three types. Specifically, he found that neurotics, psychopaths, and extroverts were more likely to be involved in crime. He theorized that psychoticism was always related to crime, extrover- sion was related in younger samples, and neuroticism in older samples.

PYMCA/SuperStock Studies have shown that men with high levels of testosterone are more likely to be aggressive.

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Section 3.5Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

Psychopaths are often described as lacking in empathy and having poor interpersonal rela- tionships. These individuals are also considered highly manipulative and callous in their interactions with others. Extroverts, by contrast, are likely to be involved in crime due to their desire to be social and their need for risky or thrilling situations. The last type, neuroticism, is more difficult to understand. Many people think of neurotics as introverts who avoid social situations due to their anxiety. This may be the case for some, but neurotics also tend to worry excessively and view the world in a negative way.

The relationship between neuroticism and crime was further explored by a group of research- ers examining a trait they refer to as negative affectivity. Avshalom Caspi and associates (1994) studied the relationship between personality and crime among adolescents involved in both the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development (DMHD) study and the Pittsburgh Youth Study. They found that individuals with high trait anxiety, often called negative affectiv- ity, tend to be distressed and have a very negative view of themselves, often worry, and tend to dwell on frustrations and disappointments. In addition, individuals who also score low on a trait called constraint tend to take risks and approach situations with fewer worries of the consequences (Caspi et al., 1994). As a result, individuals with a personality marked by nega- tive emotionality paired with low constraint have a higher likelihood of engaging in criminal acts (Caspi et al., 1994). If we consider a youth who is likely to view even benign situations as hostile and impulsively reacts with anger, we can see that having this type of personality will increase one’s risk of delinquency.

Remember, criminologists moved away from individual-level explanations for behavior because of concerns about whether individuals would be treated differently based on fac- tors that were largely out of their control. Today these theorists argue that although the risk for this mistreatment exists, many reasonable policy implications can be gleaned from these theories. For example, education campaigns directed at the removal of lead from homes can positively impact the number of children exposed to this toxic chemical. In addition, individu- als with the personality traits discussed here can be taught coping skills and problem-solving skills to manage their propensity for impulsivity and thus their risk for criminal behavior.

3.5 Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality The impact of environmental conditions on crime is hard to ignore. Since the early 1900s, the impact of social conditions such as poverty, unemployment, and inequality on crime has been the subject of numerous research studies. When the United States moved from an agricultural to an industrial-based society in the early 1900s, the shift was partly due to the increase in job opportunities in industrialized cities. These opportunities led to a vast migration of indi- viduals to city centers. The migration threw many cities into a state of chaos as they tried to absorb people from a variety of backgrounds in a short period of time. Fast-forward to today and many observers would argue that our city centers remain in a state of chaos, with failing schools and high rates of poverty, unemployment, drug use, and gang violence.

For instance, let’s examine the rates of poverty in Philadelphia. With more than 1.57 mil- lion people, it is the most populous city in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has one of the highest poverty rates among the 10 largest cities in America. The migration of people out of the core

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Section 3.5Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

city and into the surrounding suburbs has created substantial variation across the county’s communities. Philadelphia is home to approximately a quarter of the state’s population but over 50% of the state’s residents who live in poverty (Pew, 2017). This is evidenced by the city’s social and economic indicators listed in Table 3.1. We can see, for example, a large dis- parity in median income between Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole. Over a third of Philadelphia residents younger than age 18 are below the poverty line, compared to 19.1% of Pennsylvania residents. (Visit html to learn more about the Census Bureau’s tracking of high-poverty areas.) The environ- mental conditions at play here are the focus of the next group of sociological theories: social disorganization, anomie, general strain, and cultural deviance.

Table 3.1: Social and economic data comparing the city of Philadelphia with the state of Pennsylvania as a whole

Factor Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Population size 1,526,006 12,783,977

Persons under 18 22.2% 21.2%

Family households 56.8%* 65.0%


 White 41.0% 81.9%

 Black or African American 43.4% 10.8%

 Hispanic or Latino 12.3% 5.7%

Median income (household) $39,770 $54,895

% below poverty 25.9% 15.1%

% < 18 years old below poverty 36.7% 19.1%

% Unemployed** 7.5% 4.5%

*Based on total number of households. **Based on population 16 years and over.

From “Community facts,” in American fact finder, by U.S. Census Bureau, n.d., Retrieved from nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml?src=bkmk

Social Disorganization Theory Social disorganization theory argues that the cause of crime can be found in the environ- mental conditions within impoverished areas. The theory emanates from the work of Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay at the University of Chicago in the early part of the 20th century. They examined crime rates across Chicago and found the highest rates were in areas closest to the downtown or center business district. The inner-city zone, which they referred to as the zone of transition, was characterized by large numbers of foreign-born residents, a concept they referred to as ethnic heterogeneity because of the diversity of its inhabitants. The neighbor- hoods were considered transitional because of the high rate of turnover among residents. In other words, these were areas people were often forced to live in because it brought them closer to employment opportunities, but these were not places where people wanted to stay

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Section 3.5Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

and establish long-term relationships. This movement in and out of the city is referred to as residential mobility (Shaw & McKay, 1972).

