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Article

Charles R. Tittle

Control balance theory (CBT) was developed in the mid-1990s, primarily to illustrate a particular method for building integrated theory and to show how general theories are useful in addressing various issues in studies of crime and deviance. A major theme on which the theory has been built is the idea that deficient control, a well-established classic notion, and excessive control all can have deviogenic consequences. In addition, the theory rests on expectations that sufficient explanation will necessarily involve complex arguments. Thus, CBT not only attempts to explain the phenomena within its domain, but it also challenges simplistic theories, contentions that theoretical integration is both impossible and undesirable, and neglect of contingencies in theorizing.

Article

Clayton Peoples and James E. Sutton

The state is responsible for maintaining law and order in society and protecting the people. Sometimes it fails to fulfill these responsibilities; in other cases, it actively harms people. There have been many instances of political corruption and state crime throughout history, with impacts that range from economic damage to physical injury to death—sometimes on a massive scale (e.g., economic recession, pollution/poisoning, genocide). The challenge for criminologists, however, is that defining political corruption and state crime can be thorny, as can identifying their perpetrators—who can often be collectives of individuals such as organizations and governments—and their victims. In turn, pinpointing appropriate avenues of controlling these crimes can be difficult. These challenges are exacerbated by power issues and the associated reality that the state is in a position to write or change laws and, in essence, regulate itself. One possible solution is to define political corruption and state crime—as well as their perpetrators and victims—as broadly as possible to include a variety of scenarios that may or may not exhibit violations of criminal law. Likewise, a resolution to the issue of social control would be to move beyond strictly institutional mechanisms of control. Criminological research should further elucidate these issues; it should also, however, move beyond conceptual dilemmas toward (a) better understanding the processes underlying political corruption/state crime and (b) illustrating the broader ramifications of these crimes.

Article

Nachman Ben-Yehuda

Moral panics refer to cultural and social situations where heightened and exaggerated attention is given to a moral issue, accompanied by inflated demands to activate and practice steps to control what is portrayed as the challenging and threatening danger to morality. The nature of the threatening challenge materializes characteristically with the emergence of increased anxiety and fear from the moral threat to the well-being and future of a culture, or part of it. Down-to-earth representatives of such threats are epitomized by folk devils. These folk devils can be drug users, those who supposedly practice witchcraft or Satanism, sex traffickers, drivers involved in hit and run car accidents, muggers, AIDS carriers, terrorists, immigrants, asylum seekers, and—obviously—criminals. The concept of moral panics left its convenient zone in sociology and criminology to become extremely popular. It has been applied to such diverse fields as global warming, child sexual abuse, trafficking in women, soccer hooliganism, 9/11, and more. Many panics are short-lived, but such panics can also linger for longer periods. Moral panics are comprised of five basic building blocks: disproportionality in portraying the moral threat and the requested responses, concern about an issue, consensus regarding the threat, and hostility towards the folk devils. Moral panics do not stand alone and need to be understood within larger cultural and social processes composed of negotiations, struggles, and conflicts focused on moral codes. Indeed, while folk devils are typically vilified, stigmatized, and deviantized, complex cultures also enable folk devils to fight back. Moral panics are thus significant and important occurrences in the social construction of moral boundaries. These panics represent reactions, counter-reactions, and moral challenges—presented by folk devils—to cultural cores, which form central symbolic structures of cultures and societies.

Article

Chas Critcher

The concept of moral panic was first developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s, principally by Stan Cohen, initially for the purpose of analyzing the definition of and social reaction to youth subcultures as a social problem. Cohen provided a “processual” model of how any new social problem would develop: who would promote it and why, whose support they would need for their definition to take hold, and the often-crucial role played by the mass media and institutions of social control. In the early 1990s, Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda produced an “attributional” model that placed more emphasis on strict definition than cultural processes. The two models have subsequently been applied to a range of putative social problems which now can be recognized as falling into five principal clusters: street crime, drug and alcohol consumption, immigration, child abuse (including pedophilia), and media technologies. Most studies have been conducted in Anglophone and European countries, but gradually, the concept is increasing its geographical reach. As a consequence, we now know a good deal about how and why social problems come to be constructed as moral panics in democratic societies. This approach has nevertheless been criticized for its casual use of language, denial of agency to those promoting and supporting moral panics, and an oversimplified and outdated view of mass media, among other things. As proponents and opponents of moral panic analysis continue to debate the essentials, the theoretical context has shifted dramatically. Moral panic has an uncertain relationship to many recent developments in sociological and criminological thought. It threatens to be overwhelmed or sidelined by new insights from theories of moral regulation or risk, conceptualizations of the culture of fear, or the social psychology of collective emotion. Yet as an interdisciplinary project, it continues, despite its many flaws, to demand sustained attention from analysts of social problem construction.

