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 Analyse the main ways in which crime and deviance are understood, defined and represented in a social context.

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The concept of crime and deviance can best understood on the basis of criminal justice in a society. Certain rules are laid down by the society consisting of men and women for the guidance and regulation of freedom of actions and thoughts of its consisting members. For example, a permissive and liberal society may provide its members with greater freedom of thoughts and actions when compared to an authoritarian or a conservative society. Consequently, any human behaviour or action is labelled as deviant when it does not meet the expected behavioral standards which are set by the society. The nature of society i.e. modern, traditional or primitive, the development stage i.e. developed or developing, development of the system which deals with deviations and advancement and regression of its outlook and so on (Sampson and Laub, 1992). Crime on other hand has a distinct derivation having serious consequences like prosecution, punishment and so on. Crime and deviance are multifaceted in nature.

Following are the major reason which crimes in deviance can be understood and defined:

1) Human conduct which brings harm that is desired to be prevented by the sovereign of the state. 2) Threat of punishment is regarded among the measures of prevention. 3) Special legal proceedings are carried out to determine whether the accused is guilty or not, to be punished.


Since norms vary from place to place, one group to another group and with time it is regarded difficult to identify the behaviors which disregard norms completely. For example, violence on European countries it is allowed fore prostitutes to operate freely in particular areas but there might be countries such as USA or India where the law may view this behaviour as deviant (Pearce, 1976). Deviance is a relative concept to social norms, societal rules and expectations of any society. An act regarded as deviant in one situation can be regarded as non deviant in other situations. For example, it is considered as a crime to take someone’s life i.e. to kill. But while in a war the soldiers are given the liberty to kill the enemies. Hence the meaning of deviance changes with the surrounding circumstances and situations. An act can be regarded as deviant and non deviant in two different time periods. For example, women voting was previously considered as deviant, but today women are allowed to vote.

Similarly a behaviour can be regarded as deviant in a particular location or culture but maybe regarded as non deviant in another (Downes, 1999). For example, in some cultures men are married to several women and it is socially acceptable but in some cultures it is regarded as a deviance. It also differs from location to location. For example, in big cosmopolitan cities it is regarded non deviant to talk to opposite sexes but it can be considered deviant in a small village. The nature of deviance also differs with social position. For example, it is acceptable for men going on the streets without a shirt on but if a woman practices this she is regarded as deviant.

2.1 Explain the main sociological theories of crime and deviance

The sociological theory of structural functionalism is one of the major theories concerning crime and deviance is the Structural functionalism theory. According to this theory the deviant behaviour is regarded as in constructive and active element in any society which helps a society to cohere different populations. Deviance helps in distinguishing between an acceptable and acceptable behaviour. It helps in drawing and demarcating the boundaries (Krohn, et al 2009). According to the theory deviance is an important function which affirms the norms and cultural values that exist in a society among its members. The deviant behaviour according to the functionalist helps in promoting unity by creating a mentality i.e. us versus them, among the individuals of the society. Deviance is viewed as a means to change society over a period of time. Deviant behaviour can result in imbalance of the social equilibrium and while storing the social equilibrium the society is able to adjust the rules and the norms. Deviant behaviour can promote long term social stability by bringing a change in societal norms as a response to deviance (Downes et al., 2006). The Social Strain typology is another major sociological theory concerning deviance is the social strain typology which was put forward by Robert K. Merton. Sir Merton put forward a typology of the deviant behaviour to help understand it. This typology proposed by Merton had two criteria i.e. adherence to cultural goals as well as a person’s motivations and a person’s belief in achievement of his/her goal.

Merton further stated the deviance on the basis of these two criteria i.e. conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion (Caffrey and Mundy, 1995).The thing which makes Merton’s typology fascinating is that it states people can become deviant while pursuing goals and widely accepted social values. For example, an illegal drug dealer might have rejected the social and cultural acceptance of making money but he/she still share the acceptable value of making money. So according to Merton, deviance can be the result of acceptance of one norm while breakage of another while pursuing the prior.

Coming on to the Conflict Theory, it is another major sociological theory concerning deviance is the Conflict theory (Farrell and Koch, 1995). This theory states that deviance is a consequence of inequalities in the political, social or materialistic spheres in a society. According to the conflict theory, in order to change the social structure or the circumstances or may be mere oppression a certain group acts deviant. Lastly cones the labeling theory. According to the theory an individual becomes deviant when he or she is labelled as a deviant. The individuals tend to adopt the behaviour associated with the label given to them. This theory states that an individual becomes deviant due to the imposition of the label on him/her.

