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300 words min. Make sure to answer all questions. Cite all sourcesIn Alice Goffman’s TED Talk, ‘How we’re priming some kids for college- and others for prison,’ (found at or in your Module Six folder) she states that we are asking kids who live in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, with the least amount of family resources, in the country’s worst schools, facing the toughest time in the labor market, and who experience violence in their neighborhoods every day, “to walk the thinnest possible line.” With regard to these issues, Goffman wonders if we can envision a criminal justice system that prioritizes recovery, prevention, and civic inclusion over punishment.Please tell me and your colleagues: What does it mean to live in a ‘disadvantaged neighborhood?’ What are some examples of lacking ‘family resources?’ What makes schools the ‘worst?’ What makes the labor market ‘tough’? As a society, what do you think we can do about these shortcomings? What do you think the criminal justice system can do to be just (fair) to those experiencing these forms of social disorganization?

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Cultural, Social Disorganization, &
Strain Theories
CJ 302: Crime and Behavior
Module Six Lecture
Ecological Studies
 One of the first ecological studies undertaken in the U.S.
was conducted by Breckinridge and Abbott in 1912.
 Examined the geographic distribution of the homes of
juvenile delinquents in Chicago.
 A map showing the location of these delinquents indicated
that a disproportionate number of the juveniles’ homes were
located in a few areas of the city.
Social Ecology Theory
 Social ecology theory seeks to explain why such
patterns of criminal activity occur in specific
geographical areas such as cities, and why they
persist over time, even when the original members:
Move out
Mature into
legitimate work
Social Ecology Theory
 Criminologists who examine the connection between crime
and geographical space, are known as social or human
 Their theory is based on the idea that the way plant and animal
species colonize their environments can be applied to the way
humans colonize geographical space.
 As a criminological theory, social ecology involves the study of ‘criminal’
 Certain neighborhoods, homes, and places remain crime problem
areas for years, regardless of the particular people who live there.
Social Ecology Theory
 Social ecology theory examines the movement of people
and their concentration in specific locations.
 Social ecologists see humans as social beings, shaped by:
 Their interdependence
 Their dependence on the resources of their environment
 The functions that they perform for the system within their localized
 The central hypothesis of social ecologists is that human
organization arises from the interaction of the population and
the environment.
o Within these constraints, humans make rational choices, but their
choices are “environmentally structured.”
Social Ecology Theory
 Social ecology holds both a conflict and a
consensus view of the social order.
 Individuals make up community and neighborhood
units competing with each other for scarce resources.
 This results in conflict, yet these different units also exist in a
symbiotic balance with each other and with the society as a
Human Ecology
 The phenomenon in human
 A situation in which a
communities where people
work together for common
goals and that the same
time compete for

stronger group would
disrupt the community
through change and
eventually reestablish order
by replacing (succeeding) a
previously dominant
Robert Park and The Chicago School
 Robert Park believed that
the distribution of plant
and animal life in nature
could provide important
insights for
understanding the
organization of human
 Just like plant and animal
colonies, a city grows
according to basic social
processes such as invasion,
dominance, and
 Park and his colleagues’
second major contribution
was the argument that social
processes could best be
understood through careful,
scientific study of city life.
 Park’s students and
contemporaries built on these
two themes and developed
the very influential Chicago
Concentric Zone Theory
 Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay used an analytical
framework developed by Ernest Burgess (a colleague of
Park’s) to research the social causes of crime.
 Burgess used five concentric zones (each 2 miles wide) to
describe the patterns of social development in Chicago.
 He argued that city growth was generated by the pressure from the city
center to expand outward.
 Expansion threatened to encroach on the surrounding areas and did so
in concentric waves, or circles, with the center being the most intense,
having the highest density and highest occupancy.
o These concentrations become progressively less intense and of
lower density with greater distance from the center.
Social Disorganization
 Concept first developed by W. I. Thomas and Florian
Znaniecki to explain the breakdown of community among
second-generation Polish immigrants in Chicago.
 They defined it as the decrease of the influence of existing
social rules of behavior on individual members of the
 More generally, social disorganization refers to a situation in which:

