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Crime Theories: Strain Theory, Social Bond Theory, And Differential Association Theory

1124 words - 4 pages

Criminologists are scientists who study crime. In order to do this they attempt to use the scientific method whenever possible. In the scientific method an individual first puts through a hypothesis to explain why something happens or even why something is. In the case of criminology the main question being asked is “why does crime occur?”, but some theories also attempt to answer another equally interesting question “if being a criminal is the easy choice, why are so many people law abiding?” in order to understand criminal behavior. In order for a hypothesis to be moved forward into the category of a theory it must first be tested, and those tests must be able to be reconfirmed. In the case of criminology most of this testing is done by looking at statistics, because it is not the kind of testing that can be safely done through experimentation. These theories can then be used to create social policy and attempt to limit crime. Three popular theories in criminology are strain theory, social bond theory and differential-association theory.
The idea of a cultural goal is behind the strain theory. Our societies’ cultural goal is to amass wealth and gain success. We are led to believe that this goal is achievable by all individuals, but not all individuals are given the same opportunities and tools to reach the cultural goal. When an individual is blocked from achieving the cultural goal strain develops. Individuals cope with this strain with adaptations as a way to bridge the gap between their means and the cultural goal. An individual may choose to turn to illegal means to reach the cultural goal. This type of individual is called an innovator and would include drug dealers, illegal arms dealing and other criminal enterprises. Another possibility is that the individual becomes discouraged and gives up completely. These retreatists will include addicts, homeless and those who commit suicide. These individuals “have withdrawn from society mentally, socially, or both” (Eve, Segal, and Stevens, Ch. 6 Sec. 4). The last truly deviant adaptation is the rebel. This individual not only gives up on the cultural goal and creates a new goal, but also gives up on legal means of meeting the new goal. Examples of rebels are eco-terrorist organizations, cult religions and white supremacist groups. One last adaptation is the ritualist. This individual has accepted the fact that the cultural goal is unobtainable, but still tries to reach the goal through legal channels. “This isn’t really a deviant adaptation to strain. In fact, we are more likely to see it as a sad situation -- as someone who has given up hope, but isn’t breaking the law” (Lycan, Lecture W-4). This theory is supported by the statistics of inner city poverty in which individuals are likely to experience strain in large numbers. This theory supports policies that create opportunities for all individuals such as access to education and good paying jobs.

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