The combination of a diverse set of cultures among the people living in these areas com- bined with the high rate of turnover left the neighborhoods with the inability to socialize youth because there were no uniform or consistent norms to guide their behavior. Youth were often left to their own devices in establishing their identity in these neighborhoods. Informal sources of control broke down as different cultural groups clashed. As a result, youth gangs began to emerge as a means of survival.

Social disorganization theory remained popular for a number of years; however, it lost favor by the 1960s when people began to question whether the theory relied too heavily on the UCR. The UCR shows that crime rates are higher among those who live in depressed socio- economic areas; however, self-report surveys challenge this view and illustrate that people from all economic backgrounds are committing crime. Social disorganization theory cannot explain why youth who come from middle- and upper-class backgrounds commit crime.

Today social disorganization theory focuses on community deterioration and poverty and less on ethnic heterogeneity. Although still not explaining middle-class crime, the contempo- rary version of social disorganization theory emphasizes the association between criminal behavior and other environmental (also referred to as ecological) factors such as disorder, fear, poverty, and feelings of hostility (Bursik, 1988). Contemporary social disorganization theorists examine the impact of population migration to the suburbs, leaving the inner cit- ies with high rates of poverty. As middle- and upper-income residents leave cities, they also take with them forms of informal support and financial resources. As a result, fewer busi- nesses choose to locate in these areas, and poverty becomes more concentrated, as the lack of employment opportunities increases. These neighborhoods lose cohesion, which diminishes their collective efficacy. Collective efficacy refers to the community’s ability to exert control over its residents through informal (trust and respect among neighbors) and formal means (neighborhood watch groups, curfew enforcement by police). The lack of collective efficacy in these communities increases the probability of crime and disorder (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999).

In addition to reduced opportunities for higher wages and resources, residents in disorga- nized communities experience higher levels of fear and distrust. Fear and distrust can exacer- bate crime in various ways. First, residents may fear exerting informal control, such as telling a group of teenagers to disperse from a street corner, because of fears that the teens may retaliate violently. Second, residents (particularly youth) may begin to feel hopeless about their own futures and take greater risks. Third, residents may feel that the police are unable to exert control in their neighborhoods and as a result fail to call the police when disorder erupts, or they may feel police are intentionally racist (Anderson, 1990), both of which fur- ther escalates mistrust and crime.

Several policies have emerged directly from social disorganization theory. The most promi- nent policy was implemented in Chicago, where the theory originated. The Chicago Area Project (CAP) is a program designed to assist at-risk juveniles through strengthening neigh- borhoods. CAP offers numerous services, including academic tutoring, peer mentoring, career development and training, and community development. You can learn more at www.Chica-

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Section 3.5Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

Social disorganization theory is closely related to another theory, referred to as anomie theory.

Anomie Theory: A Breakdown in Values Robert Merton developed anomie theory based on the work of Durkheim (Merton, 1968). Anomie means “normlessness,” so anomie theory argues that societies that fail to establish or have a breakdown in norms and values will lead to criminal behavior and higher crime rates. Although still focused on environmental conditions, anomie theory takes a slightly dif- ferent perspective in explaining criminal behavior. The focus is broadened from the economic conditions of urban areas to economic structures inherent in capitalist societies. In capitalist societies, the American Dream of financial success is held in high esteem. People are taught that if they work hard they can achieve this financial status. Stories of people who came from impoverished backgrounds but achieved high degrees of wealth (e.g., Bill Gates, Oprah Win- frey) are given a great deal of respect in society. However, studies show that most people will not substantially change their class status from one generation to the next. This finding makes sense if we consider the structural forces working against people in impoverished areas: failing schools, high unemployment rates, high incarceration rates among residents, and lack of opportunities for advancement.

In this American context, theorists argue that when a greater emphasis is placed on the goals (in this case, financial respect) rather than the means (e.g., staying in school, working hard), people are more likely to obtain their goals by any means necessary, including criminal and delinquent behavior. Although some people adapt by conforming, others innovate and adopt alternative means to obtain wealth, such as by drug dealing, robbery, burglary, and the like. Although anomie theory increases our understanding of crime and deviance, its broad approach doesn’t explain the entire picture.

Anomie theory is a macro theory, which means that it focuses on crime rates rather than the motivations of individuals. Micro-level theories focus on how and why people respond to adverse conditions. In particular, as a result of the inequality, some residents who work hard feel deprived due to their inability to achieve wealth through legitimate means and expe- rience feelings of hostility, injustice, and distrust of the avenues available to them for suc- cess. Wealth is concentrated among the few. The micro-level theory that plays off of anomie is referred to as strain theory. Originally developed by Robert Agnew, strain theory focuses on why individuals who feel stress or alienation may be more likely to turn to crime. Although Agnew developed two variations of this theory (classic and general), we will touch upon the more popular version referred to as general strain theory.