2.2. Explain the main approaches to crime and deviance.

There are two main approaches to crime and deviances. These are absolutist and constructionist approaches. According to absolutist approach, the societal norms are based on the vital principles which constitutes a static foundation in identification of good or bad and also in differentiating right from wrong (Caffrey and Mundy, 1995). On the other hand, According to the Constructionist approach, deviance occurs when behaviour, actions, ideas or traits fall outside of the category which is socially accepted and used to determine acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and traits (Caffrey and Mundy, 1995).

3.1 Analyse trends in crime, crime rates and offending

Crime in England and Wales from the Crime SurveyIn the year 2015, In England and Wales crimes causing injury were estimated there were 618,000 as per records. Other crimes as per records were robbery - (124,000), burglary - (713,000) and vehicle theft (874,000). According to 2018 estimate the prison population of England and Wales was 83,430 which is equivalent to 179 people per 100 000. In the year 2016 the homicide rate in the UK was 1.2 per 100,000. In the year 2009 London had the highest number of crimes in England and Wales (111 per 1000 of the population), followed by Greater Manchester (101 per 1000).

  • Explain the key factors that contribute to deviant behaviour.

An individual can commit a deviant act due to his inability or failure to abide to the societal norms and values. The inability to abide by these values and norms can in turn be a consequence of many other factors. The concept of deviance is subjected to complexity due to the variation of norms and values across places, groups, time period and so on. A behaviour that maybe acceptable by one group of people maybe considered as deviant by another group (Erikson, K.T., 1961). For example, the practice of female genital mutilation is practised some cultures across the globe, in places such as Indonesia and Africa.

While in other parts of the world such as UK and USA it is unthinkable. The key factors which contribute to deviant behaviour are enlisted in this essay. The first and foremost is that the deviance can occur when different cultural norms come in conflict with societal norms as a whole. Second, according to the structural strain theory by Robert K Merton cant occurred due to natural outgrowth of societal values, norms and structure of the society. Furthermore, the deviance can also occur due to anomie. Anomie is a state of confusion experienced by an individual where he/she experience lack of guidelines for their behaviour as the societal norms and values are unclear or inapplicable to them (Schur, E.M., 1971). The concept of anomie has been of great importance in developing a general theory of deviant behaviour. The literal meaning of anomie is normlessness. According to the control theory individuals having weak ties to the community are likely to commit deviant behaviour. According to the conflict theory deviant behaviour is caused by inequalities in the society which an individual faces. This theory views social life as a constant struggle between the individuals with power and the individuals without power. According to the labelling theory, when a person is labelled as a deviant he is likely to adhere to deviant acts. When an individual values the pursuit of his goal above the prospect of punishment he is likely to commit a deviant act. An individual can commit a deviant act when he or she lacks the moral restraints to resist (Franzese, 2015).


  • Caffrey, S. and Mundy, G. eds., 1995. The sociology of crime and deviance: Selected issues (Vol. 6). Greenwich University Press.
  • Downes, D., 1999. Crime and deviance. In Sociology (pp. 231-252). Palgrave, London.
  • Downes, D., Rock, P.E. and McLaughlin, E., 2016. Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking. Oxford University Press.
  • Erikson, K.T., 1961. Notes on the sociology of deviance. Probs., 9, p.307.
  • Farrell, B. and Koch, L., 1995. Criminal justice, sociology, and academia. The American Sociologist26(1), pp.52-61.
  • Franzese, R.J., 2015. The sociology of deviance. Charles C Thomas Publisher.
  • Krohn, M.D., Lizotte, A.J. and Hall, G.P. eds., 2009. Handbook on crime and deviance (p. 602). Dordrecht; Heidelberg; London and New York, NY: Springer.
  • Pearce, F., 1976. Crimes of the powerful: Marxism, crime and deviance. London: Pluto Press.
  • Sampson, R.J. and Laub, J.H., 1992. Crime and deviance in the life course. Annual review of sociology, 18(1), pp.63-84.
  • Schur, E.M., 1971. Labeling deviant behavior: Its sociological implications (pp. 18-18). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Friedman, M., Grawert, A.C. and Cullen, J., 2017. Crime Trends, 1990-2016(pp. 1-27). New York, NY: Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
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