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Assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches to our sociological understanding of crime and deviance

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Introduction

Assess the usefulness of functionalist approaches to our sociological understanding of crime and deviance This essay will be looking at the usefulness of different functionalist approaches to crime and deviance. To do this it will be looking at the psychological causes of crime by Lombroso, the role of crime and deviance in society by Durkheim, the strain to anomie, 5 adaptations study by Merton, the status theory by Cohen the Opportunity structures study by Cloward an Ohlin and the focal concerns study by Miller. When looking at these studies it will also be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each study. This will then be followed by a conclusion. The psychological causes of crime study by Lombroso looks at why people commit crime from a biological point of view. His research claimed that there were genetically-determined characteristics found in the "criminal classes" such as, large jaws, high cheekbones and large ears. To find this out, he carried out his study on inmates in Italian prisons. One of the main disadvantages of this study was that it was carried out on people from poor backgrounds; whose physical appearance may have been affected by poverty and poor nutrition meaning that he was basing his study on people who had been socially deprived. ...read more.

Middle

This places some people in a position where they are tempted to use any means in achieving their goals and getting to the top. Merton also identified 5 main adaptations to common goals. These are Conformists, Ritualists, Retreatists, Innovators and Rebels. Merton claims that crime and deviance is a result of a lack of balance between means and goals during periods of social change. One of the good points about this study was that it was one of the first attempts to explain crime and deviance in terms of culture. This is useful as it helps us to understand the cultural reasons for why people commit crimes. It was also good because it provided an alternative to the previous biological and psychological theories. An advantage was that it explained crime and deviance in terms of working class people and it also started the development of further theories. However there are also disadvantages to this theory one of the main ones being the fact that there are so many unanswered questions such as why it's not all people that adopts the deviant adaptations. ...read more.

Conclusion

Miller's study on focal concerns approached the situation differently suggesting that deviancy was linked to the culture of lower-class males. He argued that working class males have six 'focal concerns' that are likely to lead to delinquency; these being trouble, toughness, smartness, fate and autonomy. Miller believed that young lower class males were pushed towards crime and also that we should see delinquent sub-cultures as an independent cultural phenomenon that is an extension of the lower (working) class. A criticism of this argument is that it provides little evidence to show that these are specifically working class values as they could easily apply to males of higher class. In conclusion we see that all together, that despite their flaws, all the theories have distinctive positive aspects which all help to explain why people commit crime and deviance. However, what they lack is an explanation to why those in higher classes commit white collar crimes. They all mainly focus on the crimes that are committed by those of the working class ignoring that fact that there is a high amount of crime being committed by those who are higher up in class. ?? ?? ?? ?? Lola Ake A2 Sociology ...read more.

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