Criminology the Beginnings of Criminology Term Paper

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Another theory in criminology is known as 'Durkheim's Anomie' which was conceived by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist who first introduced the anomie in the work entitled: "The Division of Labor in Society" in which the anomie was utilized in provides a description of a "condition of deregulation that was occurring in society." (Criminological Theory, 2001) This anomie was used to describe how that the mores' of behavior in society was unclear and due to this breakdown in a code of proper social behavior resulting was the 'anomie' or the failure to know what to expect between individuals. It was posited by Durkheim that: "...societies evolved form a simple, nonspecialized form, called 'mechanical' toward a highly complex, specialized form, called 'organic. In the former society people behave and think alike and more or less perform the same work tasks and have the same group-oriented goals. When societies become more complex, or organic, work also becomes more complex. In this society, people are no longer tied to one another and social bonds are impersonal." (Criminological Theory, 2001) Social periods of disruption are noted by Durkheim to result in higher crime rates and higher rates of deviation. (Criminological Theory, 2001; paraphrased) an American sociologist, Robert K. Merton adapted Durkenheims concept of the anomie in formulating the 'Strain Theory' that while different from Durkheim's argued that the problem is noted derived from social change of a sudden nature but rather by a "social structure that holds out the same goals to all its members without giving them equal means to achieve it." (Criminology Theory, 2001)

Deviant behavior derives from the lack of integration between the cultural demands and the structural permits. Within this view deviant behavior is a social structural problem indicators. Merton's theory provides five adaptation modes to strain resulting from access being restricted to goals and means that are socially acceptable. The following is a listing of these five in terms of the form of adaptation and the means and goals.

Adaptation Means - Goals

Conformist Accepts - Accepts

Innovator Rejects - Accepts

Ritualist Accepts - Rejects

Retreatist Rejects -- Rejects

Rebel Revolts -- Creates New

During the middle part of the 1970s, decade criticism harshly fell upon strain theory however; Robert Agnew proposed a 'general strain theory' in 1992 that has as its focus three primary measures of strain. Agnew held that "actual or anticipate failure to achieve positively valued goals, actual or anticipated removal of positively valued stimuli, and actual or anticipated presentation of negative stimuli all result in strain." (Criminological Theory, 2001) the focus of Agnew's theory is negative relationships and negative affective states resulting from these relationships. This type of negativity results in high pressure and results in the individual seeking alternative methods that are outside of legitimacy in achieving the goal that is set out. According to Agnew's work, the criminologist would be well served to pay closer attention to the "magnitude, recency, duration and clustering of such strainful events..." And further "proposes a series of factors that determine whether a person will cope with strain in a criminal or conforming manner, including temperament, intelligence, interpersonal skills, self-efficacy, association with criminal peers, and conventional social support." (Criminological Theory, 2001)

Due to the diversified nature of criminal activity in the contemporary era 'subculture' theories in criminology have arisen as a method for accounting delinquency rates among males that were lower class. It is the belief of subculture theorists that "the delinquent subcultures emerged as a response to the special problems that the members of mainstream society do not face." (Criminological Theory, 2001) the subculture is a "subdivision within the dominant culture that has its own norms, values and belief system." (Criminological Theory, 2001) Subcultures do not exist apart from society but instead exist within society. (Criminological Theory, 2001; paraphrased) Cohen wrote a "Delinquent Boys" in 1955 in what was an attempt "to look at how such a subculture began." (Criminological Theory, 2001) the work of Cohen states findings that "delinquency among youths was more prevalent among lower class males and the most common form of this was the juvenile gang." (Criminological Theory, 2001) Cohen describes the: (1) corner boy; (2) college boy; and (3) delinquent boy stating that the corner boy leads a normal life and makes lemonade from life's lemons spending the majority of their time among their peers receiving support from their peers in activities of the group. These boys have little chance for success because of the academic and social factors that present barriers in "living up to middle class standards." (Criminological Theory, 2001) the delinquent boys are those who "band together to define status...Their delinquent acts serve no real purpose...acts are random..." (Criminological Theory, 2001)

Finally the college boy in the work of Cohen is self-explanatory as that is the boy who will generally succeed unless that boy is striving deliberately toward failure. The Differential Opportunity Theory was posited in 1959 by Cloward and argues for two instead of only one opportunity structure in Merton's anomie theory. Cloward and Ohlin (196) state that the delinquent subcultures "flourish in the lower-classes and take particular forms so that the means for illegitimate success are no more equally distributed than the means for legitimate success." (Criminological Theory, 2001) the identified subcultures are stated in the work of Cloward and Ohlin to be three specific types of delinquent gangs as follows:

1) Criminal gang;

2) Conflict or violent gang; and 3) Retreatist gang.

It is held in the work of Cloward and Ohlin that the differential forms of delinquent subcultures is dependent upon the "degree of integration that was present in the community." (Criminological Theory, 2001)


It is clear that the 'Aim' of criminology has changed over time with some degree of variation dependent upon the most popularly applied theory of criminology at a certain time in the history of criminology. The 'Aim' of criminology has changed from one that sees punishment of a crime as a simple and common sense deterrent to the commission of crime as various theories have been applied and utilized in by criminologists. The founding fathers sought to simply deter the acts committed by individuals in a society believing in the rationality of the individual to be inherent and therefore weighing the positive and negative aspects of what would be gained from commission of a crime to what would be suffered upon being caught and punished. As the study of sociology and psychology have grown in their understanding of the individual the factors that affect the individual's character. Identified factors include by are not limited to the family, school, community, environment, and genetics of each individual. The awareness has grown as well in the study of criminal science that: while ideal in nature, the simplistic provision of a deterrent to crime, in the form of punishment is in some cases, simply not enough to ensure that the individual will choose not to commit the crime they are tempted to commit. The 'Aim' of Criminology can be said to be the study of criminal behavior through a scientific means in what is an attempt to seek a method for best diverting the mass society from committing criminal acts upon that society in which they live. Often through trial -- and error the field of criminology has made useful and important discoveries. Most recently, Criminology may add to its repertoire the important fact that mandatory sentencing guidelines in crack cocaine cases has not stopped the sales and possession of drugs but instead has imprisoned an overwhelming disparity of the minority poor Americans. At this juncture, Criminology, or the scientific study of criminal activity, should likely turn its focus toward the root of the problem and venture into the minority poor communities in seeking the root cause of criminal activity causing this sentencing disparity. That is, should the 'Aim' of Criminology remain true to scientific understanding in seeking effective crime deterrence in society.


Demelo, Diane (2008) Criminological Theory. Online available at

Perkins, Douglas D.; Hughey, Joseph and Speer, Paul W. (2002) Community Psychology Perspectives on Social Capital Theory and Community Practice. Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol. 33 No. 1. Online available…[continue]

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