General Strain Theory According to general strain theory, certain strains, or stresses, increase the likelihood of crime (Agnew, 1992, 2001, 2006). Strain can involve encountering something negative (e.g., abuse, negative school experiences), losing something positive (e.g., job, family member), or being unable to achieve something important or valued (e.g., money, respect, or status). Strains that are seen as unfair or undeserved and those that occur frequently are more likely to create a scenario in which someone may choose to commit crime to alleviate the stress. For example, strains that are high in magnitude include frequent fights with family mem- bers, chronic unemployment or failure in school, homelessness, verbal or physical abuse from peers, and failure to achieve a goal such as status or respect from peers.

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Section 3.5Sociological Theories: Disorganization and Inequality

Strain is more likely to lead to crime when the stressful event leads to negative emotions such as anger and frustration. Crime may allow individuals to escape from or reduce their strain (e.g., run away from abusive parents, steal the money they desire), obtain revenge against the source of their strain or related targets, and alleviate their negative emotions (e.g., through illicit drug use). This theory has been tested in a number of settings with all types of groups (e.g., adults, juveniles, men, women) and has immense empirical support (see Agnew, 2017).

Cultural Deviance Theory Cultural deviance theory asserts that the culture of many impoverished areas is one of frustration at not being able to achieve wealth by conventional means. As such, people develop a different set of norms and rules for behavior that includes deviant means to obtaining wealth. According to this theory, middle-class sta- tus of wealth and respect is the cultural norm in the United States to which every- one is supposed to aspire. Albert Cohen argued that people feel frustration over not being able to achieve success accord- ing to this “middle class measuring rod.” Consequently, by rejecting middle-class values of delaying gratification, working hard, and “playing by the rules,” youth cre- ate their own set of values and norms that are achievable by way of criminal behavior. By breaking the “rules,” youth are able to achieve financial status. From this subculture also emerges a value and respect for toughness, risk taking, and virility among men, all of which tend to be downplayed in conventional middle-class norms.

In his book Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City, Elijah Anderson (2000) sheds light on the diverse subcultures that exist within urban areas. Through his interviews with youth and families in Philadelphia, Anderson found that poor inner-city males build their respect through their physical virility and dominance on the street, a phe- nomenon referred to as having “juice.” Those with juice are able to take care of themselves on the street and are often highly successful at criminal behavior. Anderson also discussed the fact that not all youth respect gang culture and that both “decent” and “street” families exist in the inner city. Decent families are those that teach their children respect, hard work, and self-reliance. These families are considered the working poor, trying to survive through conventional means (e.g., hard work and dedication). There are also street families, or those that hold antisocial values and see criminal behavior as a legitimate way to achieve financial status. These families encourage youth to stand up for themselves and gain respect through violence or “street justice” when necessary.

The policy implications of these theories are varied. On a macro level, we could argue that programs and services should be designed to create opportunities for disadvantaged com- munities. These opportunities could occur in schools (e.g., hiring high-performing teachers in inner-city schools) and communities (e.g., increasing job opportunities for residents). At the

Design Pics/Thinkstock Those with “juice” are able to take care of themselves on the street and are often highly successful at criminal behavior.

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Section 3.6Learning Theories: Learning to Be Criminal

micro level, programs and services could be designed to teach individuals coping skills to deal with strains or adversity in their daily lives and interactions with others.

Although these sociological theories are popular, critics contend that not all youth who come from inner cities commit crime and they question whether youth from lower socioeconomic circumstances adhere to a set of values distinct from those in higher socioeconomic settings. For example, research has shown that even gang-involved youth report having respect for middle-class values, such as cooperation, earning money, and the existence of laws to govern behavior (Polk, Frease, & Richmond, 1974). Others argue that individual differences and pro- tective factors are key to understanding why youth from disorganized areas do not engage in criminal behavior (see Farrington, Ttofi, & Piquero, 2016).

3.6 Learning Theories: Learning to Be Criminal While not completely abandoning the environmental or cultural explanations as “causes” of crime, another group of theorists argue that people engage in crime because they learn that deviant behavior is acceptable. Where they learn that this behavior is acceptable can vary, but often it includes family and friends or others whom they respect. For example, the delin- quent youth may have a mother or father who believes that criminal behavior is appropriate and who rewards deviance. Youth may learn through their peers that criminal behavior is exciting, or they may engage in crime to earn status with their peer group. Regardless of the source, learning to be criminal follows along the same path as any other type of learning.

