Criminology: A View Of Social Structure Theories

Social structure theories assert that the disadvantaged economic class position is a primary cause of crime.  The theories state that neighborhoods which are “lower class” create forces of strain, frustration and disorganization that create crime.

These theories have certain truths in regards to resources and certain people’s experiences.  However the theories also have certain disparities.  General strain theory, for example had to be revised in 2004 to better ascertain the research methods in which data was obtained. (Stephen W Baron. Criminology. Beverly Hills: May 2004. Vol. 42, Iss. 2; p. 457)

When you look at the theory, the strains might not necessarily come from people’s frustrations with acquiring The American Dream, but rather a mixture in strains such as homelessness, abuse and neglect, subcultures, deviant values and frustrations about poverty.  Meaning, there might be more than one factor in play when a person is “influenced” to commit a crime by interacting within an imposed economic class.  A person might encounter one of these factors by themselves and not decide to succumb to peer pressure or let his/her abuse trauma lead them to a life of crime.  A person might face poverty but have enough resilience through family values to make a choice of lawful actions.

Some aspects of these theories seem a bit outdated because there have been many community initiatives that promote culture pride and community involvement in the “disadvantage” neighborhoods which are not being accounted for in the theories.

But even more disturbing is how Institutional Anomie is focusing on the individual’s choice to leave their neighborhoods without considering the disruptions as if there were any choice in the matter.

Quote: “People think nothing of leaving…” 

Anyone who has the experience of immigration would disagree with this kind of portrayal.  Family and community distance has a distinct expression in the Latino community.  “We think everything and still have no choice but to leave”, would be a more appropriate choice of words in this particular scenario.

The theories are addressing factors and events in our neighborhoods that need constant attention, such as the choice to form gangs, drug trafficking (to a certain extent) and counter-cultures.  However, there are as many forces that counter these crime inspiring situations as there are ones who may potentially foster it.  The conditions of lower class neighborhoods are more diverse and in the gray area than some of the theories vocabulary have taken into account


6 responses to “Criminology: A View Of Social Structure Theories

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    All models (theories) are wrong, some are useful.
    – George Box (statistician)

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