Sociological Theories of Crime: Annotated Bibliography


As Treiber (2007) points out, theory construction is an informed creative endeavor that connects what is known to what is unknown in a measured way. Criminologists, therefore, use theories to come up with logical, systematic, mathematical, and formal ways through which they can solve crimes. According to Glasier (2001), sociological theories are the major criminology theories that have been successfully used in mitigating crime rates. Common sociological theories such as control, strain, integrated, and future of crime, critical, labeling, control, and strain are mainly focused on providing a basis of explaining crime in terms of social environment components like workplace, peer groups, society, family, and the community. On close scrutiny, it is evident that these theories are different from one another. For instance, while some of them place their focus on the different features of our social environment and different accounts behind the causes of crime in our social environments, others place their focus on explaining group or individual differences in crime. This clearly shows that for any criminologist to come up with a conclusive report to mitigate crime, he or she has to incorporate all sociological theories of crime.

Nagin (2001) points out that with the increased delinquency crime rate, sociological theories posses as a major challenge to criminologists. Due to the urgent response required, most of them are limited with time and are unable to come up with grounded reports that could form the basis of effective crime prevention. As Paynich & Hill (2009) states that there is a need for a much simpler and less complex way through which criminologists can assess the cause of crimes in society and quickly come up with concrete reports that can help mitigate crime rates in our societies. This clearly shows that even though the sociological theories have always been of great help to criminologists, a theory that can help criminologists assess all the social environmental features in regard to crime causation is needed.

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According to the Florida College of Criminology and Criminal Justice (2011), Ronald Aker’s social learning theory is the core theory in the criminology field. Aker’s theory has been effectively and successfully tested in major delinquency crime causing aspects including cigarette, drug, and alcohol. The latest criminologists surveys also note that Ronald’s theory is frequently endorsed while explaining serious criminal behavior and minor delinquent. Owing that Ronald Aker’s social learning theory is frequently being used in place of other sociological theories, does it fully incorporate other sociological theories components and can it be the ultimate solution in enhancing efficacy and efficiency in criminology field while analyzing the increased delinquency crime rate in an often-urgent manner (Akers, 2009)?

Social learning theories

To find out whether Ronald Aker’s theory can be used in place of major sociological theories, it is important that we take a look at several theories and how Aker’s theory integrates all the major sociological theories.

Strain theory

The main explanation behind strain theory is that people indulge in crime if they are upset, stressed, or strained and as a way of dealing with their unfortunate predicaments, they commit a crime. For example, some people will engage themselves in theft in order to deal with their financial problems (strain), adolescents might run away from their homes in order to escape from an abusive home environment (stress) people or engage in violence if they are being harassed by their peers (strain). Vito, Maahs & Holmes (2006) also notes that people might commit in search of revenge when they have been wronged or engage in illicit drug use in an attempt to make their selves feel better. According to Vito, Maahs & Holmes (2006), Agnew further expands the strain theory and states that two major strains including those that prevent a person from attaining his or her goals and those that give a person noxious or negative stimuli and take things that one values most are also major causes for the crime. According to Vito, Maahs & Holmes (2006), failure to achieve goals such as respect, status, and autonomy from adults (adolescents) may result in crimes. For instance, Mocan & Rees (2001) notes that most men who vie for the masculine status treat other people and fellow men with difficulty while others engage in crime to prove or accomplish their masculinity.

Control theory

Control theorists seek to identify why people conform to commit a crime by focusing on factors that entice people to commit a crime. Control theory, therefore, focuses on controls restraining people from indulging in crime. It argues that individuals are different in social controls or restrain level in regard to the way they face the crime and therefore, while some are freer than others in crime engagement. For instance, when people have direct control crimes are effectively sanctioned and the opposite is also true. For example, adolescents can be placed under their parent’s or teachers’ direct control in instances whereby the parents and teachers set rules and monitor their behavior in an attempt to sanction crime. However, if teachers and parents do not offer direct control, most adolescents are inclined into committing a crime. In other cases, direct control is not effective as some adolescents are still likely to regularly engage in crime under direct control. Hence, the stake of conformity is used as a control whereby causing crime might jeopardize the stake of adolescents if they engage in crime. For instance, as Vito, Maahs & Holmes (2006) note, juveniles are avoided crime under a stake of conformity to avoid jeopardizing their chances of being taken out of jail. However, where no stake of conformity exists, adolescents are likely to commit a crime. Some people are also in a position to engage in crime but refrain because they have internal control. This implies that their self-control and beliefs in regard to crime prevent them from engaging in crime. However, when persons lack internal control, they are more inclined into committing a crime (Isaac, 1998).

