Specific Theories And Simple Crimes Criminology Essay

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It is quite difficult to place crimes into specific theories without them crossing over into another. I do not think it is possible to say that any one type of crime can only be classified only into one theory. With that being said I will do my best to describe how a theory applies to a certain type of crime.

Firstly, simple crimes such as assault, robbery, theft, and other petit crimes can most easily be classified and defined under Anomie-Strain Theory. Within Strain Theory people 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 (assault), they may steal to reduce financial problems (robbery/theft), or they may run away from home to escape abusive parents (vagrancy). They may also engage in crime to seek revenge against those who have wronged them(Thio, 17-21). They may engage in the crime of drug/narcotic use to make themselves feel better. Money is by far the central goal in the United States. All people, poor or rich, are encouraged to work hard so that they might make lots of money. Money is necessary to buy many of the things we want, including the necessities of life and luxury items which are the driving force of those who commit simple robberies (Agnew).

Many people, however, are prevented from getting the money they need through legal channels, such as work. This is especially true for poor people, but it is true for many middle-class people with lofty goals as well. As a consequence, people experience strain and they may attempt to get money through illegal actions-such as theft, selling drugs, and prostitution. Criminals and delinquents often times engage in income-generating crime because they want money but cannot easily get it any other way. Some suggest that the simple types of crime are more common among people who are dissatisfied with their monetary situation-with such dissatisfaction being higher among lower-income people and people who simply want a lot of without having to put in the work to earn it. Closely related to the desire for money is the desire for status and respect. People want to be positively regarded by others and they want to be treated respectfully by others, which at a minimum involves being treated in a just or fair manner (Cohen). Although in its essence organized crime is a higher level crime than that of a simple robbery, it could also be explained by Strain Theory. This is especially true in inner city locations where there is a high concentration of people who are generally under educated and have a need and want to survive. They turn to the life of organized crime in an attempt to give themselves everything that they think they should have (Hirschi).

Another theory that would easily classify the lower crimes would be status frustration. Cohen says that people act out in certain ways in an objection to their current life status. They could be acting out in a way that would get them more money or it could even be that they are going against the social norms to gain power. Status frustration could be grouped together with Strain Theory, as they closely resemble each other as far as classifying and grouping crimes and behaviors (Akers).

In association to strain theory and status frustration is reaction formation. Reaction formation is the reaction from status frustration, and the young men of the lower classes find themselves replacing society's norms and values with ones that are of a polar opposite. An example of this would be instead of working hard being the common goal for respect, it may become a delinquent act like who commits the most vandalism to gain the respect (Changing Minds). This provides the group with a sense of values and status which they cannot receive from the larger society. It is a process which allows the members of the groups to adapt to their own exclusion from society. Unlike Strain Theory, Cohen holds the view that the reaction to status frustration is a collective response rather than an individual one.

To take a step up in the nature of crime I think that the best theory to explain things like violent attacks (mass murders), and attacks that are in a sexual nature (rape/molestation) Control Theory would fit the best. Thio states "the absence of social control causes deviance" (Thio, 83-85). Attacks of this nature and type are carried out by people who have a lack of social control. Within Control Theory there are several different types of control, an important one being internal control. Internal control is a function of your beliefs regarding crime and their level of self-control. Most people believe that crime is wrong and this belief acts as a major restraint to crime. Self-control is indexed by several personality traits. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, "people who lack self control will tend to be impulsive, insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), risk-taking, short-sighted, and nonverbal" (Gottfredson, Hirschi). Some theorists also claim that some of the traits characterizing low self-control have biological as well as social causes. Gottfredson and Hirschi claim that one's level of self-control is determined early in life and is then quite resistant to change. Further, they claim that low self-control is the central cause of crime; other types of control and other causes of crime are said to be unimportant once level of self-control is established.

Terrorism I think is the easiest crime that can be put into a category or theory. Labeling theory would be the best one to use when attempting to place terrorism. Terrorists are given a label by a foreign government that they are the bad guys, but where does one draw the line between terrorist and freedom fighter? Labeling Theory would be the only one in my mind to use in this situation.

I have gained a wealth of knowledge between modules one and two, but that has not changed my mind about crime. It has however changed how I think about crime, and how I think about those who would have committed the crimes. Through this module I have gained an understanding on why certain crimes happen and what types of environments lead way to certain types of crime. An example of that is the population density of inner cities. I have always known about the crime issue, not necessarily about the causes of the crimes that are happening there.

I do not think that all crimes can be explained by one lone theory. The nature of crime is so diverse with its intricacies that there is not one single theory that is right for every type of crime. That being said yes a lot of crimes can be explained by many different theories. Someone who steals a loaf of bread may be doing so because it is what the social norm is in their neighborhood, or they could be doing it because they were never taught a different way of life. That is the nature of crime, no one answer is always right, there are always different meanings behind why people do and don't do bad things.