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Crime and Deviance

Criminology is a fascinating area of study, covering a wide range of topics from the tax evasion of huge corporations to rioting and street gangs. Before we move on to study the key ideas, we need to explain the two most important concepts here: crime and deviance.

Crime is the breaking of society’s formal rules – its laws. These laws are backed up by agents of social control such as the police and judicial system. Breaking laws often leads to some form of punishment, from a police warning to imprisonment, even capital punishment in some societies. But crime does not always lead to punishment. Many crimes go undetected or unrecorded while some, such as drug taking, are ‘victimless’ and will usually be unreported.

Deviance is any act that goes against the prevailing norms of a particular culture. Acts of deviance cover a wide range of behaviours, from outrageous haircuts to jumping a queue. Deviant acts often lead to informal sanctions such as ‘dirty looks’ or negative comments.

Definitions of crime and deviance change across time and between cultures. The decriminalisation of cannabis in some US states illustrates how the same act (smoking cannabis) can be viewed very differently in different cultures. Similarly, the UK laws surrounding homosexuality have changed hugely over the last 50 years – yesterday’s deviance can become today’s normality.

These shifting definitions lead sociologists to describe both crime and deviance as social constructions.

Essays on crime and deviance

Learn more about the key concepts of criminology with our study guide dedicated to the main principles - crime and deviance.

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Assess the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics to a Sociological Understanding of Crime

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The Government publishes official statistics on crime in Britain annually. The main source of these statistics are gathered from recorded crimes by the police...

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Evaluate the Functionalist explanations of Deviance.

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Sociology Essay Evaluate the Functionalist explanations of Deviance (50 marks) Functionalism has been one of the most important approaches in explaining...

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Deviance is relative. Evaluate this term

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Deviance can be defined as actions that go against the norms and values of a society or group an example crime. Different types of deviance can be split into...

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All crime would be solved with longer prison sentences. Evaluate the arguments for and against.

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It is difficult to prevent crime, as there are often many different reasons why a crime is committed. There are many punishments that are used for crime, including...

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Asses the arguments and evidence which suggest women commit much less crime than men

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The sociology gender of has mostly been focused on women and femininity, but over the recent years men and masculinity has also been studied. Some..

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Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the value of 'chivalry thesis 'in understanding differences in crime.

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Pollak (1950) was of the opinion that police and magistrates tended to be more 'chivalrous' and 'lenient' towards female offenders, resulting in sentence...