Social disorganization theory

Like Alker’s social learning theory, social disorganization theory places its focus on communities with different crime rates and analyzes communities with high crime rates in an attempt to explain the outstanding characteristics that contribute to the increased crime rate in communities with high rates of crimes. As Isaac (1998) puts it across, communities that are characterized by large populations, increased residential mobility, deprivation of economy, high density, and disrupted families usually experience high rates of crime. Vito, Maahs & Holmes (2006) points out that high crime communities lack resources and skills to assist one another and have more single parents with a lot of family responsibilities. As a result, they are unable to impose direct controls and stakes of conformity to their children who end up engaging in crime.

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Critical theories

Critical theories focus is on explaining crime rates by putting into consideration different social environments such as societal differences and groups found within our social environments such as working class, adolescents, youths, and the jobless. For example, feminist theories seek to engage why females engage in crime while institutional anomie theory explains how the American Dream (monetary success) emphasis contributes to crimes in America. On the other hand, Marxists’ theories’ explanation is based on how the differences between the low-class individualists and capitalists result in crime causation (Messner & Richard, 1997).

Conclusion: Roland Aker’s Social Learning Theory

According to Agnew (1992), Ronald Aker’s theory explains deviance via combined variables found in almost all social theories. Ronald Aker’s Social Learning theory is a study of the social problems (social disorganization theory) in regard to criminal behavior. As he noted, criminal behavior learning through operant conditioning principles can solve the crime rates in our society. Alker’s theory also tries to explain that criminal conduct also known as operant behavior results from social environment impact on people’s central nervous system and voluntary. As a result, operant behavior culminates in shaping, extinction, stimuli control, and conditioning which is also explicit in control theory whereby parents are condition their children (adolescents) (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990).

It is also evident in Aker’s theory that people learn operant conduct when they interact with discriminators or reinforce persons who alter their behaviors and place them in situations whereby they are likely to commit crimes. This is explicit in strain theory whereby engaging with discriminative and reinforcing people might tempt one to become violent and engage in other crimes such as selling illicit drugs (a way of reinforcing masculinity). Aker’s theory also notes that learning criminal behavior takes place in groups (critical theories) that comprise an individual’s source of reinforcement. Further, the theory shows its relation to strain theory by indicating that learning criminal behavior encompasses special attitudes (stress and strain), avoidance of procedures (stealing to reduce their financial strain instead of working ), and techniques ( committing a crime in order to seek revenge). This clearly shows that Roland Aker’s Social Learning Theory is an integrative approach that can be used in place of other social learning theories and provide efficacy and efficacy in dealing with the increasing number of delinquency crimes (Sally S Simpson, 2000).

Annotated Bibliography

Nagin, D. (2001).”Criminal Deterrence: A Review of the Evidence on a Research Agenda for the Outset of the 21st Century.” In Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research. Vol. 23, pp. 1–42.

This journal provides an overview of increased rates of juvenile delinquency and evidence of insufficient theoretical framework needed in analyzing the causation of increased crimes needed in coming up with strategies to mitigate delinquency crimes.

Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. (2011). Ronald Akers and Social Learning Theory. Web.

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This is a publication that explains the extent to which Ronald Aker’s Social Learning Theory has been used in mitigating delinquency crime rates.

Akers, R. L. (2009).Social learning and social structure: a general theory of crime and deviance. Salt Lake City: Transaction Publishers.

This book provides an overview of how Aker’s Social Learning Theory could be the solution to delinquency crime rates.

Akers, R.L & Jensen, G.F. (2007). Social Learning Theory and the Explanation of Crime. Salt Lake City: Transaction Publishers.

This book expound with detailed explanations on how Aker’s social learning theory has been used in solving a number of crimes.

Mocan, N. & Rees, D. (2001) “Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data.” NBER Working Paper 7405 Cambridge. Vol. 78, pp. 123-234

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This journal provides an overview of major Sociological theories used in solving delinquency crime rate and offers explanations on how the theories use social environment in attempt to indentify the causes of crimes in our societies.

Vito, G.F., Maahs, J.R. & Holmes, R.M. (2006). Criminology: theory, research, and policy. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning

This book offers substantial information on how social learning theory perspectives stems through social disorganization theory while dealing with delinquency crimes such as internet crimes, substance abuse, terrorism and gang violence.

Agnew, R. (1992). “Foundation for a General Strain Theory of Crime and Delinquency.” Criminology Vole 30 (2), 47–88.

This journal expounds on General Strain theory and how just like Social learning theory tries to bring in special operant behavior attitude such as stress, strain and being upset.

