Understanding the Importance of Social Structure Theories

Over time, many different theories have developed that help us understand, explain and even correct criminal behavior. By understanding what factors lead to criminal behavior, professionals in sociology, psychology, biology and criminology can make informed recommendations on such things as policy, prevention and treatment.

The reasons people commit crimes are varied and complex. With an online Master of Science in Criminology degree from Regis University, you will study what leads to criminal behavior. As part of your studies, you’ll learn about social structure theories, which are an aspect of criminology that explain certain behaviors. The theories emphasize poverty, lack of education, an absence of marketable skills, and subcultural values as basic causes of criminal actions.1

Three theories explained

Within the social structure theories are three subtypes that sociologists and criminologists have identified. These three theories play an important role in criminology, because they help provide a root cause for crime. In identifying a root cause, you also open the door to finding a solution to resolve the problem.

  1. Social disorganization theory. The social disorganization theory directly links crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics. This theory places a significant amount of responsibility for criminal behavior upon an individual’s residential location. If, for example, someone grows up in a disadvantaged area where delinquency and crime is seen as acceptable, they are more likely to participate in criminal activities.
  2. Strain theory. Strain theories point to certain strains or stressors as triggers for crime. When placed under strain, the negative emotions of frustration and anger can create pressure within the individual. One way they deal with that increased strain is through crime. They may use crime as a way to get revenge on someone who is causing the pressure, or they may resort to crime to alleviate financial pressure. They also may turn to illicit drugs to help offset some of the pressure.2
  3. Culture conflict. The theory of culture conflict is linked to the disagreement over differences in values and beliefs. It is based on the idea that different cultures or classes cannot agree on what is acceptable behavior. For example, while the upper and middle classes work to make a living in a legal way, others may use illegal activities, such as selling drugs or stealing, as a way to make a living.3

The study of different theories is important to criminology because it helps explore many aspects of criminal behavior – and understand how and why it occurs. Many theories exist and they continue to evolve as more is learned about the criminal mind.

With an on-campus or online Master of Science in Criminology degree from Regis University, you will learn about the theories of criminal behavior, why they are important in the world of criminology and how they are continuing to change and evolve. Call 877.820.0581 to speak with an admissions counselor or request more information.

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