Analysing The Relationship Between Crime And Life Criminology Essay

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Human social life is governed by norms and values, in other words there is appropriate and acceptable behaviour in society and values which define behaviour as right or wrong. Crime refers to those activities which break the law and are subject to punishment and is usually defined simply as a violation of the criminal law. Examples of crime are murder, terrorism, rape and many others. People who commit these crimes are seen as a big threat to society.

Sociologists who study crime are referred to as criminologists and they categorise crimes by three types: crimes against a person, crimes against property and victimless crimes. Crimes against a person include any offences where violence is used or threatened. Theft and assault are examples of crimes against a person. Crimes against property include damage done to someone else's property. Burglary and arson are crimes against property. Finally, victimless crimes are crimes that are against the law, but no victim exists. Prostitution and abuse of drugs are common examples of victimless crimes. In sociology, all crimes fall into one of these three categories

Deviance on the other hand is defined as behaviour which most people would regard as inappropriate, or as unacceptable and wrong. Assumedly all crime is deviant yet many deviant acts are not defined as criminal. For example attempted suicide and alcoholism are often seen as deviant in many European countries but they are criminal offences in most Arab countries. Downes & Rock (2003) defined that, "Deviance may be considered as banned or controlled behaviour which is likely to attract punishment or disapproval". {Pg 127 Pilkington A & Yeo A (2009) Sociology in Focus for AQA A2 level Second Edition}.

The sociological perception of deviance is much broader than that of crime, and many types of deviant behaviour are not sanctioned by law and in addition the concept of deviance can be applied both to individual behaviour and to the activity of groups. Criminologists have typically limited themselves to issues about legality, crime, or crime-related observable facts. Students of deviance, on the other hand, have studied crime as well as a wider range of behaviours or conditions that are deviant by one or another of the definitions reviewed but are not necessarily illegal, such as suicide, alcoholism, homosexuality, mentally disordered behaviours, stuttering, and even such behaviours as public nose picking or burping, sectarian religious behaviours, and body mutilation. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish criminology clearly from studies of deviance (Bader et al.).

Criminology and sociology of deviance are two diverse disciplines that are involved in the study of crime and deviance. Criminology is more concerned with types of behaviour that are legitimate by criminal law, whereas sociology of deviance draws criminological research but also investigates behaviour which lies further than the field of criminal law. Criminologists are more interested in procedures of measuring crime development in crime rates and policies that are meant to reduce crime within communities, but on the other hand sociologists studying deviant try to find out why certain behaviours are widely regarded as deviant, and how these ideas of deviance are applied in a different ways to people within society.


Many theoretical approaches remain relevant to the study of crime and deviance, but in this section an outline of biological, psychological positivist and labelling theory is going to be given. Sociologists argue that the social dimension of deviance has always been ignored and emphasise that deviant behaviour has been seen in purely individual terms and as something to be explained by biology. In other words for those individuals who do not conform to normal social expectations must be having something wrong with them. Criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1870) assumed that criminal types could be recognised by definite anatomical features. Though his ideas became thoroughly discredited, he however drew a conclusion from his investigations that the appearance and physical characteristics of criminals, such as the shape of the skull and forehead, jaw size and arm length displayed traits held over from earlier stages of human evolution.

A later theory distinguished three main types of human physique and claimed that one type was directly associated with criminal behaviour. A conclusion was drawn saying that the muscular active types were more aggressive and therefore more likely to become involved in criminal acts than those of thin physique or those with lots of flesh on them. Such views have been widely criticised because there is no decisive evidence that ant traits of personality are inherited in this way and that their connection to criminality would at most be a distant one. Many sociologists argue that biological approaches do not rectify the reasons why people commit crimes, so at this point let us draw in the psychological positivist approach to see if it has a more satisfactory reason to why people commit crime.