Differential Association/Social Learning Edwin Sutherland developed differential association theory in the late 1930s and argued that environments played a key role but focused on how people learn to be criminal through their interactions with others. Sutherland also argued that crime was not confined to the street but also occurred within business organizations (Sutherland, Cressey, & Luckenbill, 1992). He studied manufacturing companies and found that many of the managers and own- ers engaged in a variety of criminal and regulatory violations. He believed that economic con- ditions could influence crime; however, he also believed that people learn to become criminal through a process of associating with others.

Sutherland outlined nine principles to describe the process of learning. According to the nine principles, criminal behavior is learned through interacting with delinquent others. He also noted, however, that simply being exposed to delinquents was not sufficient for learning to occur. He maintained that learning was most likely to occur within intimate groups—in other words, people who have the most influence over our behavior: friends, family, mentors, and coworkers. He also maintained that by interacting with others, we learn criminal techniques, or how to commit crime, and eventually this process leads to a shift in “motives and drives,” which are attitudes or views supportive of crime. In other words, if people argue that their criminal behavior is justified (e.g., “marijuana should be legal,” “stores have insurance so they won’t lose anything by me shoplifting”), they are more likely to engage in that behavior. Finally, he argued that frequency, duration, priority, and intensity matter in relation to how we learn from other people (Sutherland et al., 1992). For example, a youth’s friend is more likely to have an impact if the youth sees that person frequently over an extended period of time, if the

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Section 3.6Learning Theories: Learning to Be Criminal

youth is close to that person, and if the relationship is important to the youth. In this way, youth can learn that crime is acceptable in almost any context: any socioeconomic class, in rural or urban areas, in the home or the workplace.

For learning to occur and be sustained, however, there is one key ingredient that Sutherland did not discuss: reinforce- ment, or rewards for a certain behavior. To illustrate, imagine a youth who com- mits a crime and is caught and punished. That youth may be less likely to commit that crime again because the criminal behavior was not successful; the youth’s behavior was not reinforced. By contrast, if a youth commits a crime and is not caught, the action is deemed a success. But success is not simply a matter of not getting caught by police. Success may include receiving praise from one’s peers or family. It may also include the feelings of pride youth experience once they have successfully committed a crime or the physiological high associated with drug and alcohol use. In short, the youth’s behavior is reinforced in a number of ways, all of which may moti- vate the youth to commit more crime.

Reinforcement is the core concept behind Ronald Aker’s social learning theory (Akers, 1999). Akers extended differential association theory by adding the component of reinforcement. A number of studies support the idea that people are more likely to repeat behavior that is rewarded. The idea applies not just to criminal behavior. Walk through any casino in Las Vegas to see this effect.

Neutralization Theory Neutralization theory further explores the idea that criminals have antisocial attitudes and argues that people often minimize criminal behavior to resolve feelings of guilt and respon- sibility. Gresham Sykes and David Matza (1957) developed this theory in the 1940s. They argued that criminal behavior occurs once delinquents master techniques that allow them to neutralize feelings about their criminal behavior. In other words, most people will feel guilty when they commit a crime. The guilt must be neutralized or taken away somehow. The best way to neutralize guilt is to develop reasons (or rationalizations) as to why the crime occurred. Some of those rationalizations include “It wasn’t my fault,” “The victim had it com- ing,” and “The store has insurance and will be able to cover the losses.”

These rationalizations (others may call them excuses) allow delinquents to justify their behavior.

Sykes and Matza (1957) also argued that these neutralizations allowed delinquents to drift or go back and forth between conventional and nonconventional roles. They asserted that many people who commit crime are conventional in many aspects of their lives. Think, for an example, about a youth who attends school regularly but drinks on the weekends, or a

Purestock/Thinkstock Sutherland argues that criminal techniques are learned, most likely in intimate groups that spend a lot of time together.

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Section 3.6Learning Theories: Learning to Be Criminal

youth who may be attending school and getting decent grades but shoplifts an item from a store. The youth in these circumstances may be using a technique of neutralization that allows them to justify the behavior. In essence, the youth learn how to avoid feeling bad about their criminality.

Sykes and Matza identified five techniques of neutralization that delinquents most frequently use to allow themselves to drift between conventional and nonconventional roles: denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of victim, condemnation of condemners, and appealing to higher loyalties (see Table 3.2).

Table 3.2: Techniques of neutralization

Technique Example

Denial of responsibility: Criminal behavior is beyond the control of or not the person’s fault.

A youth who blames others for the crime and mini- mizes his or her role in the crime.

Denial of injury: Denying anyone was injured or that the crime was wrong.

A youth who argues that drinking alcohol or using marijuana should be legal because everyone else is doing it.

Denial of victims: Denial that a victim exists or claiming that the victim may have contributed to the crime.

A youth who argues the victim’s dress or demeanor justified the crime.

Condemnation of condemners: Blaming those who hold the youth accountable.