There is little or no community feeling
Relationships are transitory
Levels of community surveillance are low
Institutions of informal control are weak
Social organizations are ineffective
Social Disorganization
 Unlike an organized community, where social solidarity,
neighborhood cooperation, and harmonious action work to
solve common problems, socially disorganized
neighborhoods have several competing and conflicting
moral values.
 A further problem associated with social disorganization is the
conflict in these impoverished areas between various ethnic
groups over scarce resources.
 Finally, delinquency patterns themselves become a competing lifestyle as
a means of surviving and as a way of obtaining income, intimacy, and
honor. This makes it an area ripe for the formation of gangs.
Social Disorganization Theory
Defensible Space Theory
 Oscar Newman believed that crime prevention should create
areas of ‘defensible space.’
 Newman’s planning and design strategies are aimed at
reassigning “ownership” of residential space to reduce the
amount of common multiple-user open space because residents
cannot assert responsibility for these areas, leaving them open
to crime and vandalism.
 Newman claims to demonstrate that the physical environment can be
used to define zones of influence, clearly separate public from private
zones, and provide facilities within zones to meet occupants’ needs.
 Recreating a sense of ownership by dividing areas, and assigning them
to individuals and small groups to use and control, isolates criminals
because their turf is removed.
Defensible Space Theory
 City architects and planners
should include a significant
component of physical
security elements, such as:
 Restricted pedestrian traffic
 Single rather than multiple
 Regulated entry
 Clear boundary markers.
 Newman maintains that
physical design can also be
used to improve
surveillance through better
windows and lighting and
altered traffic flow.
 Planning safe residential
zones next to other safe
facilities adds to the overall
effect of crime reduction.
 Distinctiveness of design, such
as height, size, material, and
finish, can reduce the stigma of
a neighborhood.
Critical Ecology
 Tries to take into account the political and economic
forces that create and shape the space that is used to
facilitate crime.
 Research has revealed that there are three kinds of political
decisions that affect the formation of criminal areas:
Local government
planning decisions
Local institutions
Public policing
Critical Ecology
 Local institutions can also impact the extent of collective
efficacy, social capital, and, thereby, social control.
 Communities that do not take the political initiative to
develop coordinated action between their businesses,
schools, and voluntary organizations to implement
alternative programs for youths run the risk of allowing
gangs to flourish, which creates further fear that
undermines collective efficacy.
 As well as informal social control, communities need the
resources of public formal control, which means an effective
police presence.
Integrated Ecology
 An attempt to integrate ecological, biological, social
learning, routine-activities, rational-choice, and cultural
 Looks at human adaptation to the environment but pays
particular attention to cultural traits based on socially learned
information and behavior, the evolution of which can be
 This approach enables criminologists to integrate:

Ecological factors that determine what opportunities for crime exist
Micro-level factors that influence an individual’s propensity to commit
a criminal act at a particular point of time
Macro-level factors that influence the development of individuals in
society over time.
Systemic Ecology
 Systemic ecology moves away from the idea that social
disorganization demands a policy response of social
 Suggests that what is required is a systemic model that
focuses on the regulatory capacities of relational networks
that exist within and between neighborhoods.
 Draws heavily on the idea of ‘social capital.’
 Focuses on ecological dimensions of social order.

The composition of a neighborhood can help or hinder the
development of ‘social networks.’
Collective Efficacy
 A measure of social cohesion among residents and their
willingness to act to control unacceptable behavior.
 The degree to which neighborhood residents intervene in
response to unacceptable behavior by others in their community
 It depends on the extent to which neighbors trust one another.