Psychological approaches in general have looked for explanations of deviance within the individual, but not in society. After criminological research was carried out on prisons and other institutions such as asylums, psychologists linked psychiatry matters to be influential. Hans Eysenck (1964) suggested that abnormal mental states are hereditary and this can influence an individual to crime or create nuisance in the process of socialisation. Positivist criminologists believe, that by applying natural scientific methods, to the study of the social world, can reveal its basic truth. They believed that experimental research could identify the causes of crime and this could help in eliminating it. Positivist criminology faced great critics from other scholars. They argued that any satisfactory account of the nature of crime should be sociological, because in general crime depends on the social institution of society, so attention was shifted away from individualistic accounts of crime.

Labelling theory on the other hand is regarded as the most important approaches to the understanding of criminality. Labelling theorists interpret deviance as a process of interactions between deviants and non deviants. In their view, it is explained that a discovery must be made to know why some people come to be marked with a deviant label, in order to understand the nature of deviance itself. American sociologist Howard Becker argued that, "The deviant is one to whom the level has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people label". {Pg 249, Michael Haralambos, Sociology a New Approach, cause way press}. For example, nudity in public across some cultures is labelled as normal whereas in other cultures it is a taboo and could labelled as an offence and can fall under the criminal offence of being idle and disorderly.

A label identifies an individual as a certain kind of person and if labelled as a criminal, rapist, or mentally ill person it can override his status as a parent, responsible spouse or even neighbour and friend. This can make other people respond to that person in terms of the label in other words the deviant level becomes the dominant status. This can lead to rejection by family and friends or the neighbourhood the individual might be associated with. People would also have a self-concept of themselves as the deviant labelled to them and this would lead them to further deviance. For example, drug addicts can start carrying out burglaries to support their habits in case they become unemployed and family members refuse to support them. In neighbourhoods where youth gang groups are in full use, members tend to carry out deadly crimes as stabbings other youth to death because they consider themselves different and determined from the non gang members.

A conclusion can be drawn from the out line of the above theoretical approaches that the biological approach focus more on physical features which influence individuals to crime whereas the psychological views concentrate on personality types. Both approaches to criminality believe that deviance is a sign of something wrong with the individual rather than society and they both see crime as caused by factors outside an individual's control, rooted either in the body or mind. In this respect it can be said that both biological and psychological theories of crime are positivist in nature.

The contributions of the sociological theories of crime correctly emphasise the continuities between criminal and respectable behaviour and these are contexts in which particularly types of activity are seen as criminal and punishable by law vary widely and they all agree that context is important in criminal activities. This means that whether someone engages in a criminal act or comes to be regarded as a criminal is influenced basically by social learning and social surroundings. Sociologists have explained that labelling theory is the most widely used approach to understanding crime and deviant behaviour because it clearly points out to the ways in which some activities come to be defined as punishable by law. In other words, the way, in which crime is understood, openly influence the policies developed to fight it.


In Britain, the home office publishes statistics on crime for England and Wales and these are mostly compiled from information provided by local police forces, and this is referred to as official crime statistics. Although a high percentage of crime recorded by the police come from reports by the public, there many occasions when crime is not reported by the police. This might be due to the fact that people are embarrassed and ashamed of these offences. In fact many victims of crime such as fraud, domestic violence, assault, rape and child abuse, suffer in silence across the word due to fear of reprisal. Recently, reports of child abuse in many Catholic institutions have just become known to the public, but these are offences that took place many years ago. So this implies that the victims have just over come their fear and are bold enough to bring these crimes to light. There has been a large increase in certain crimes such as rape because people are more willing to report them to the police.

It is believed that only about 40% of the offences reported to the police are actually recorded by them. This is due to the fact that most crimes are not recorded, because they are regarded as unimportant or very minor. Variation in crime rates between different places may also be due to differences in police recording practices, issues of race and age. Today, a high percentage of crime is being recorded because there has been an increase in the police force and up to date training such as using computers for data base is very helpful and effective for recording statistics. These statistics compiled by the police gives an official account of the extent of crime.