A youth who argues that judges, police, or oth- ers are out to get him or her or are corrupt and as a result are in no position to judge the youth’s misdeeds.

Appeal to higher loyalties: Claims that some outside force or cause is more important than the law.

A gang member may argue that adhering to the street code of the gang is more important because they represent family. The youth may talk about retaliation against rival gang members as a means of “protecting the neighborhood” or express respect for those who have died as a result of gang violence. The youth’s criminal behavior in this sense has a higher cause.

These techniques of neutralization might be then reinforced by friends or loved ones. For example, if a youth is condemning the condemners, friends or even peers with a similar experience might agree with such condemnation, thus reinforcing the neutralization that the youth should feel guilty at all.

The learning theories have led to a number of policies in the field. For example, if we believe that criminal behavior is learned from intimate others, a clear policy implication is to disrupt antisocial peer networks. Interestingly, disrupting peer networks has proven to be a difficult task for the system. It is not uncommon, for example, for a probation officer or judge to tell the youth to refrain from associating with known criminals. However, for some youth whose family members and friends are involved in criminal acts, disassociating from criminals is often not a viable option. Disrupting networks not only requires removal of antisocial friends but also the development of prosocial friendships. Some programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or other peer mentoring programs may hold promise.

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Section 3.7Social Bonding Theory: Absence of Controls

3.7 Social Bonding Theory: Absence of Controls Travis Hirschi (1969) developed contemporary social bonding theory (also referred to as social control theory) in the 1960s. Hirschi argued that everyone is capable of committing crime. Unlike the previous theories we discussed that assumed something or someone influ- ences the likelihood of crime, social bonding theory argues that everyone is born with the propensity to commit crime but that their bonds to conventional society (e.g., people, organi- zations, institutions) keep them law abiding. In other words, the social bonds we form in our environment are strong enough to prevent us from acting on our desire for deviance.

Early bonding theories argue that individuals engage in crime when controls on their behav- ior break down. Those controls could be outside pressures or pulls—that is, individuals could be pulled into criminal activity through peer pressure or poverty, for example. They could also be influenced by internal factors that push someone into delinquency—that is, the indi- vidual’s own hostility, aggression, or perception of a situation might push him or her into delinquent behavior. Some people who experience these factors, however, do not succumb to delinquency. John Boman and colleagues (2012) found that youth who have positive rela- tions with others and a positive self-image, for example, are more inclined to resist external pulls, such as negative peer pressure. Such youth might also be more apt not to be insecure or to judge situations too hastily. The question is why does this occur? How do these positive relationships work to reduce delinquency? This is where Hirschi’s updated version of social bonding theory comes in. He identified four types of bonds that people normally have to soci- ety or others that often inhibit their criminal behavior (Hirschi, 1969). Those bonds include attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief.

Attachment typically refers to bonds that youth have with others, which can include family members, peers, teachers, or mentors. Being attached to other people typically means youth are sensitive to others’ feelings and consider those people, such as when deciding whether to commit crime. Consider a youth who may want to drink with friends but is concerned about what Grandma might think. That concern for someone else’s feelings or opinion may influ- ence the youth’s decision to avoid delinquency.

Commitment is similar in terms of goals or interests; however, it typically involves a prosocial value system. A youth who is committed to going to college, getting a good job, and having a conventional lifestyle is likely dedicated to conventional behaviors.

The third bond, involvement, typically includes participation in conventional activities such as sports, clubs, or work. Youth who are busy are less likely to commit crime than those who spend a lot of unstructured time with delinquent friends.

Finally, Hirschi’s last bond, belief, is similar to what we discussed in the section on learning theories. A belief is really a moral belief or attitude supportive of a prosocial lifestyle. Those who believe that criminal behavior is wrong or that crime hurts people or society are clearly less likely to engage in such conduct (Hirschi, 1969).

Studies find that youth who have positive relationships with their families are less likely to be involved in crime. Similarly, kids who report strong religious belief and who are involved in after-school activities and sports are also less likely to be involved with drugs and alcohol or other forms of delinquency (Agnew & Peterson, 1989; Cochran & Akers, 1989; Garnier

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Section 3.8The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories

& Stein, 2002). Studies show that involvement and belief appear to be less important than attachments.

However, critics suggest that Hirschi ignores the concept of attachment to deviant peers. Hirs- chi argues that criminals lack bonds and friendships with others. Yet social learning theories suggest that delinquent peers are a strong predictor or factor in explaining juvenile delin- quency. Critics also argue that Hirschi fails to discuss the importance of each bond. Finally, it is difficult to determine whether the weakened bond came before or after the delinquency— is the weakened bond causing the delinquent behavior or is the criminal behavior causing the weakened bond?

