Explaining Crime--lecture Outline



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Explaining Crime--Lecture Outline



Lecture & some Group Discussion report-in:

Overview of Explanations/Theories:

Neoclassical theories (Barkan Ch. 5)

1. Rational Choice Theory —When is Crime rational? Cost-Benefit

2. Deterrence Theory --What deters crime? Related to Rational Choice theory…

Social Structural theories (more Macro focus) (Barkan Ch. 7) –

3. Social Disorganization Theory (& Social Ecology) – Role of Places / Soc. Environment (as opposed to people). Role of Social Institutions, Poverty, Social Bonds & effect on Social Control

4. Anomie / Strain Theory –Strain cause crime, & causes Strain (economic & non-economic factors [for youth] factors)? How do individuals respond to strain?

5. Subcultural Theories -- Subculture related to Strain & Social Disorganization; “Status frustration”. What values are conducive to crime?

Social Process theories (more Micro focus) (Ch. 8)

6. Differential Association Theory (a Learning Theory) --Role of socialization & learning from those you associate with… Link to Subcultural thry.

7. Social Bonding Theory – Main Idea –what keeps people out of crime (role of mainstream institutions)?

8. Self Control Theory--What causes this & how does it lead to deviance?

9. Life Course theories? What happens in life course (over time) to increase or decrease involvement in crime?

Critical perspectives (Ch 9)

10. Labeling Theory – Role Societal reaction to deviance, & of double-standards in labeling…& Self-fulfilling prophesy

11. Feminist Theories – Patriarchy and gender inequality role in crime. How are Gender socialization & crime related?

12. Radical and Conflict theories – Economic basis for much crime (poverty especially), key role of capitalism as economic system (inequality & poverty), role of powerful in laws & CJ system.

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More Details on Theories:



Neoclassical Theories (Barkan Ch. 5, p. 119-130)

1. Rational Choice Theory—What is the main assumption of this theory? What is an “event decision” and how do “situational factors” and “opportunities” affect “event decisions”?

2. Deterrence Theory--What is the main idea (i.e., what deters crime?)? How is this related to Rational Choice theory? What are “general deterrence” and “specific deterrence”? What are “instrumental offenses” and “expressive offensives”, how might deterrence theory apply?

Social Structure Focus (Barkan Ch. 7):

3. Social Disorganization Theory (& Social Ecology) -- What is about the some places (as opposed to people) that produce crime? Less Social Institutions, Social Bonds and Social Control? Social norms breakdown? Role of Poverty?



4. Anomie / Strain Theory-- What causes Strain / Stress (consider economic & non-economic factors [for youth] factors)? How do individuals respond to strain (5 ways)? How does that lead to crime?

5. Subcultural Theories-- How is Subculture related to Strain & Social Disorganization? What is role of “Status frustration”? What sort of values are conducive to crime? move toward alternative subculture & crime (& alternative values conducive to crime) [What about middle class delinquents?] What is the role of “differential opportunity”? Subculture of violence? Link to Strain & Social Disorganization theories (context for development of deviant sub-culture), link to Differential Association theory

Social Process /Leaning / Socialization Focus (Barkan Ch. 8)

6. Differential Association Theory (a Learning Theory) --Role of socialization & learning from those you associate with… How does one learn & what you learn (that is conducive to crime), techniques, rationalizations, etc…Link to Subcultural thry.

7. Social Bonding TheoryMain Idea –what keeps people out of crime (role of mainstream institutions)? What are main 4 parts of theory (Attachment, etc.) & how do they prevent deviance? [Conversely, weak social Bonds to Mainstream Institutions (families and Schools) lead to delinquency.]

8. Self Control Theory--What causes this & how does it lead to deviance?

9. Life Course theories-- What happens in life course (over time) to increase or decrease involvement in crime? Social bonds, “turning points”?

Critical perspectives (Ch 9)

10. Labeling Theory – Role Societal reaction to deviance, & of double-standards in labeling? Importance of labeling in Self-fulfilling prophesy? Primary Deviance vs. Secondary Deviance?

11. Feminist Theories Patriarchy and gender inequality role in crime. How are Gender socialization & crime related, for males & not for females? Role of Prior Victimization?

12. Radical and Conflict theories Economic basis for much crime (poverty especially), key role of capitalism as economic system (creating econ. inequality & poverty), role of powerful in writing laws and directing CJ system against lower classes? Role of class inequality in CJ system?
How do examples in Leap Chs. 12 & 13 fit with these various theories (I am listing only a few details on each aspect here, you should know more for test, at least for some)—

Kevin & Ronnie & Elena (Leap Ch. 12)—Social Disorganization theory (weak family & other institutions in their live); gangs provide alternative way for needed social bonds, replacement for weak / non-existent family. Subcultural theory—gang as deviant subculture. Differential Association—hanging out with gang members, interactions, learn things about crime. Labeling theory—labeled as offender when actually a victim; also “gang” label applied to them but definition is much broader and not applied to all that might fit. Deterrence Theory—not work, given experiences in Juvenile camps & jail. Strain theory—Lots of crime due in part to access to institutional eamns to achieve success, Home Boy Industries can lessen strain a bit with jobs. Gender—Gangs and guns and masculinity…Elena’s journey and hardship in LA, role of prior victimization hinted at.

All 3 main characters are smart and resilient – in different setting they might have been quite successful (which theory would that fit)



Leap Ch 13 (Fabian & Trayvon)—How did Fabian get out? Soc. Disorganization Theory and Strain theory, maybe soc. bonding theory -- Role of Homeboy as institution and providing opportunities. Trayvon -- Social Disorganization theory-- family problems and school problems and foster care social service problems, very poor, surrounded by drugs & gangs. Strain theory—can’t get job after jail, Homeboy provides alternative; Subculture Theory—deviant subculture of gang, of his family. Deterrence theory not work, given jail experiences.

Again, both young men are resilient and talented, could do a lot in other circumstances,


For Test 2 –I Announced in class -- 1 long Essay Q on Test 2 will be on Social Theories / Explanations– you should know 3-4 main ideas from 3-4 different theories (of your choosing), not all from same chapter, and be able to figure out how specific examples / information from Leap Chs. 12& 13 (as well as Chs.14, 15 16) fit or not with each.
Not Covered in class, or covered only a little, but you should know some of for exam:

  • Rational Choice Theory—What is the main assumption of this theory? What is an “event decision” and how do “situational factors” and “opportunities” affect “event decisions”?

  • Deterrence Theory--What is the main idea (i.e., what deters crime?)? How is this related to Rational Choice theory? What are “general deterrence” and “specific deterrence”? What are “instrumental offenses” and “expressive offensives”, how might deterrence theory apply?

  • Feminist Theories Patriarchy and gender inequality role in crime. How are Gender socialization & crime related, for males & not for females? Role of Prior Victimization?

  • Radical and Conflict theories Economic basis for much crime (poverty especially), key role of capitalism as economic system (creating econ. inequality & poverty), role of powerful in writing laws and directing CJ system against lower classes? Role of class inequality in CJ system?

  • Self Control Theory--What causes this & how does it lead to deviance?

  • Life Course theories-- What happens in life course (over time) to increase or decrease involvement in crime? Social bonds, “turning points”?


Study TIP: See the Summary Tables of theories early in each chapter and Chapter summaries at the end for decent, brief overview of all of the theories noted above. You need to know more details than that, but those are good places to start…

Also, for list of key issues in chapters see Group Discussion Questions (overlap a lot with lecture):


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