Criminology: Sociology and American Dream

Topics: Sociology, Crime, Criminology Pages: 5 (1643 words) Published: June 27, 2013

There are several ways to approach the causes of crime. Many theories in Criminology address crime as why and who commit these crimes. Control Theory looks at why people don’t commit crime, and what self control they possess to avoid criminal behavior opposed to those who do commit crimes. This theory focuses primarily on external factors and the processes of how they become effective in criminal behavior. Strain theory, another approach to understand crime focuses on the struggle to obtain the American Dream, and how it is obtained by different types of people. Both concepts look at the environment that individuals are raised in, and how that can impact their tendencies to be drawn to criminal behavior.

A 17 year old male raised in a wealthy suburban neighborhood, with wealthy parents is, according to control theory, going to be less likely to turn to crime. There is little struggle in that environment that he is raised therefore his self control against crime is stronger because criminal behavior is not seen as a necessity. In the case of the 17 year old male raised in a poor neighborhood, from a low income family, who also struggles in school can have a completely different impact on his control against criminal behavior. Control theory suggests that those who commit these crimes will create justification for their actions. The boy who stole the wallet from another student may feel that the student did not need that fifty dollars because he could just ask his parents for more. This is an example of neutralization, that in Control Theory is the criminals way of justifying their actions.

The stages of neutralization all point the wrongful behavior away from the criminal, and turn the blame onto others. The first type of neutralization is Denial of responsibility, the delinquent had no control over this behavior because it was outside his control and there was no other choice. The boy who stole the wallet could use this argument that he had no other option but to steal the wallet due to the poverty his family suffers, and he needed the money for survival. The denial of victim is the most relevant form of neutralization in this case. The delinquent can argue that there is no harm caused because the victim did not suffer a loss. The student who took the wallet sees himself as an avenger. He views his act as trying to get by in his life he predicts to be one of struggle, and the student who had the fifty dollars is in his eyes a wrongdoer because he does not struggle. Control theory would suggest that the boy who stole the wallet has no self control against the act because he sees it as a life decision not a crime. He is trying to get himself ahead through acts of crime where a different 17 year old boy who has been raised in a different environment would have a different approach to get himself ahead. The delinquent who stole the wallet has associated his actions with the social norms for the life of poverty he foresees. The isolation from his peers, and his negativity towards school has affected his socialization and discipline to obey rules.

The availability of opportunity can alter the socialization of adolescents. Young people who are surrounded by negativity and struggle feel that there is little opportunity to rise above this environment. Such as the young man who stole his peers wallet, he feels there is no opportunity for him to achieve better than what he has grown to know. Strain Theory focuses on opportunity for individuals to achieve the American Dream, and the various categories of people who are working towards this goal. Achieving this goal of the American Dream must first be determined by the means of how succeed. The idea of success must first be determined by the reference group the individual is using as a comparison. The 17 year old boy sees his future to be one of struggle and poverty, therefore he turns to criminal behavior in order to get by in this lifestyle. An adolescent...
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