Application of Criminological Theory

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This paper will focus on the application of criminological theory in the following scenario: As the vice principal in charge of discipline at a prestigious school, I need to determine what actions to take in dealing with a deviant eighth grade male student. This student comes from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background and has now been caught in a physical altercation with another student. My direct supervisor, the principal, believes it is in the student’s best interest to remain at our school. As I am in charge of discipline, I will suggest several possible courses of action, incorporating criminological theories, to be used either singly or in tandem. The first course of action would be to speak to both of the students involved in the altercation and in turn, their parents. Although it is not an excuse, it is possible that there was some instigation preceding the altercation. Speaking with both students may paint a picture as to the nature of what transpired and how it could have been avoided. In any case, both students will be reprimanded as we have a zero tolerance policy for such acts here at the school. To properly understand the deviant student, let’s call him David, it will be necessary to find out more about his background, social and family ties, peer influences, general demeanor, and any goals or hopes he has. I cannot simply classify David as a juvenile delinquent or a future criminal. To label him may do more harm than good. Labeling Theory

The labeling theory asserts that once an individual has deviated from the social norms of society, they are labeled as a delinquent or a criminal, and begin to behave as such (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011). In other words, if David is continuously labeled by the school, his peers, and society in general as a juvenile delinquent then he will begin to believe it himself. His self-esteem and self-worth will go down and he will begin viewing himself as a juvenile delinquent. Once David has accepted his label, he will begin to engage in more and more deviant acts. So it is important here that I am sensitive to his situation and avoid putting a label on him for one discretionary act. Social Disorganization Theory

We know that David comes from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background. It is likely that he lives in an environment where social ties are poor and delinquent peer groups are abundant. Such communities have a higher crime rate and a higher rate of delinquency, as explained by their weak social bonds. Socially organized and tight-knit communities are more likely to supervise and control teenage peer groups where socially disorganized communities are not (McCord, 1992). External factors such as lack of supervision and a weak social bond may be contributing to David’s delinquency. Unfortunately, the school can do little in the way of helping him and his family out of their community. However, creating a social bond of sorts here at the school may help David move from a perhaps delinquent peer group to one more conscientious of social norms and societal laws. I would suggest trying to get David involved in a sport or another social club at the school. Again, finding out what he is interested in is an important part of helping him. We want David to feel socially accepted and increase his self-esteem. Learning Theories

Learning theories suggest that antisocial, deviant, and criminal behavior is not instilled in an individual, but learned through interactions with their environment and peers. “Because of their individual circumstances, some people learn and practice behaviors that the larger society condemns. Not surprisingly, children growing up in neighborhoods rife with crime often end up committing crime themselves” (Barkan, 2009). It is essential that David associate with peers that follow and respect societies rules. The theory of differential association attributes an individual’s attitudes and views of crime and deviance to that of their immediate social...
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