A variety of structural and cultural factors affects whether there is a
high degree of trust that leads to a high level of social capital, which in
turn results in a high degree of collective efficacy and thereby informal
social control.
o Distinctive because of its focus not merely on the degree of
neighborhood disorganization but also the willingness of neighbors
to activate social control.
• ‘Efficacy’ implies not merely a state of being socially organized but
rather a state of being ready for social action.
Cultural Criminology
The subject matter of criminology cannot simply
be criminals and what they do; instead, it must
include the ways in which crime is perceived by
others; the particular meanings that crime comes
to have for criminals, victims, crime control
agents, and everyday citizens; and the
consequences of these meanings and perceptions
for criminal activities, crime control policies, and
even the politics of contemporary society.
Cultural Theories of Crime and
 Observe that people from
different origins and
ethnic groups have
distinct cultural
 One group may numerically
or economically dominate,
and their culture is then
considered ‘normal’ or
 Members of a ‘minority’
culture may have values and
cultural norms that are in
conflict with the dominant
 Cultural criminology
emphasizes the role of
culture—that is, shared
styles and symbols,
subcultures of crime, mass
media dynamics, and
related factors—in shaping
the nature of criminals,
criminal actions, and even
criminal justice.
Cultural Theories of Crime and
 The norms and behavior patterns of each culture are
taught by a process of socialization and social
 Thus, people are seen as being born equal and are thought
to acquire behavioral patterns through learning from
others in their culture.
 Regardless of whether a culture is dominant or subordinate,
the means of learning behavior are the same.
Culture Conflict Theory
 Legal definitions are relative, changing over time as a
result of changes in conduct norms.
 Conduct norms are associated with a culture and define some
behavior as acceptable and other behavior as unacceptable.
 These norms regulate an individual’s daily life and behavior.

However, different cultural groups have different ideas about
what behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate, what is
acceptable or unacceptable, and what should be considered
o The differences in cultural norms between the dominant and
subordinate cultures create conflict.
• Crime is a result not of deviant individuals but of conforming
individuals who happen to belong to cultures with norms that conflict
with the dominant ones.
Two Types of Culture Conflict:
Refers to those
cases where the
norms of the
subordinate culture
are considered
criminal in the new
(dominant) culture
Refers to instances
where segments
within the same
culture differ as to
the acceptability of
conduct norms
Anomie/Strain Theory
 All versions of strain theory agree that deviant behavior
is a normal response to abnormal conditions.
 Furthermore, there is agreement that humans are socialized to
behave in certain, often predictable, ways.
 Strain theorists may diverge over what the specific goals are, but they
concur that seeking to achieve goals is a normal human trait.
 Finally, strain theorists agree that society’s structure and culture cause
strain by:
o Their form of organization
o The kinds of goals they prescribe
o Their allocation of resources
 More recent theorists disagree about the extent that
individual behavioral characteristics can mitigate these
Strain Theory
 Strain theory emphasizes the problem-solving
functions or coping mechanisms served by antisocial,
delinquent, and criminal behavior.
 In addition, strain theories link macrolevel variables, such as the
organization of societies, to the microlevel behavior and choices
of individuals.
 Thus, this theoretical perspective is often termed a mesolevel explanatory
 A theory of the ‘middle range’
 Taken as a whole, strain theory describes the interplay among
social structures, cultural context, and individual action.
Traditional Strain Theory
 Combining the ideas of Merton and Durkheim in a
formulation known as traditional strain theory reveals a
shared concept of humans as engaged in goal-oriented,
achievement-directed behavior shaped by social
structure and culture.
 The culture, most vividly expressed through the mass media,
encourages people to achieve the goals of monetary success.
 At the same time, the culture fails to place limits on acceptable means of
achievement, and the structure does not provide equal opportunities for
all to achieve these societal goals.
Traditional Strain Theory
 Such a society is described as suffering strain because of:
 A dysfunctional mismatch between the goals or aspirations it
sets for its members and the structure of opportunities it
provides for them to achieve these goals
 An unleashing of individual aspirations without a corresponding
provision of normative or moral guidelines to moderate the
level of raised aspirations
 The failure to match people’s skills and abilities to the available
positions in the society
Societal Strain and Crime
 Societal strain can affect people, groups, and
organizations in different ways as they seek to adapt to
solve the problems that strain creates.
 One of these adaptations is crime, whereby people
attempt to achieve societal goals of money, material
success, and social status regardless of the means used to
achieve them.
 Crime, then, is one way of both responding to the structural
strain and realizing common goals espoused by the larger
dominant culture.
Emile Durkheim
 French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917)
believed that people were born with potentially
insatiable appetites, which can be heightened or
diminished by social structure and its cultural values.
 In a well-ordered society, a cohesive set of values and
norms regulates the levels of aspiration and expectation.
 As a result, levels of crime are relatively low.

