Sociological and Psychological Theories of Crime Causation

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Sociological and Psychological Theories of Crime Causation

The aim of this essay is to compare, contrast and evaluate two sociological theories of crime causation and two psychological theories of crime causation.
Sociological Theories of crime, Labelling and Structural Functionalism/ Strain.
Howard Becker is a sociologist that is often credited with the development of the labelling theory. However the origins of this theory can be traced back to sociologists at the beginning of the twentieth century who made invaluable contributions to the creation of the “labelling” concept. The first was Charles Cooley who wrote “Human Nature and the Social Order” in 1902, in which he introduced the term the “looking glass self”. This idea suggests that an individual will respond to society based on how the individual thinks society perceives them. Another was Frank Tannenbaum (1938) who studied juvenile participation in street gangs. He argued that when society defines certain behaviour as deviant, a “tag” is then placed upon the individual that displayed the deviant behaviour, thus causing further deviant / criminal behaviour. Although Cooley and Tannenbaum influenced Becker it was the much later influence of Edwin Lamert that truly led the way. Lemert was, by many of his peers, credited with introduction of the ‘original’ version of the labelling theory. In Lemert’s 1951 publication, “Social Pathology” he states that primary deviance is the original offence that causes a figure in authority to “label” the offender as deviant. Furthermore he states that if said offender accepts the deviant “label” offered to them, this will result in further deviance, known as secondary deviance. This may then lead to a “self- fulfilling prophecy” causing the individual to live up to their deviant label.
During the 1960’s and 70’s the labelling theory was seen as the main sociological theory of crime. Throughout this period Howard Becker was one of the most prominent advocates of the

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