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AS and A Level: Crime & Deviance

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Top five crime and deviance theoretical viewpoints

  1. 1 Functionalism – small amounts of crime are inevitable and in fact crime has some functions for society (Durkheim); higher amounts of crime and deviance may be the result of anomie (Durkheim) or strain (Merton).
  2. 2 Marxism – the working class DO NOT necessarily commit more crime than the ruling class; corporate crime and white collar crime are underrepresented in crime figures (Croall); the crimes the working class carry out can be justified as part of a political struggle against capitalism (Box).
  3. 3 Left Realism – crime in working class areas should be considered carefully as the working class are over represented as victims; crime occurs if people suffer relative deprivation, marginalization (social, political and economic) and live in areas with deviant subcultures (Lea and Young).
  4. 4 Right Realism – People carry out crimes when the benefits outweigh the costs (Clarke); Single parent families often produce criminal or deviant offspring (Murray); zero tolerance policing would improve crime rates (Wilson).
  5. 5 Feminism – women are often excluded and ignored in discussions about crime (Heidensohn); women are often victims of crime and that issue needs consideration (Smart); women are increasingly committing crime.

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    The chivalry thesis claims that women will be treated more leniently for committing certain crimes, generally shoplifting is often associated more with females than males, but the statistics suggest that males commit many more acts of theft than women, an

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    This could be because the statistics of crime are so male dominated, a police officer may not think convicting a woman of petty theft is worth it, when there may be, in his opinion, a man selling drugs elsewhere, it may not be worth it in his view. Similarly, men are more likely to be convicted of theft because the criminal justice system seemingly victimises males over females, while it is probably more likely that males are more likely to commit crime than females, the gap between the crime rates between gender may not be as large as first assumed.

    • Word count: 1144
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    Assess the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics to a Sociological Understanding of Crime

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    Theft of a vehicle has a high incidence of this crime being reported and recorded because in order for a claim for insurance to be processed it has to be reported to and recorded by the police. The same applies to a burglary with loss whereas often victims of vandalism or assault will not report the crime either because of a mistrust of the police or feel that the police will not see it as serious enough to record it.

    • Word count: 2066
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    a***s the arguments and evidence which suggest women commit much less crime than men

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    Can sociological situations affect the crime committed by gender? If so, how and why? Frances Heidensohn (1985), a famous feminist, believes that women do commit less crime than men. She looked at women and social control, saying that it was difficult for women to commit a crime in a male dominant society; a patriarchal society. She believed that women spend all their time in housework and do not have enough time to get involved in crime. If women tried to get out, the 'man' of the house would force them to stay in.

    • Word count: 2481
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    Evaluate the Functionalist explanations of Deviance.

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    He claimed that a limited amount of crime was necessary for any society. Durkheim argued that as societies develop and grow, the collective conscience, or shared values, which guide our actions and provide boundaries, are weakened. Thus, as societies become more complex the boundaries become unclear, and also change over time. It is here that a limited amount of crime has its place. Durkheim discussed three elements of the positive aspect of crime: 1. Reaffirming boundaries - every time a person breaks the law and is taken to court, the resulting court ceremony and publicity in the media, publicly reaffirms the existing values.

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  5. Drawing on examples from your reading, explore the medias impact on the fear of crime. Consider the strengths and limitations of the labelling perspective towards understanding the significance of this impact.

    A prime example of over amplification on the media's behalf was the Strangeways prison protest. In actual fact this was a peaceful protest for better jail conditions but was misconstrued so extremely by the media that the public fully believed that numerous hangings and murders had taken place in the jail as a 'kangaroo court' was said to have been taking place. Every day the death toll rose in the media's account of events, however in reality the toll was consistently zero as no violence had taken place. The natural connotations of this media discourse were feelings of fear across the nation for those inside the jail.

    • Word count: 1841
  6. Examine the patterns of, & reasons for, domestic violence in the society.

    Popular emphasis has tended to be on women as the victims of domestic violence. According to Dobash and Dobash who studied domestic violence in Scotland, 'For most people, and especially for women and children, the family is the most violent group to which they are likely to belong. Despite fears to the contrary, it is not a stranger but so called loved one who is most likely to assault, r**e, or murder us'. Therefore the pattern in most cases, is for women to be the victims of domestic violence, although there are also cases where men and children are the victims.