Sociologists argue that there problems with official crime statistics, so alternative ways of measuring crime such as self-report studies and victim studies have been developed. Self-report studies are based on questionnaires or interviews which ask people to report the crimes they have commuted, and the results suggest that most of us have committed one or more crimes at some stage in our lives. This has cast doubt on the picture of a typical criminal presented by official statistics. Problems in self-report studies suggest that people are asked about less serious crimes such as burglary than domestic violence or fraud and in most cases it cannot be proved if one is telling the truth or not. In most cases they may be even biased or distrustful or terrified to admit to certain crime. Various tests such as lying detector tests have been carried out, so it has been proven self-report studies do reveal more offenders than those indicated by police cautions and court convictions.

The British Crime Survey carries out surveys with the aim of measuring crime in Britain. Their survey is aimed at the victims of crime and whether they had reported to the police or not. It does claim to give a more accurate figure than police statistics and also claim to provide a more accurate indication of development in crime. However, problems with victim studies show that many crimes such as fraud, business and drug offences cannot be covered in a house hold survey, so this alters the results in the statistics that they give. Many people also are found to be reluctant to talk about their experience as victims, and many can have faulty memories or just do not want to remember the incident. Their refusal to respond does affect the results. However, most researchers believe that the British Crime survey provides more accurate figures than those on police records.

According to the above analysis, it can be concluded that the self- report studies and victim survey are very useful in the recording of statistics of crime and this can help the official statistics to find better and more effective ways in crime prevention.


Official statistics world wide, show that women commit far less criminal offences than men and in the long run sociologists have paid little attention to female crime. The fact is that the type of crime committed by males and females are most likely different. This means that statistically you can find women convicted of theft crimes statistically higher than that of men whereas in murder crimes it might be the men that are statistically higher. A conclusion can be drawn from self-report studies or official statistics that women commit fewer crimes them men and that their crimes tend to be different from those of men.

According to Lombroso (1895), women were not born criminals due to the fact that he compared the anatomical features of female criminals and non-criminals. He believed that male criminals could be identified by physical abnormalities such as having an extra toe or nipple and that is where he drew the above conclusion from. His work was discredited but of recent some other biologists like Moir and Jessel (1997) explained that some violent crime was linked to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). However, many sociologists have mainly focused on social causes of female crime.

Differences in socialisation for women and men can also be taken into account. For example in many cultures across Africa, it is usually the men who are bread winners for their families, so this puts measurable pressure on many unemployed husbands to steal in order to provide for their own families, whereas women are socialised to be more passive and usually stay at home to wait upon the men, so are rarely involved in theft crimes. It can be argued that women are more involved in domestic chores and child care that it gives them less time and opportunity to commit crimes and pride can also play a bit in prevention of crime committed by women as this usually can destroy the status of being both a good wife and mother.

In today's society many women are becoming single parents or bread winners of their families and facing poverty situations, so theft, shoplifting and benefit fraud in countries where social security is in force, statics for women criminals is actually very high. It can also be argued that women are becoming more like men in terms of both their legal and illegal behaviour. For example domestic violence committed by women is the rise which was barely unheard of in the past centuries. In South Africa reports say that women rapists are on a rapid increase and women murders are well known these days across the world. According to Fran Adler (1975), she believed that it is because of the women's liberation that has led to an increase in women's contribution to crimes. Women having campaigned to have equal rights with men have taken on male social roles in both legitimate and illegitimate areas of activity, so this means that women are carrying out crimes like robbing banks and murder.

Though there is evidence on the above occurrences, it is believed that women offenders get treated more leniently by the criminal justice system compared to the male offender. Research has indicated that a woman can be excused from her crime usually if she has domestic responsibilities such as caring for an infant or young child. Most murder offences committed by women are usually regarded as self defence cases from violent husbands, partners or even those whom are out of those love relationships.

Sociologists also argue that leniency does not extend to all women offenders. For example prostitutes have been found to be harshly mistreated or in some cases raped by the police and had their rights violated in the courts of law. This is due to the fact that these women deviate from the social norms of female roles in society. Feminists have criticised criminology for being a male dominated discipline and have also played a significant role in highlighting the occurrence of violence against women. They have also drawn attention to the way in which criminal offences by women occur in diverse circumstances from those of men.