Sociological Perspectives on Crime





Sociological Perspectives on Crime






















Study of deviance and crime by sociologists involves the examination of cultural norms, their change over time, their enforcement and consequences to societies and individuals when the norms are broken. Deviance is explained as a behavior that revolves around violation of the expected rules which is more than non-conformity. Nonetheless, it departs from social expectation significantly and distinguishes itself from commonsense understanding of some of the behaviors seen in communities. It follows then that deviance is approached in terms of processes, judgments and definitions within groups as opposed to actions of an individual (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008). Crime on the other hand crime is denoted as any unlawful deed that cannot be exempted from punishment by the state. The modern criminal law lacks a clear definition of crime and the most popular view is that crime is created by law. Thus the applicable law is what defines crime and in this case the scope can be viewed from an individual to a community, state or society.

Law is a system of rules that are enforced some social institutions to control individual behaviors. The processes in which laws are made is called legislation and are mostly influenced by written or unwritten constitutions that encodes the rights.  It is good to note that law controls the all human systems may it be politics, economic and the society. Morality on the other hand is the differentiation of what is good and bad. Therefore, morality can be said to be a manner, character and proper behavior that is universally accepted by a certain society. In the morality and conformity act as regulators of crime in the sociological context as it will be seen in the Marxist and feminism theory.


Official stats on the extent and distribution of crime and deviance with regards to location class and gender

Several methods of measuring crime and deviance do exist. Sociologists have usually done public surveys to make estimates of the total crime reported to police. There are some attributes that mostly arise on measurement and distribution of crime and deviance. They are namely; location, class and gender. Crime based on location can be interpreted by the place of residence of individuals. According to European Sourcebook of Crime the Crime survey of England violent crime has been seen in slums and low income areas while the urban and the elite residential places less or no crime can be reported in each month (European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, 2010).

In terms of gender there has been a prevalence and increased criminal activity in men that women. For example, it was reported that 6/10 of men have engaged in a criminal activity either in their teenage or in their adulthood stage. Most of the crimes reported include robbery, possession of illegal substance and other criminal offences totally unacceptable in the society. The profile of victims of criminal violence indicated that 50% young men in Britain were in possession of sharp and other small arms in relation to women who were only 10%. Women were most likely to be victims of criminal offence such as sexual and domestic abuse ( Jupp, 1989). In 2011/12 it was found that male were most victims of murder while women were most likely to be on domestic at (63.7 %) and sexual related murders (81.7%). On knife crimes, 9/10 men were responsible. The breakdown of the violent crime according to Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is as follows.

The category with the most number of incidents was assault without injury which consisted of 37% of the total and minor injury assault took 28%.It was noted that 3.2% of males compared to 1.9% of females experienced violent crime. On the weapon used knifes and other sharp weapons and were recorded as homicides at a total of 35% which were used in offences in London (Arnett, 2014).


Reliability and validity of official stats and other forms of data collection on the distribution of crime and deviance

Many sociologists utilize crime data collected in their research. But very few times do they access the reliability and validity of the data used. It is good to note that not all crimes are reported to the police as individuals may fail to recognize themselves as victims and fear embarrassment leaving a dark figure of unreported crime. Official statistics therefore lack validity by failing to expose much of the crime that happens in the society. The sociologists approach of crime evaluation to be on young male and leaving children, women and excluding some class need a change. This again echoes the instance of labeling theory that labels some while excluding others. To support the lack of reliability it has been noted that crimes measured in the NCVS categorize crime such as rape, robbery, assault and theft as personal crimes. Burglary, motor vehicle theft and larceny as Household crimes and finally Burglary and robbery as Business crimes. Generalization and public reporting rather than personal reporting as a method of collecting data has therefore left a hanging note on the research topic. Thus leaving a wide gap on the specificity of the crime committed feeding the public with generalized information on crime and deviance. A suggestion has therefore been pushed to collect conventional and official data to be improved to accommodate reliability and validity of data (Arnett, 2014).