3.8 The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories The next group of theories moves away from implicating either environmental or individual factors and instead focuses on the criminal justice system or, more broadly, the capitalist eco- nomic system, for delinquent behavior. Implying that the criminal justice system could poten- tially increase delinquency is not without controversy. However, these theories developed during the 1960s, which was a time of social unrest and turmoil. People were open to the idea that the system may not always have the individual’s best interest in mind. With the Vietnam War, race riots, and political assassinations and scandals, the public’s distrust of government grew (Reiman, 2000). It was in this context that scrutiny also turned to the criminal justice system and whether the system was equal and just.

In his book The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, Jeffery Reiman (2000) argued that the system is “anti-poor” and treats those without resources more harshly than the wealthy. Once in the system, delinquents are thrust into a system of punishment that exacerbates their criminal behavior and often leads to a cycle that is difficult to break. The two theories dis- cussed in this section delve into these issues in detail.

Labeling Theory Labeling theory gained in popularity in the 1960s. At its core, labeling theory argues that negative labels can influence behavior. The process of how labels influence behavior can be a complicated one. One issue is the assumptions generated from certain labels. For example, labeling an individual as “crazy” is often taken to mean he or she suffers from a mental ill- ness, is unstable, and is potentially dangerous. Once people are given a negative label, they may be treated differently by others, they may begin to suffer from a negative self-image, and if they accept the label, they may begin to act in accordance with that image (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, & Ray, 2003). But individuals may also reject the label. A youth may not accept the label, and subsequently it may not have any impact on the youth’s self-image or behavior.

The person conferring or giving the label is also important. As we mentioned earlier in our discussion of bonding theory, the attachment, frequency, duration, and severity of the label- ing process matters. For instance, if a parent or a close friend labels the youth in a negative way, that may have a greater impact than if a distant acquaintance or a stranger applied the

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Section 3.8The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories

label. Similarly, if a youth is consistently labeled over time as a troublemaker at home, in school, and in the community, he or she is more likely to believe that label.

The labeling effect then creates its own self-fulfilling cycle. As children mature and continue to receive these labels, they are more likely to internalize a deviant self-concept. An internal- ized negative self-concept increases the likelihood that an individual will seek out similar others (i.e., other deviant peers). Once a youth joins a deviant group, that subculture rein- forces the delinquency and rejects the conventional values of respect for education and work. After an extended period of time, depending on the severity of the label, the youth may find it difficult to participate in a conventional lifestyle. For example, if a youth is arrested and sen- tenced to a juvenile institution, he or she may find it difficult to assimilate back into a tradi- tional school setting. Another example is seen among parolees who are given labels such as “ex-con,” which can have implica- tions for employment opportunities and social relationships (Adams et al., 2003).

Another aspect of labeling theory, and one that is particularly relevant to crime, is the idea that certain groups or seg- ments of society may be more likely to receive negative labels. In particular, labeling theory advocates claim that peo- ple who have less power, both socially and economically, are more likely to experience negative labeling. In support of this claim, labeling theorists point to the evidence of racial profiling and the overrepresentation of minorities in the criminal justice system. Moreover, they argue that laws are defined by those in power and can have devastating impli- cations for communities with less cohesion and economic resources. For example, theo- rists argue that in the 1980s the severity of the criminal justice system’s response to crack cocaine, a cheap form of cocaine accessible to the urban poor, far exceeded the response to powdered cocaine, which was more expensive and more apt to be abused in higher socio- economic status circles. The disparity in sanctions had a negative impact in many already distressed, impoverished urban areas (Hashimoto, 2011).

Much research has been done to validate labeling theory. Research supports the core belief that negative labels can impact an individual’s self-image and subsequent deviant behavior (Kaplan & Johnson, 1991). Youth who receive negative labels and reject conventional paths (e.g., school, legitimate employment) find themselves caught up in a cycle of disadvantage and crime. However, other studies suggest that the theory fails to explain why some youth engage in delinquency in the absence of labeling. And why, for some youth, the negative label- ing appears to come after the youth engaged in crime, not before (Tittle, 1975). The theory’s assertion that certain segments of society are more likely to receive negative labeling is more difficult to prove. Although evidence of discrimination in the system exists, the assertion that the system is intentionally biased is difficult to disentangle.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock Youth who receive negative labels will more likely develop a deviant self-concept and seek out others like themselves. Certain groups or segments of society may be more likely to receive negative labels.

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Section 3.8The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories

Conflict Theory Given recent economic conditions, conflict between the upper class and the lower class is worse today than it has been in many decades. The inequity and economic rivalry that exists in capitalist society is the subject of conflict theory. Conflict theory, originating from the work of Karl Marx, argues that unequal access to wealth creates conditions that influence criminal behavior. In the 19th century, Marx claimed there was inequity between the work- ing class, called the proletariat, and the upper class or business owners, the bourgeoisie. In particular, he argued that the proletariat was not given sufficient access to the profits gained by the bourgeoisie (Lynch & Groves, 1989).

