Please Explain The Shortcomings Of The Social Structure Approach To Understanding And Preventing Crime. Can These Shortcomings Be Overcome?


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Deborah Mann answered
  • Social Structure
This is a sociological theory that examines the interrelationships between society's institutions and social process such as the interactions amongst differing social groups, institutions and individuals as both of these affect social interaction, i.e. A social life.

Three major types of social structure theories need to be considered here, as listed below. There is considerable overlap between the three theories and it is often more a matter of a commentator's emphasis than actual differences in a theory that makes one different to another.

  • Social Disorganization Theory
This views social change as an offshoot or mutant social ecology, differing from the norm, and was popular in the 1920s-1930s.

  • Strain Theory
This emphasizes the distance between socially accepted goals and the access to them from society and was popular from the 1930s onwards.

  • Culture Conflict Theory
This theory claims that crime arises as a result of cultural clashes between differing social groups and the differing social acceptance of their goals.

  • Shortcomings
Densely populated neighborhoods retain high crime rates despite a complete turnover in population, say from Black to Mexican. This is tied in with the Broken Windows Theory, which states that run down areas lead to greater temptation to crime because there is a lack of security in the neighborhood.

This so called 'Order Maintenance' has come under fire recently because the definition of disorder within the theory is very subjective. However, the theory is used extensively by the police.

Problems with the theories appear to arise over exact definitions of their components more than the theories themselves. The case of disorder in the broken windows theory is a classic example. However, the theories are sound enough to be used even in part by the authorities, so there is some merit to them.

Careful examination and refinement of the language used has to be done in order to expand or test the theory.

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