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Flashcards in Functionalist Theories Deck (13):


Crime maintains social boundaries and propts social change. Punishment of crime deters and future outbreak, however a large increase in crime shows that society's values have changed and therfore prompts a reform of the law.


How does Durkheim claim that crime is functional for society?

It clarifies social boundaries so people know what's right and wrong e.g arson, promotes change and reform as it shows that society's values have changed e.g homosexuality, and strengthens social cohesion as people are united in being against crime e.g crimes against children, Baby P.



Developed Durkheim's notion of anomie, questioning why people do not commit crime in society. Hirschi argues that crime occurs when individuals do not have attachments to society, for example their family and friends, which they would risk losing if they were to engage in criminal acts.



Adapted anomie to create strain theory. The value consensus of society is material wealth, and if we are given the opportunity to achieve the value consensus then most of us will conform to socially approved means of achieving it e.g working to get a good job. If not given the opportunity to achieve the value consensus conventionally then individuals will innovate criminal ways. But fails to account for WCC.


Albert Cohen- Status Frustration

Crime and deviance are functional for society because they enable the working classes to gain status. Working classes experience feelings of 'Status Frustration' because they are unable to gain status through conventional means (attaining good grades), therefore they turn to crime which enables them to achieve status.


Cloward and Ohlin

Subcultural Theory
Explain that the criminal activity you engage in is dependent on the area in which you live. They describe three types of criminal subcultures- criminal, and if deviant youths are unable to access these organised criminal subcultures they will turn to conflict or retreatist subcultures (such as gangs, or drug taking).


Cohen- Safety Valve

Crime is functional for the family as it prevents the husband from taking out his frustrations on his wife. Cohen explains that criminal activity acts as a 'Safety Valve', as men can go and take their stress out on prostitutes, instead of bringing it to the family, which would cause issues within the family.
But ignores impact on women


Durkheim Evaluation

Theory fails to explain why some group are more involved in criminal activity than others so is not very useful.


Hirschi Evaluation

Useful as it identifies how we can reduce offending, for example, programmes can work with young offenders to keep them busy, whilst forming attachments with others and professionals.


Merton Evaluation

Cloward and Ohlin: Surely it is difficult to earn money through crime- many people would not know how as it is not something you are simply taught.
Theory offers an explanation for utilitarian crime but may be considered out-dated in today's society where many lack interest in material wealth from the start of their socialisation (e.g monks).


Albert Cohen Status Frustration Evaluation

Ignores the negative impact of this criminal activity on the individual and those around them.
Furthermore, criminal activity doesn't necessary gain people status.


Albert Cohen Safety Valve Evaluation

Ignores the emotional impact on many women, which is not functional.


Cloward and Ohlin Evaluation

Provides an explanation as to why criminal subcultures exist in some locations, but not others.
This subcultural theory is very deterministic, ignores that many individuals engage in several subcultures at the same time. Although can explain the need for police supervision more so in inner city areas.