    • Word count: 1280
  7. Assess sociological contributions to our understanding of the nature of environmental crime.

    The starting point for this approach is the national and international laws and regulations concerning the environment. For example, Situ and Emmons define environmental crime as 'an unauthorised act or omission that violates the law'. Like other traditional approaches in criminology, it investigates the patterns and causes of law breaking. However, green criminology takes a more radical approach. It starts from the notion of harm rather than criminal law. Rob White argues that the proper subject of criminology is any action that harms the physical environment and/or the human and non-human animals within it, even if no law has been broken.

    • Word count: 637
  8. Examine the pattern of, and reasons for, domestic violence in society.

    Interestingly, the most shocking pattern of these patterns is that is that is predominantly violence by men against women. For example. Kathryn Coleman (2007) established that women were particularly more likely than man to have encountered 'intimate violence, alongside all kinds of domestic abuse, such as partner abuse, family abuse, s****l assault, and stalking. Similarly, Mireels identified that women were common victims of domestic abuse, 99% of incidence recorded that violence by a man against women, and nearly one in four women have been abused by their partner at some time in her life. These findings were confirmed in Russell and Rebecca Dobash's study in Scotland.

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    Assess the view that crime and deviance is the result of labelling, the media and public opinion

    Robert Merton believes that people who can't achieve high success in life (money) people will try and achieve this illegally. Also discussed is the subcultural strain theory from Albert Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin, and Walter Miller. Cohen believes that crime is cause by the lower class resolving the frustration of a lack of opportunity by doing non-utilitarian crime. Cloward and Ohlin believe that there is a different type of crime, depending on the area that they live in. Walter Miller believe that crime is caused by the low skilled labour and dead end jobs that leads to the person finding excitement and thrills outside the work place by deviant means.

    • Word count: 3715
  10. Assess the right realist view that crime is the result of biological rational factors and therefore best solved by formal social control.

    These pair of sociologists believes that these two combined make a lethal combination. Young extends the debate by saying that subcultures still subscribe to the values and goals of mainstream society. One other topic in the left relist debate is marginalisation. These groups lack clear goals and organisation to represent them, which cause frustration leading to violence and rioting. Modern society and exclusion has been highly influential for helping sociologists to understand crime. Young believes that the economy is moving away from skilled and unskilled jobs which are causing the working class to be unemployed and excluded as the upper class are pricing them out of the market.

    • Word count: 3734
  11. Examine strain theories as an explanation of crime and deviance in contemporary society

    where the means are used but the goals are lost, retreatism, where both the goals and means are rejected, and finally rebellion, where different goals and means a substituted for societies approved ones. However, Merton was criticised by sociologists such as Valler for his stress on the existence of common goals in society. Valler argues that there are a variety of goals that people strive to attain at one time. In contemporary society, the realisation of Britain's multicultural society has meant that it is impossible to suggest one set of common goals that people subscribe to as there are too many cultures in society to have one common set.

    • Word count: 666
  12. Examine the role of formal and informal social control in controlling individuals

    According to functionalists, without control and punishment, society would collapse into a state of anomie. They suggest that the process of prosecution provides a constant means of checking whether the law reflects the views of the majority in society. With formal social control, it is suggested that if someone commits a crime, they will be punished by the justice system accordingly. For example, if someone commits and act of violence, they might be punished with jail time for example. Punishments like this often deter people from committing crime in the first place as they have seen example of other people, but also deters people from committing again.

    • Word count: 804
  13. Assess the usefulness of the labelling theory as an approach to the study of crime and deviance

    Deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label." Becker points out a piece of anthropological research which shows undeniably, how this statement is proven in some cultures. The study was of a traditional culture on a Pacific Island conducted by Malinowski which describes how a youth killed himself because he had been publically accused of incest. When first asked about incest, the islanders had retorted in disgust, but when pressed on the matter, it was revealed that many had committed acts of incest and that it was not uncommon, providing those involved were discreet.

    • Word count: 949
  14. Using material from item A and elsewhere, examine reasons for the appeal of the new age and new religious movements.