Capitalism, according to Marx, is to blame for these relationships. Capitalism’s focus on profit inevitably leads to a lack of concern for human welfare. The human is seen simply as a worker who is easily expendable in the name of profits. Marx was not a criminologist at his core, but his writings were clearly relevant to criminology. In particular, his concern for the social wel- fare of workers has implications for the social conditions created by these economic inequi- ties, and the criminal behavior that might emerge from these conditions.

Conflict theory as an explanation of crime became popular in the 1960s. At that time, inequality in the criminal justice system led many people to question not only whether the criminal jus- tice system was fair but also whether the methods for studying crime were giving an accurate picture of crime. As we discussed in Chapter 1, the UCR is a measure of arrest rates but can also be seen simply as a measure of police enforcement. In other words, it is a measure of how much priority police departments decide to apply when enforcing certain laws (e.g., drug laws) and in what areas (e.g., lower-income areas). It is also argued that crime may be more likely to occur in disadvantaged areas because the economic system has marginalized large segments of society.

The concept of marginalization is a key part of the conflict theory explanation of crime. Mar- ginalization is the process whereby businesses increase their profits by reducing the work- force. They accomplish this by replacing workers with more efficient means of production (e.g., computers, cheaper labor overseas), by paying people less to do the same work, or by requiring employees to be more efficient. The more efficient businesses become, the larger the marginalized class may become. These marginalized (unemployed or underemployed) workers then are forced to live in areas that inevitably are more conducive to crime due to their lack of economic means and opportunity. The people who live in these areas are “con- trolled” through high rates of incarceration and police enforcement (Sims, 1997).

Critics of this perspective argue that conflict theorists have little data to prove their claims; in reality, most of the crimes that occur (e.g., theft, drug trafficking) are not for economic survival. Others argue that capitalist societies put regulations in place to reduce criminal behavior. For example, labor laws and regulatory policies (e.g., those promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Securities and Exchange Commission) exist to protect workers from abuse. Finally, critics argue that conflict theorists ignore the reality of violent crime; violence often is not directed toward business owners but rather at others in the same environment (Klockars, 1980).

Numerous theories of crime help us to understand criminal behavior among juveniles. See Table 3.3 for a summary. It is likely that all of these theories are relevant for some people, some of the time. Understanding how and to what degree these theories are relevant requires recog- nition that each person is different and brings to the table various risk and protective factors.

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Section 3.8The Role of Society: Labeling and Conflict Theories

Table 3.3: Summary of theories

Theory of Crime Main Theorists Central Thesis

Classical Beccaria & Bentham Crime occurs when the benefits outweigh the costs. Free will is important to this theory.

Neoclassical/ratio- nal choice

Stafford & Ward; Cornish & Clarke

Building on Beccaria and the classical theory, crime is seen as a choice influenced by costs and benefits and is thereby rational.

Routine activities Cohen & Felson; Clarke

Crime occurs when a motivated offender, suitable target, and lack of capable guardianship come together. Changes to these factors influence the crime rate. Situational crime prevention developed from the theory.

Early biological Lombroso; Sheldon Crime is caused or determined by physical characteristics or abnormalities.

Modern biosocial Mednick; Ellis; Walsh

Crime is a complex phenomenon best understood by exam- ining the interaction between biological and sociological theories.

Trait/personality Eysenck; Caspi; Moffitt

Crime is caused directly or indirectly by psychological traits.

Social disorganization

Shaw & McKay; Sampson; Wilson; Groves

Disorganized communities create crime due to the break- down of social controls. Lack of collective efficacy allows crime to flourish.

Anomie/institu- tional anomie

Merton; Messner & Rosenfeld

Gap between American Dream of success and opportunity to obtain this goal creates structural strain. Norms and social institutions weaken, creating anomie.

General strain Agnew When individuals cannot obtain success, they experience pressure. Strain may be linked to goal blockage and presen- tation of negative stimuli.

Cultural deviance Cohen Crime results when youth reject middle-class status in favor of a set of norms that are supportive of criminal behavior.

Differential associa- tion/social learning

Sutherland; Akers Criminals learn the techniques of crime from intimate oth- ers (e.g., peers), and once reinforced or rewarded for crime, they are more likely to repeat the behavior.

Neutralization Sykes & Matza Criminals adopt neutralizations or rationalizations to drift between criminal and noncriminal roles.

Social control/ bonding

Hirschi Key factor is the lack of control or bonds. Attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief are particularly important.

Labeling Lemert; Becker Labels influence criminal identity. The process of labeling and the extent of that process influences whether the label is adopted.

Conflict Bonger; Quinney; Currie; Colvin

Inequality and power and material well-being create condi- tions that lead to crime. Capitalism is particularly crimino- genic due to the degree of inequality it creates.

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Summary of Learning Objectives

Summary of Learning Objectives Define criminology.

• Criminology is the scientific study of criminal behavior.

