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Theories of Crime

Please take one of the theories of crime and analyze it using the following four guides.

1. What is the theory trying to explain?
2. List and describe the major concepts/terms of the theory.
3. In your own words, tell how the theory explains deviance/delinquency/crime.
4. List and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the theory.

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Please see response attached, which is also presented below.

RESPONSE:

This is an interesting set of questions. Let's look at Travis Hirschi's Control theory of Delinquency.

1. Please take one of the theories of crime and analyze it using the following four guides.

Briefly, Travis Hirschi is a one of the most prominent control theorists and has contributed significant works to the field of criminology throughout the past few decades. He is a classical, choice theorist and has generated two major versions of control theory throughout the course of his career. His first version of control theory, presented in Causes of Delinquency in 1969, had an interesting origination in the social disorganization perspective (Welch, 1998). http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/hirschi.htm

This control theory of delinquency (Hirschi, 1969) explained that weak social bonds might set an individual free to weigh the benefits of crime. Hirschi discussed four variables that may affect one's likelihood of conforming to, or deviating from, the norms of society, which will be later discussed in detail (Welch, 1998) http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/hirschi.htm

a. What is the theory trying to explain?

The Control Theory of Delinquency is a more sociological theory, unlike the theories of Hirschi's contemporaries, which were much more psychological in nature. In fact, he took special care to explain the inadequacies of other contemporary theories before introducing his theory of delinquency. Rather than focusing on an individual's personality as a source of criminality, he focused on the role of social relationships, which he termed social bonds (Hirschi, 1969:16). Here he focused primarily on social bonds and institutions, rather than the individual and self-control to which his view shifted in his self-control theory of crime in 1990. The control theory of delinquency assumes delinquent acts will result when one's bond, or connection to society is weak or broken. Hirschi contended that no motivational factors were necessary for one to become delinquent; the only requirement was the absence of control that allows the individual to be free to weigh the benefits of crime over the costs of those same delinquent acts (Welch, 1998). http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/hirschi.htm

b. List and describe the major concepts/terms of the theory.

The explanation provided by Hirschi as to why individuals conform to or deviate from social norms entails four variables: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. Welch (1998) further explains:

· By attachment, Hirschi (1969:18) refers to the extent to which a person is attached to others. As the individual becomes more attached to others, he is far less likely to become delinquent. The primary attachments and interactions are with the parents, closely followed by the attachments to peers, teachers, religious leaders, and other members of a community. Hirschi (1969:19) prefers the concept of attachment to that of internalization, because attachment can be measured independently from deviant behavior, whereas internalization cannot.

· Commitment is "the rational component in conformity" (Hirschi, 1969:20). In general, it refers to the fear of law-breaking behavior. When one considers committing deviant, or criminal behavior, he must consider the risks of losing the investment he has made in previous conventional behavior. If one were to have developed a positive reputation, earned a valuable education, raised a supportive family, and/or established a strong name in the business world, he would suffer a substantial loss by violating laws (Hirschi, 1969:162-186). The societal accumulations that one accrues throughout a lifetime represent assurance to society that this person is committed to conventional values. He has more to lose by violating laws. Not only can one be committed to conformity by what he has obtained, but the hope of acquiring goods through conventional means can reinforce one's commitment to social bonds (Hirschi, 1969:186).

· Engrossment in conventional activities comprises the component of involvement. Hirschi believed that involvement in conventional activities would keep someone's time too occupied to allow him the indulgence of deviant behavior. The thinking that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" is the reason Hirschi (1969:187) stated "[t]he child playing ping-pong, swimming in the community pool, or doing his homework is not committing delinquent acts". Hirschi thought for a person like this, the opportunity for deviance would rarely arise. This serves as a major source of contention for critics, because as we will discuss later, white-collar criminals have the time for crime because they are engrossed in work. The concept of involvement has generated programs that focus on positive recreational activities to occupy the leisure time of juveniles.

· Belief refers to the existence of a common value system within the society whose norms are being violated (Hirschi, 1969:197). The opinions and impressions that are dependent on constant social reinforcement comprise belief (Lilly et al, 1995:101). A person is more likely to conform to social norms when he believes in them. Hirschi recognized that individuals vary in the depth and magnitude of their belief, and this variation is reliant upon the degree of attachment to systems representing the beliefs in question. (http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/hirschi.htm).

c. In your own words, tell how the theory explains deviance/delinquency/crime.

Hirschi's theory of delinquency explains delinquency in terms of weak social bonds. The weaker the social bonds, the more likely the person might consider deviant of criminal behavior. As mentioned above, the control theory of delinquency assumes delinquent acts will result when one's bond (family), or connection to society (social institutions, like school) is weak or broken. Hirschi argued that no motivational factors were necessary for one to become delinquent; the only requirement was the absence of control that allows the individual to be free to weigh the benefits of crime over the costs of those same delinquent acts.

d. List and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the theory.

Hirschi's four components of conformity and deviation have encountered considerable criticism, such as:

· First, they do not seem to explain all types of crime. Involvement, for example, may not explain white-collar crime, because if one is conforming ...

Solution Summary

Using the four questions as a guide, this solution analyzes one theory of crime. References and a supplementary article discussing a crime theory fully are also provided.

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