Marxist Perspective on Crime

It has been recognized that most of the perceptions of Marxism on deviance are about keeping a tight leash on the working class by the ruling elite class. This control accomplishes two purposes whereby in the first place it makes sure that the ruling classes stay in power. Secondly, it brings about social control which by extension leads to prevention of deviant tendencies. It is the highly regarded opinion of the Marxists that capitalism emphasizes on individual gain and winning at all costs which in itself is a form of greed. Thus, greed can be used to explain most of the crimes that are committed in the course of financial gains. The frustrations that are experienced by the lower classes through dehumanizing are good starting places for the explanation of crimes that committed by individuals in the society. Crime is always seen as a result of inequality and unbalanced power in the society which is also a response for those people living in poverty. In a way, poverty is also one of the social determinants of crime in the society which may be caused by a lot of factors some of them due to imbalances and inequality in the society. When the lower classes are given a raw deal of demeaning work that has little or no sense of purpose gives rise to crime (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).


The fundamental belief or perception by the functionalist on crime and deviance is that crime and deviance begins with the society as an entity. As such, functionalism explains crime and deviance by using the society as opposed to using the people within the society to pin crime on it. The views held by functionalism are often as the exact opposite of the views that Marxism have towards crime in the society. One of the emphases of functionalism is the manner in which crime positively affects and impacts the social systems within the society.

             Feminist Perspective on Crime

The feminist perspective on crime and deviance is that crime must be scrutinized from all angles and perspectives so that the complete picture pertaining to the crime can be understood.  Feminists view the world as patriarchal (male dominated) whereby men benefit at the expense of women. It has also been argued that many social institutions have been used through time and are still being used to maintain and propagate the subordinate position women in the society (Scheingold, 2011). The society does not expect women to be criminals and when they become criminals, they are described as being mad and not bad in the sense of being criminals. This perception that women are mad as opposed to being bad due to their choice of going against the natural biological attributed traits such as weakness of compliance and passivity seems to be based on the view that women are supposed to conform. Ideally, women are supposed to be obedient mothers, wives and daughters for the benefit all people in the society. Although the propensity to commit crime may be more in the males, it does not necessarily mean that women do not commit crime



Male criminals are more likely to engage in murder crime than their female counterparts and most of the long term incarceration of women has been attributed to drug related offenses. Lombroso and Ferrero are of the opinion that this differential in crimes committed by male and female criminals is due to differences in their physique. Many writers and scholars have used this approach to show why a majority of women are not criminals and only a handful of them.

Labeling theory of crime

Labeling theory interrelates to social construction and engineered by a socialist known as Howard Becker in the 1960”s. The labeling theory seeks to get answers on the reason why some individuals who commit crime are termed as deviant while other who do commit the crime are not. It lays much interest in the effects of labeling people as deviants. While someone has for one time or another committed a crime, he/she does not become a criminal automatically, so how does this happen? It occurs in such a way that once someone has already committed a crime and the label attached may therefore become dominant such that it overtakes all other aspects of his life. The status changes from father, mother or child to a criminal and a hooligan. Once a person becomes labeled as a deviant person definably create prejudices and hence may love to be interpreted in the context of that behavior leading to him reveling in it (Gove, 1980).

Relationship between Social Class Position and Educational Achievement in relation to crime and deviance


Equality of opportunities alludes to if every child that goes through the education system has equal chance to excel and succeed in the education system. Marxists like Bourdieu argue that children that come from low socioeconomic backgrounds do not have equal opportunities as their counterparts that some from high socioeconomic backgrounds. Bourdieu posits that parents from middle class possess cultural capital that gives them power to manipulate the system so that their children can be successful for example getting them employed. This inevitably suggests that the lower class children do not have equality of opportunity as their counterparts and hence result to criminal activities in the society to earn a living out of it.(Taylor, et al., 2005).

In conclusion the study of deviance and crime by sociologists involves the examination of cultural norms, their change over time, their enforcement and consequences to societies and individuals when the norms are broken. The three perspectives of feminism, functionalism and Marxism are very crucial in explaining crime and deviance in the society.












Arnett, G. (2014). Crime statistics for England and Wales: violent crime and sexual offences. the Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2015, from

European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics, 2010, fourth edition, p30

Gove, W. (1980). The Labelling of deviance. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M. (2008). Sociology: Themes and Perspectives. London: Collins Educational

Jupp, V. (1989). Methods of Criminological Research. Contemporary Social Research Series. London: Unwin Hyman. ISBN 0-04-445066-4.

Scheingold, S. A. (2011). The politics of law and order: Street crime and public policy. New York: Quid Pro Books.

Taylor, et al., (2005). Sociology in Focus. London:  Causeway press

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