Explain the classical and neoclassical theories of crime.

• Classical and neoclassical theories assume that criminals are rational actors who weigh the costs and benefits of criminal behavior before they act.

Summarize early biological and psychological theories of crime.

• Early biological and psychological theories assumed that an individual’s physical traits or internal drives could explain criminal behavior.

Analyze modern biological and psychological theories of crime.

• Modern biosocial theorists argue that criminal behavior is influenced by a host of factors including genetics, environmental contaminants, and hormones.

• Personality theorists argue that personality influences how people respond to their environment and, subsequently, their deviant behavior.

Describe sociological theories for understanding crime.

• Sociological theories point to environmental correlates of crime, such as disor- ganized communities with high rates of poverty, mistrust, and a lack of prosocial opportunities.

Evaluate how crime is understood according to learning theory perspectives.

• Learning theorists argue that criminal behavior is learned much like any other behavior. Criminal behavior that is learned in intimate groups and rewarded is more likely to be repeated.

Explain how social bonding theory helps us to understand crime.

• Social bonding theory argues that everyone is born with the propensity to com- mit crime; however, social bonds or ties to society stop people from acting on their desire for deviance.

Evaluate the role society plays in criminal behavior.

• Labeling theory asserts that the label creates the expectation of criminal behaviors. Those who accept the negative label are more likely to be involved in delinquency.

• Conflict theorists argue that the capitalist system creates an unequal economic situation that marginalizes large segments of society. That marginalization leads to criminal behavior.

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Summary of Learning Objectives

Critical Thinking Questions 1. If you were caught by the police for drug use, what sanction would be needed to

deter you from future criminal behavior? 2. Is there a transitional neighborhood in your community? What features of that

neighborhood do you think breed criminal behavior? 3. Who are the important people in your life? Can you see how those people have

shaped your behavior or your value system? 4. Should we be concerned that even the modern biological and psychologi-

cal approaches will be used to justify segregating or incarcerating those with abnormal traits?

Key Terms adoption studies Research studies in which children adopted into different households are compared with each other or biological parents in order to better understand biological and environmental influence.

American Dream The capitalist dream that holds financial success in high esteem.

anomie theory A theory asserting that the breakdown of norms and values in commu- nities leads to criminal behavior.

biosocial trait theory A theory asserting that understanding criminal behavior rests with how biology and the environment interact.

bourgeoisie The term used by Karl Marx for upper classes and owners of businesses.

Chicago Area Project (CAP) A program designed to assist at-risk juveniles through strengthening neighborhoods.

conflict theory A theory asserting that unequal access to wealth creates conditions that influence criminal behavior.

collective efficacy A community’s ability to exert control over its residents through informal (trust and respect among neigh- bors) and formal (neighborhood watch groups, curfew enforcement by police) means.

criminology The scientific study of crimi- nal behavior.

cultural deviance theory A theory assert- ing that when communities lack legitimate means to obtain wealth, they will develop a set of norms and rules for behavior that includes deviant means to obtain wealth.

determinism Blaming the behavior of indi- viduals on factors outside of their control.

deterrence theory A theory asserting that people decide to commit crime when the benefits outweigh its potential costs.

differential association theory A theory asserting that people learn to be criminal through their interactions with others.

drift In neutralization theory, a delin- quent’s transition back and forth between conventional and nonconventional roles.

free will The ability to choose the way in which to act.

general strain theory A theory asserting that when individuals experience certain strains, or stresses, they are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.

labeling theory A theory asserting that negative labels can influence behavior.

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Summary of Learning Objectives

marginal deterrence The concept that it is more effective to punish serious crimes with severe punishment.

marginalization In conflict theory, a business process that puts pressure on the workforce through threats of replacement, reduction in wages, or continual demands for efficiency.

neutralization theory A theory asserting that people minimize criminal behavior to resolve feelings of guilt and responsibility.

personality theory A theory asserting that individual traits such as psychopathy influ- ence criminal behavior.

proletariat The term used by Karl Marx for the working class.

rational choice theory A theory assert- ing that people carefully consider factors such as their skill level and target suitability before choosing to commit a crime.

reinforcement In learning theory, a reward for behavior.

residential mobility Movement in and out of the city.

routine activities theory A theory assert- ing that the choice to commit crime is influ- enced by offender motivation, target suit- ability, and a lack of capable guardianship.

social bonding theory A theory asserting that social bonds or ties to society stop peo- ple from acting on their desire for deviance.

social disorganization theory A theory asserting that the cause of crime can be found in the environmental conditions within impoverished areas.

somotyping Also known as bodytyping, Sheldon’s theory that certain body types are more prone to criminal behavior.

twin studies Research studies that exam- ine whether identical twins are more likely to share similar behaviors due to their iden- tical genetic makeup.

zone of transition In social disorganiza- tion theory, an inner-city zone characterized by large numbers of foreign-born residents.

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