Crime Theories: Strain Theory, Social Bond Theory, and Differential-Association Theory

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Criminologists are scientists who study crime. In order to do this they attempt to use the scientific method whenever possible. In the scientific method an individual first puts through a hypothesis to explain why something happens or even why something is. In the case of criminology the main question being asked is “why does crime occur?”, but some theories also attempt to answer another equally interesting question “if being a criminal is the easy choice, why are so many people law abiding?” in order to understand criminal behavior. In order for a hypothesis to be moved forward into the category of a theory it must first be tested, and those tests must be able to be reconfirmed. In the case of criminology most of this testing is done by looking at statistics, because it is not the kind of testing that can be safely done through experimentation. These theories can then be used to create social policy and attempt to limit crime. Three popular theories in criminology are strain theory, social bond theory and differential-association theory.

The idea of a cultural goal is behind the strain theory. Our societies’ cultural goal is to amass wealth and gain success. We are led to believe that this goal is achievable by all individuals, but not all individuals are given the same opportunities and tools to reach the cultural goal. When an individual is blocked from achieving the cultural goal strain develops. Individuals cope with this strain with adaptations as a way to bridge the gap between their means and the cultural goal. An individual may choose to turn to illegal means to reach the cultural goal. This type of individual is called an innovator and would include drug dealers, illegal arms dealing and other crimina...

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...osure occurred, the number of times the individual was exposed and how long each exposure occurred. This can be viewed as a ration of criminal definitions to conformist definitions. When the ratio favors criminal definitions it is more likely that the individual exhibit deviant behaviors. This theory supports programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters which offer children exposure to conformist definitions at a young age which they may not be receiving at home.

There are numerous theories that attempt to explain the causes of crime and how it may be reduced. These theories, like social bond, differential-association and strain theory, not only allow policies to be instituted, but also give a direction for more research. With that research comes more hypotheses which will in turn lead to new and more helpful theories on which we will base policies in the future.

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