Unit 6: Crime & Deviance

What do you need to know about Crime & Deviance? Here is our revision stream.


(a) What are crime, deviance and social control?
• The difference between crime and deviance.
• Formal and informal social control, including agencies of social control such as the media, religion, the police, courts and the penal system.

(b) What are the patterns of crime?
• Measurements of crime and their strengths and limitations: official statistics, self-report studies and victim surveys.
• Patterns and explanations of crime by age, class, gender and ethnicity.
• Policing and law enforcement.
• Crime related to new technologies (e.g. the Internet).
• Dealing with crime: surveillance, crime prevention, community sentencing, punishment, prison, rehabilitation, deterrents.

(c) What are the explanations of crime?
• Sociological explanations of deviant and criminal behaviour: Labelling theory, Marxist theory, socialisation (e.g. family and peer groups), lack of opportunity, relative deprivation, masculinity, status frustration.
• The role of law enforcement agencies and the media in defining crime and deviance, stereotyping, labelling and deviancy amplification.
• The development of sub-cultures and links to deviance, with particular reference to youth cultures.

What is the difference between crime & deviance?

Deviance refers to any act that does not follow the norms and expectations of the social group. Crime involves acts that break laws set by the government or rulers. Deviance is a wider category of behaviour than crime because it includes acts that do not involve breaking a law.

Crime and/or Deviance?

Crime and/or Deviance?

Can you think of any acts that are a crime in one country, but not another?

What is the difference between formal & informal social control?

Informal social control includes comments, ridicule, sarcasm and disapproving looks as sanctions and words or praise as rewards. It also includes the internalisation by people of norms, so that people control their own behaviour and conform even when they are alone.Formal social control is enforced by governments or its agencies, such as the police and courts, or by people in positions of authority, such as teachers in enforcing school rules. These agencies can impose punishments.

How Can We Measure Crime?

1. Official statistics
2. Self-report surveys
3. Victim surveys

Patterns and explanations of crime by age, class, gender and ethnicity

1. What differences would official statistics have shown on delinquency between working-class and middle-class youths?
2. Is a certain amount of delinquency a normal part of growing up?

Example question on class & crime: Court records show that most convicted offenders are young working-class men. Assess the extent to which this is likely to be an accurate reflection of offending.

Example question on ethnicity & crime: Explain why are some minority ethnic groups more likely than others to have high rates of criminality?

1. Why are young men more likely to be offenders than other groups of people?
2. Explain some reasons for the recent increases in crimes committed by females.

Policing and law enforcement

Because of the nature of policing, it is inevitable that the police will tend to focus on some types of crime and offenders rather than others. Police targeting is when the police force focus on a particular group of people, believing them to be more likely to be involved in criminal behaviour than other groups. Examples of groups that are often targeted in this way include young males, the working class and members of some minority ethnic groups. In particular, in the United Kingdom, young Afro-Caribbean men are more likely to be stopped and searched. Targeting of young Muslim men has probably also increased because of fears of terrorism by radicalised young men.

Crime related to new technologies (cybercrime)

1. In what ways has the development of new technologies changed the nature of crime and deviance?
2. In what ways has surveillance increased as a result of new technologies?

Types of cybercrime:

  • Spreading computer viruses and malware.
  • Fraud and identity theft.
  • Internet scams targeting individual users.
  • Websites with obscene of offensive content, and the spread of obscene or offensive content by e-mail and mobile phone.
  • Harassment by cyberstalking or cyberbullying.
  • Trade in illegal drugs and other illegal goods (the internet makes it easier for buyers and sellers to contact each other).
  • Cyberterrorism

Dealing with crime

Reasons for punishment:
1. Incapacitation
2. Deterrence
3. Rehabilitation

Common punishments
1. Imprisonment
2. Conditional Sentences
3. Fines
4. Community Sentences

Sociological explanations for crime

1. Functionalism
2. Merton's Theory of Deviant Behaviour
3. Marxist theories of crime
4. Socialisation: families and crime
5. Relative deprivation
6. Interactionist Explanations: Labelling Theory
7. Masculinity

The role of law enforcement agencies and the media

What role does the media play in defining crime and influencing public opinion of crime?

How can the police reaction to deviance lead to even greater deviance?

Subcultures & Crime

What is a criminal sub-culture?

In what ways can belonging to a sub-culture encourage deviant behaviour?