This book explains how Anomie theory (an aspect of strain theory) is related with Alker’s social learning theory through macro sociological theatrical formulation in attempt to explain crime rates and societal development.

Messner, S.F. & Richard, R. (1997). ‘Crime and the American Dream’. American journal of criminology. Vol. 45 (3), 89-123.

This journal expounds on critical theory ‘The American theory’ and brings out components found in Social learning theory such as criminal behavior is dependent of the reinforcement source (emphasis on monetary success).

Miller, M.J. (2009).21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook, Volume 1. London: SAGE

This book explains explicitly on how Alker’s Social Learning theory has bridging the gap between the numerous sociological theories by solely examining how critical theories have been successfully integrated into social learning theory.

Alker, S & Sellers. S (2009). Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and application. Vatican City: Roxbury Pub

This book offers appraisal and comprehensive review of major crime theories. Particularly, the book evaluates the efficacy and efficiency of each theory in respect to preventing delinquency and crime. This book will help one identify that Alker’s Social Learning theory stands out as the most effective theory in controlling crime.

Sally S Simpson, (2000). OF CRIME AND CRIMINALITY: The use of theory in everyday life. Pine Forge Press.

This book is a collection of essays that explain how sociological theories of crime differ and how they are similar to each other. This helps one to come up with the main components that constitute sociological theories of criminology to aid in identifying similar components in Alker’s Social learning theory.

Treiber, K. (2007). The Role of Self-Control in Crime Causation’. European Journal of Criminology. vol. 4 (2), 237-264

This website explains the importance of sociological theories in controlling crime rates, their decline in their efficacy and reasons as to why an integrative theory is needed.

Paynich, R. & Hill, B. (2009).Fundamentals of crime mapping. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning

This book explains in detail the importance of sociological theories in crime mapping needed in understanding the importance of sociological crime theories in dealing with crime rates in different social environments.

Glasier, D. (2001). ‘Review of Crime causation theory and its application’. Journal of Political Economy 81: Pg. 521-65.

This journal offers an overview of the function of sociological theory; understanding and social problems and how they result to crime. It helps one critically think whether Aker’s social learning theory can offer the same function as all sociological theories.

Gottfredson, M.R. & Hirschi, T. (1990) A general theory of crime. California: Stanford University Press

This book extensively explains with examples how Social Learning theory has been used in solving crime and hence providing ground evidence of Alker’s social learning as the ultimate solution to crime delinquency.

Isaac, H. (1998) “Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation.” Journal of Political Economy Glasier, D. Vol. 81 (3), 521–565.

This journal explains how Social Learning Theory is the basis of indentifying criminal behavior and how it can be used in place of other sociological criminal theories.

References

Agnew, R. (1992). “Foundation for a General Strain Theory of Crime and Delinquency.” Criminology Vol 30 (2), 47–88.

Akers, R. L. (2009).Social learning and social structure: a general theory of crime and deviance. Salt Lake City: Transaction Publishers.

Akers, R.L & Jensen, G.F. (2007). Social Learning Theory and the Explanation of Crime. Salt Lake City: Transaction Publishers.

Alker, S & Sellers. S (2009). Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and application. Vatican City: Roxbury Pub

Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. (2011). Ronald Akers and Social Learning Theory. Web.

Glasier, D. (2001). ‘Review of Crime causation theory and its application’. Journal of Political Economy 81: Pg. 521-65.

Gottfredson, M.R. & Hirschi, T. (1990) A general theory of crime. Los angeles: Stanford University Press

Isaac, H. (1998) “Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation.” Journal of Political Economy Glasier, D. Vol. 81 (3), 521–565.

Messner, S.F. & Richard, R. (1997). ‘Crime and the American Dream’. American journal of criminology. Vol. 45 (3), 89-123.

Miller, M.J. (2009).21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook, Volume 1. London: SAGE

Mocan, N. & Rees, D. (2001) “Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data.” NBER Working Paper 7405 Cambridge. Vol. 78, pp. 123-234

Nagin, D. (2001).”Criminal Deterrence: A Review of the Evidence on a Research Agenda for the Outset of the 21st Century.” In Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research. Vol. 23, pp. 1–42.

Paynich, R. & Hill, B. (2009).Fundamentals of crime mapping. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning

Sally S Simpson, (2000). OF CRIME AND CRIMINALITY: The use of theory in everyday life. London: Pine Forge Press.

Treiber, K. (2007). The Role of Self-Control in Crime Causation’. European Journal of Criminology. vol. 4 (2), 237-264

Vito, G.F., Maahs, J.R. & Holmes, R.M. (2006). Criminology: theory, research, and policy. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning

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