Social Structure Theories

Social structure theories are theories that aim to describe criminal behavior. These theories have been used for years to decipher the many aspects that plan a hand in people committing various crimes. The three main theories are social disorganization theory, strain theory, and cultural deviance theory. Each theory is different in determining the factors that cause criminal behavior. Also these theories have had a significant impact on different public policies.

Social disorganization theory focuses on conditions in the environment. This theory focuses on run-down neighborhoods, gangs, lack of social control, and conflicting social values as factors that produce crime. When a person is living in a run-down neighborhood with gang violence it may be hard for them to imagine anything else even getting out. Once a person becomes acclimated to a situation it then becomes the norm and when it does become the norm it is viewed as being okay to live that way.

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Also with this theory is gang violence.

In deteriorated neighborhoods there is little to no structure or organization and some crave this in their daily lives. Also the need for belonging also plays a part in gang formation. These factors contribute to the high amount of gangs and the violence that come along with them due to conflicting social values. The social strain theory focuses on conflict between goals and means. This conflict has to do with unequal distribution of wealth and power, frustration, and choosing alternative methods of achievement.

Unlike the social disorganization theory which is concerned with environment the social strain theory is more focused on goals and the means to obtain them. Crime can be associated with a lack of education, lack of a good job, and the lack of opportunity to obtain either. What it really boils down to is the lack of money. Without money it is impossible to achieve the American dream whatever your version of it may be. For this reason many will choose alternative means of achieving their goals and more often than not these alternatives involve crime.

Crimes such as selling drugs, robbery, and fraud are not uncommon for those who lack opportunity. Last is the cultural deviance theory which combines the social disorganization and social strain theories. As a result of disorganization and stress in deteriorating neighborhoods subcultures are being developed. Within these subcultures the values may differ from conventional good order values and those within the subculture must adapt to these new values.

Things such as a college education are not valued as much as fast money and nice cars are in some subcultures. Even human life can hold a different value in some subcultures born as a result of disorganization and stress. Cultural deviance best describes why a lot of crimes are committed because it encompasses more. It takes into account the disorganization and stress of a deteriorating neighborhood, the subcultures that develop as a result, and the lack of means to achieve goals within those subcultures.

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