    These ideas are supported by institutions of the state such as the education and legal systems. The ability to informally control ideas in this way is hegemony. Part of the capitalist class hegemony is the belief that the legal system operates in the interests of everyone in society. Traditional Marxist argue the legal system is actually a method of formal social control over the population. They claim the legal system backs up the ideas and values of the ruling class ideology.

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  15. Assess Marxist theories of crime and deviance.

    Furthermore, Marxists are critical of Right Wing theories as Right Wing theories believe that laws are in place to protect non-criminals and prosecute criminals. However, there is evidence to suggest that this is not true. Marxists believe that laws are only enforced on the proletariat and that capitalists are exempt from it. Grahman's study of the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act 1970 gives evidence to this claim. The government wanted to control the manufacturing of amphetamine as 90% of illegal amphetamine was found to have come from legally manufactured drug companies.

    • Word count: 1570
  16. Assess Interactionist theories of crime and deviance.

    Lemset notes that there are two types of deviance: primary and secondary. Primary deviance is not important as it does not affect a person's self-concept and is not known about by others whereas secondary deviance is important as it affects a person's self-concept due to societal reaction. Becker developed a theory that detailed the stages of how someone is labelled and they become deviant due to this label. Becker says that a label will be given due to who is performing the behaviour, where they are doing it, who else is with them and who observes their behaviour.

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  17. Assess functionalist theories of crime and deviance.

    When there is the right amount, society can progress as the criminal may be 'the origin of the genius' as they challenge societies current values. Durkheim also made the concept of anomie. At times of rapid change, society can enter a state of normlessness, as there are no common norms and values, which revert people back to being biologically selfish. Durkheim's view of crime being functional has been heavily criticised. Downes and Rock argues that it is not functional for the victim or the victim's family; Durkheim fails to explain why there is crime; his theory is not scientific and so is not falsifiable; and social action theorists see it as deterministic.

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  18. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    At first glance, deviance seems dysfunctional for society. Functionalist theorists argue otherwise. They contend that deviance is functional because it creates social cohesion. Branding certain behaviours that are considered normal, giving people a heightened sense of social order. Norms are meaningless unless there is deviance from the norms, and deviance is necessary to clarify what society's norms are. Group coherence then comes from sharing a common definition of legitimate behaviour. The collective identity of the group is affirmed when people defined as deviant are ridiculed or condemned by group members.

    • Word count: 9112
  19. Access the strengths and limitations of Subcultural Theories in explaining deviance.

    He argues that people either show the conformity displayed by most people, or they adopt one of the four forms of deviance: Innovation- Poor education or unemployment means that some people accept the shared goal but do not have the means of achieving them, so they turn to crime as an alternative. Ritualism- They accept their goals but give up on achieving it, e.g. a teacher giving up on pupils success. Retreatism- These neither accept the goals or have the means of achieving them so they just drop out, like drug addict and tramps, and give up altogether.

    • Word count: 2169
  20. The Strengths and Limitations of Left Realism and Right Realism Theories in Explaining Crime and Deviance.

    Subculture- Groups sharing a sense of relative deprivation see subcultures as the collective solution to the group's problems and develop lifestyles which allow them to cope with this problem. Second generation West Indian immigrants for example, advocated subcultural strategies such as street crime in the form of 'hustling' for money, as well as joining Rastafarian and Pentecostal religious movements. Marginalisation- Groups find themselves 'pushed to the edge' of society as they lack organisations to represent their political interests and also lack clearly defines goals.

    • Word count: 2386
  21. Outline & Evaluate the Marxist view of crime (45 Marks)

    Functionalists see crime differently; they say it emphasizes the positive role that crime may have within the social system. However both perspectives are structural theories which explain crime as a broad social phenomenon. One way in which Marxists contribute to our understanding of crime is that they explain how the upper class are able to get the laws they want. All laws passed are put in place to benefit the ruling class, ensuring they maintain control over the country. Agencies of the ruling class impose values on the working class to behave in the way the ruling class want them to.

    • Word count: 1275
  22. New Right Realism & New Left Realism. The realist approach to crime treats crime as a real problem.

