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Criminology and Social Theories

Updated on July 3, 2014

This is a paper I wrote in my criminal justice class.


Social Structure and Social Process

Several criminological theories have come to light over the years. One such theory is the social theory, which is used as a route for improving the criminal justice system and reducing crime in the United States. The two categories of social theory are social structure and social process.

These theories prove that people are ultimately influenced by their relationships with other people and their interactions with social institutions. And when these relationships and interactions are negative, people are more likely to get involved in criminal behavior.

Influence and Relationships

The social structure theory focuses on how people are influenced by social institutions. Such social institutions include bad neighborhoods, poverty, gangs, and local school systems.

While the theory of social process focuses on the relationships people have with their family, friends, and peers, their education system, and their authority figures. These relationships influence a person’s potential for criminal behavior if the relationships are negative or of improper socialization.


Social Disorganization Theory

These social theories delve into the concrete reasons why crime is committed and thus help to identify the causes of crime. Such as the use of social disorganization theory, a form of social structure, where theorists are able to tie crime rates to the structure of a neighborhood.

If a neighborhood has a high rate of low income levels, school dropouts, unemployment and other factors then that neighborhood becomes disorganized. And the people living there are more likely to experience conflict and frustration and produce a higher crime rate.

Strain Theories

We have all been through poorer neighborhoods where we did not feel as safe as being in another side of town. This same disorganization is even strong enough to keep and positive effects from showing in a deteriorated neighborhood.

Likewise, the strain theories prove that people who do not achieve the goals they think they ought to have, such as living the American dream, etc, produce negative outcomes in their life and those of the people around them. The same applies when people reject proper goals, and this rejection or acceptance creates conformists, innovators, ritualists, retreatists, and rebels.


Criminal Behavior

In addition to the rejection of goals, criminal behavior can result through social learning. When people learn the norms and values of criminal behavior, they are very likely to commit crimes themselves. Differential association theory shows this is true.

As a person associates with deviant individuals, the person learns about criminal behaviors in the same manner that a person learns lawful activities from associating with lawful individuals. So, crime in many ways is a by-product of social interaction.

Reducing the Crime Rate

In consideration of the social structure and social process theories, I would recommend several changes in the criminal justice system and society to reduce the crime rate in the United States. One change would be a closer view of the neighborhoods across the country that have the highest crime rates.

What can be done to improve the disorganization in those neighborhoods? Perhaps the methods that keep nicer neighborhoods in order could be used. Improvements such as better school systems and more jobs to lower unemployment rates would benefit a deteriorated neighborhood greatly.


Possible Improvements

Of course, improvements in these instances require a great deal of money and effort not only on the shoulders of the criminal justice system, but also from the people involved in these social institutions.

Through social process theory, people, families, authority figures, and school systems alike would have to work to improve their neighborhoods. Crime can never become non-existent, but if the same efforts put into examining the causes of criminal behavior were involved in helping societies to improve, then those efforts could lower the crime rate in the United States.


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