Article

Global-level data suggests that the number of women and girls in prison is growing and at a faster rate than the male prison population is. In order to meaningfully address this shift in female deviance and criminalization, more attention should be given on the specific ways that women and girls are labeled “deviants” and subsequently criminalized. Women and girls have been criminalized, imprisoned, and harshly punished for “moral” offenses such as adultery or premarital sex or for violations of dress codes or even for being a member of the LGBTQ community. Women and girls have also been reportedly been imprisoned for running away from their homes (often from abusive situations), for being raped, and even for being forced into prostitution. Furthermore, victims of domestic violence or sex trafficking and sex workers have been administratively detained or simply detained for seeking asylum, having committed no crime. The feminist criminological perspective has widened an understanding of all forms of female deviance. This perspective stresses the importance of contextual analysis and of incorporating unique experiences of women and girls at the intersection of not only gender, race, class, and ethnicity but also nationality, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and immigration or migration status, and against the backdrop of national as well as international conflict. Now the challenge is develop effective solutions both to address female victimization and to end the silencing of women and girls through criminalization on a global level. Effective implementation of a gender-mainstreaming strategy, adopted in United Nations policies such as “the Bangkok Rules,” is one of the proposed solutions.

Article

Women and white-collar crime is a topic that has, overall, received little attention in the literature. Initially, women were omitted from discussion and research because of their lack of participation, though some early commentary focused on victimization. When Edwin Sutherland first drew public and academic attention to white-collar crimes, few women were employed in positions that were conducive to commit elite crimes related to occupations or professions. According to Sutherland, white-collar crime involved professional men in positions of trust. From 1939 until the 1970s, work on white-collar offenders and offenses was male-centric, which included both scholarly researchers who were exploring the topic and males committing the majority of crimes. Corporations and respected professionals, not women, were presented with a multitude of opportunities to engage in white-collar crimes with little or no serious consequences. Primarily male corporate executives, politicians, and medical professionals committed white-collar crimes that included, for example, activities such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, insurance fraud, and Ponzi schemes. Women, who lacked opportunity outside the private sphere of the home, were less involved in crime overall and certainly were in no position to commit white-collar offenses. In the 1940s and 1950s, female crime was typically viewed as promiscuous, aberrant, and male-like behavior. Eventually, in the mid-1970s as more women moved into the public sphere seeking employment, early predictions by female scholars suggested that an increased involvement in white-collar crime was inevitable. The types of crimes committed by women, as noted by pioneering female scholars, were likely to expand beyond prostitution, check kiting, and shoplifting to white-collar offenses as opportunities became increasingly available in the public sphere. Gender inequality in most criminal endeavors continues to exist and more recent debates continue about the role of women in white-collar crime.

Article

Michael Gottfredson

Gottfredson and Hirschi advanced self-control theory in 1990 as part of their general theory of crime. Self-control is defined as the ability to forego acts that provide immediate or near-term pleasures, but that also have negative consequences for the actor, and as the ability to act in favor of longer-term interests. An individual’s level of self-control is influenced by family or other caregiver behavior early in life. Once established, differences in self-control affect the likelihood of delinquency in childhood and adolescence and crime in later life. Persons with relatively high levels of self-control do better in school, have stronger job prospects, establish more stable interpersonal relationships, and attain higher income and better health outcomes. Self-control theory was initially constructed to reconcile the age, generality, and stability findings of criminological research with the standard assumptions of control theory. As such, it acknowledges the general decline in crime with age, versatility in types of problem behaviors engaged in by delinquents and offenders, and the generally stable individual differences in the tendency to engage in delinquency and crime over one’s life-course. Self-control theory applies to a wide variety of illegal behaviors (most crimes) and to many noncrime problem behaviors, including school problems, accidents, and substance abuse. A considerable amount of research has been undertaken on self-control theory and on Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime. As a result, self-control theory is likely the most heavily researched perspective in criminology during the past 30 years. Most reviews find substantial empirical support for the principal positions of the theory, including the relationship between levels of self-control and delinquency, crime, and other problem behaviors. These relationships appear to be strong throughout life, among most groups of people, types of crime, in the United States and other countries, and over time. The posited important role of the family in the genesis of self-control is consistent with substantial bodies of research, although some researchers argue in favor of important genetic components for self-control. The theory’s expectations about the age distribution of crime, versatility of offending, and stability of individual differences over long periods of time also receive substantial support. Researchers have long studied variations in age effects, particularly seeking continuously high levels of offending for the most serious offenders, but reviewers have found that the evidence for meaningful variability is not convincing. For public policy, self-control theory argues that the most promising approach for crime reduction focuses primarily on prevention, especially in early childhood, and secondarily on situational prevention for specific types of crimes. Gottfredson and Hirschi argue that self-control theory is inconsistent with reliance on the criminal justice system to affect crime levels. On the one hand, general reviews of the empirical literature on deterrence and incapacitation support the expectations of self-control theory by finding little support for severity of sanctions, sanctions long removed from the act, and selective incapacitation for “serious offenders.” On the other hand, experimental studies from education, psychology, and criminology generally support the idea that early-childhood family and educational environments can be altered to enhance self-control and lower expected delinquency, crime, and other problem behaviors later in life.