    Left realists accuse Marxists of romanticising the criminal by portraying them as resistant of the capitalist system. They do not agree with this theory because most working class crime is opportunistic and committed against the working class, not against capitalists. Street crimes are what left realists tend to focus their research on. They disagree with the focal adjustment on white collar crime and corporate crime that Marxists research the most out of any other type of crime. This is problematic for Marxists because they are therefore ignoring the real violence and damage done to our society by street crimes.

    • Word count: 1947
  23. Outline & evaluate sociological explanations of the relationship between crime & ethnicity

    Sociologists are divided in their opinion when accounting for a relationship between crime and ethnicity. Marxists suggest that the state passes laws to benefit the ruling class and that the laws are not enforced equally in society. This often leaves lower classes and ethnic minorities in a worse-off financial state. Hall uses a moral panic theory to explain the panic over mugging in the 1970's. The media focused their attention on street crimes in inner city areas and often linked them with black youths. This then had an effect on the police, where they would then start patrolling these inner city areas more regularly.

    • Word count: 948
  24. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of using structured interviews to investigate the real rate of street crime.

    asking another person(interviewee) a list of predetermined questions about a carefully-selected topic. The use of structured interviews to investigate street crime has several advantages. Firstly it enables the researcher to examine the level of understanding a respondent has about a particular topic - usually in slightly more depth than with a postal questionnaire. This is through facial expressions or the way in which the interviewee responds. Secondly, because all respondents are asked the same questions in the same way, it makes it easier to replicate.

    • Word count: 481
  25. Crime and its effects on society. Police Reform Act 2002 The police reform act impacted mainly onto the police obviously due to giving PCSOs (Police Community Support Officer) more power to control anti social behaviour

    It also expands the circumstances in which defendants can be tried twice for the same offence (double jeopardy), when "new and compelling evidence" is introduced. The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 This act was brought out in order to try and lessen the extent of anti social behaviour, It was brought in mainly to control, truancy, suspected crack houses, illegal firework usage, false reports of emergencies, wasting police time and trespassing. It also gave the local councils the power to order under 16s to erase graffiti that they were proved to of done.

    • Word count: 1734

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Assess the usefulness of consensus theories for an understanding of crime and deviance in contemporary society.

    "Also a lot of the research carried out on this topic was carried out in the early 19th century therefore research into this topic was very androcentric. As a result it ignores the fact that women also commit crimes which in contemporary society is higher than it was when Merton and Cohen were carrying out their research. Feminists would argue this point along with the point that they ignore the crimes commited by males such as domestic violence, such as sexual abuse, however, Davis' argument that the legalisation of prostitution could hinder domestic violence within the family. In conclusion, although consensus theories are outdated some of the points argued could help develop a more in depth understanding of crime and deviance within contemporary society."

  • Assess the view that ethnic differences in crime rates are the result of the ways in which the criminal justice system operates.

    "As we have seen, official statistics on the criminal justice process show differences between ethnic group. The question is therefore how we explain these patterns. There are two main explanations for ethnic differences in the statistics; Left realisms and the Neo-Marxism. The left realists see the statistics represent real differences in rates of offending. Whereas the Neo-Marxists see the statistics are a social construct resulting from racist labelling and discrimination in the criminal rates of offending. From a left realist perspective, the justice system does not necessarily act on the differences of ethnic minorities but demonstrates a true representation of the rates in offending. On the other hand from a Neo-Marxists view the statistics is just a myth of the social construct and they see that is what the justice system acts on. To an extent, the left realist perspective seems to be valid as it is inane to believe that the ethnic minority community could be the fault of most crimes simply as a result of their race. However, it is also conceivable that their race, religion and ethnicity has a significant contribution ."

  • 'The world today is as furiously religious as ever it was and in some cases more so' to what extent is this statement supported.

    "The statement 'the world today is as furiously religious as ever it was and in some places more so', could be perceived as being true in that some cultures and continents still have religion and religious beliefs high on their agenda, but it could be argued that in European cultures especially, there is a decline in religious values and beliefs, statistics back up both sides at the argument, so it could just fall down to personal beliefs and opinion about the subject matter in hand."

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