Crime was any action that off ends the collective feelings of the
members of society—that shocks their ‘common conscience.’
Durkheim Believed That Some Level of
Crime is Normal and Necessary for
Several Reasons:
Even in a well-ordered
society, crime is necessary
(functional) to remind the
community of its values
and standards.
Crime serves to create a
sense of solidarity among
law-abiding citizens
The punishments given to
criminals help to force
compliance with the law
Society can make moral
messages about which rules
are most important by
adjusting the severity of
Crime functioned to warn
a society that something
may be wrong with the
overall way it operates
Reference Group Theory
 Relative deprivation
 The condition in which people in one group compare
themselves to others (their reference group) who are
better off, and as a result they feel relatively deprived,
whereas before the comparison no such feeling existed.
 Robert Merton used reference group theory and the
differential experience of the effects of structural strain to
explain why some people in anomic situations resort to
deviance, whereas others do not.
Merton’s Instrumental Anomie
and Differential Opportunity Structures
 Human ‘appetites,’ or desires, are not natural.
 They are created by cultural influences in the United
States, as in other capitalist societies, the approved modes
of acquiring success symbols are the institutionalized
means used for achieving society’s goals.
 These means are emphasized in the ‘middle-class values’ of
saving, education, honesty, hard work, delayed
gratification, and so on, but the means are not evenly

This is because the society is divided into a class hierarchy in
which access to the approved means is restricted for most of the
Merton’s Instrumental Anomie
and Differential Opportunity Structures
 In a well-integrated society there are adequate means
available for all who desire to successfully pursue the
culturally prescribed goals.
 Social integration occurs effectively when individuals are
socialized into accepting that they will be rewarded for the
occasional sacrifice of conforming to the institutionalized means
and when they actually compete for rewards through legitimate
Ways in Which Individuals Respond or
Adapt to Selective Blockage of Access
to Opportunities
 Merton identified five ways in which individuals respond
or adapt to selective blockage of access to opportunities
among those variously located in the class, ethnic, racial, and
gender sectors of the social structure.
 These five adaptations are all based on an individual’s attitudes
toward means and goals.
 These five adaptations are

Merton’s Individual Modes of
accepts the
goals of
society and
the legitimate
means of
accept the
goals but
reject or alter
the means of
acquiring the
goals; put
simply, they
cheat or
reject the
societal goals
but accept
the means;
that they will
never achieve
the goals due
to personal
inability or
other factors
This is an
whereby the
rejects both
the goals of
society as
well as the
means to
attain them
Rebels not
only reject
the goals and
means but
replace them
with new
Status Frustration and Delinquent
 According to Albert Cohen, many lower-class youths, prior
to entering school, have low ascribed status.
 Nor do they have the socially relevant means and background
skills to legitimately achieve status by accomplishing the goals
that would bring success in the school setting.
 Such youths are judged by middle-class standards and typically cannot
measure up to their middle-class counterparts.
 This places lower-class youths under severe strain, from which they
experience ‘status frustration.’
Status Frustration
 This is a psychological
state involving:
 Self-hatred
 Guilt
 Self-recrimination
 Loss of self-esteem
 Anxiety
 To resolve their status
frustration, lower-class
youths seek achieved
(aspired) status, but since
they are unable to
achieve this by legitimate
means, they collectively
rebel through a process

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