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sociological theories of crime

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Describe the following sociological theories of crime listed, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Pick someone who has recently been convicted of a crime, and discuss which of these theories would have the most relevance in explaining the criminal actions of this offender. Provide examples and academic evidence to accentuate and support your answer on why it is most relevant. The sociological theories are as follows:

- Social control theory
- Strain theory
- Differential association theory
- Neutralization theory

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One approach to help you with an essay assignment like this one is to address each section from various sources, which you can then draw on for your final copy. This is the approach this response takes. I also attached some APA resources to refer to for your final write-up.


1. Describe the following sociological theories of crime listed, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. The sociological theories are as follows:
â?¦social control theory
â?¦strain theory
â?¦differential association theory
â?¦neutralization theory

Let's look at the four theories:

1. Social control theory

Social control is considered "any action on the part of others, deliberate or not, that facilitates conformity to social rules.
According to this theory, social control may be direct, formal, and coercive, but indirect and informal social control is preferable because it produces prosocial behavior regardless of the presence or absence of external coersion" (Chapter Five: Social Process Theories, n.d.).

Hirshi's Social Contol Theory proposes that the lack of social bonds (attachment, involvement, belief and commitment) that function as social controls which releases natural inclination to satisfy needs expediently, which in turns leads to crime and delinquency. This theory fits into the Positivist School, Neo-Classical School, and, later, Right Realism. It proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in behaviour recognized as antisocial (Social control theory, n.d.). Deriving from Functionalist theories of crime, this theory posits that there are four types of control:

1) "Direct: by which punishment is threatened or applied for wrongful behavior, and compliance is rewarded by parents, family, and authority figures.
2) Indirect: by which a youth refrains from delinquency through the conscience or superego.
3) Internal: by identification with those who influence behaviour, say because his or her delinquent act might cause pain and disappointment to parents and others with whom he or she has close relationships.
4) Control through needs satisfaction, i.e. if all an individual's needs are met, there is no point in criminal activity" (Social control theory, n.d.).


1) One strength is its ideological appeal (Greenberg, n.d.).


1) However, a reanalysis of self-reported delinquency data from the Richmond Youth Survey indicates that social control theory has only limited explanatory power (Greenberg, n.d.).

2. Strain theory

Why do people engage in crime according to strain theory? They experience strain or stress, they become upset, and they sometimes engage in crime as a result. They may engage in crime to reduce or escape from the strain they are experiencing. For example, they may engage in violence to end harassment from others, they may steal to reduce financial problems, or they may run away from home to escape abusive parents. They may also engage in crime to seek revenge against those who have wronged them. And they may engage in the crime of illicit drug use to make themselves feel better. (

Strain theory is a social structural theory that views crime as the normal result of an "American dream" in which people set their aspirations (such as for wealth, education, occupation, any status symbol) too high, and as a result inevitably feel strain, or goal blockages, along the way. According to this theory, the person can only do two things: reduce these aspirations or increase opportunities, otherwise the strain can result in crime and delinquency. The Strain Theory seems rather logical for this certain types of crime, such as an individual from a lower class has less opportunity to achieve goals than individuals from a higher class, where money, power, wealth, prestige, and material possessions are usually the goals people try to achieve (Zarka, 2007). Robert Agnew's is a recent general strain theory, that draws heavily on previous versions of strain theory, particularly those of ...

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Sociological theories of crime are featured in this solution.