Read Shaw & McKay; Sampson; Hirschi; Sampson & Laub
Complete Study Guide Social Disorganization / Bond
Read Review Social Disorganization / Bond
Watch Theorist Video Bursik
Watch Discussion Post Video “Why Columbine Killer's Mother Sue Klebold Came Forward: Part 1” and “Sue Klebold Recalls What Her Son Dylan Was Like at Home: Part 2”
Post to Discussion Post Board Social Disorganization / Bond
Respond to other students on Discussion Post Board Social Disorganization / Bond
Overview and Reading Quiz. Social Disorganization / Bond
Theorist Video Quiz. Bursik
Discussion Post. Social Disorganization / Bond
In this overview, we will go over the following topics:
Current Course Section
Readings and Theories Therein
Discussion Post and Gist of this Section
Given that this is a criminological theory class, I can’t reiterate the following enough. So, you’ll keep seeing the following:
Theory is a statement about how something affects something else.
Scientific theory states how something empirical (an independent variable) affects something else empirical (the dependent variable).
Something is empirical if you can hear, see, touch, smell, or taste it.
The reason it is good for theories to be empirical is they can be tested and falsified.
Indeed, whether a theory is good isn’t only about being valid. Also, a theory is better if it is simpler, more general, more original, and more useful.
Criminological theory states how something (an independent variable) affects crime (the dependent variable).
The vast majority of criminological theories make statements about why communities, individuals, and situations are more likely to have or commit crime.
Note that criminological theories rarely, if ever, only focus on empirical somethings, but let’s ignore that.
There are a lot of criminological theories that differ in a lot of ways. Mostly though, you should think of criminological theories as being based in one or more disciplines, such as economics, biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and so on.
Criminology, to be clear, is not a discipline. It’s a field of study; that is, the study of crime.
After the introductory material, this course has seven sections reflecting major disciplinary approaches to the study of crime. However, because criminology is interdisciplinary, sometimes the lines between disciplines have become murky, so some of the sections have elements of multiple disciplines.
The current section focuses on sociological theories of crime.
As with “theory,” “criminology,” and many other words, “sociology” and “psychology” have different meanings. In this class, simply think of them as the study of society and the human mind, respectively.
For this section, you will read three works relating to a particular strand of such theories, namely that of “social disorganization” and the “social bond.”
Before briefly going over those works, I’m obliged to remind you that we won’t examine every criminological theory of this sort. But if you want to see further examples, you should either do a Wikipedia search or, maybe better yet, browse the Oxford Bibliography entries on Criminology (www.oxfordbibliographies.com/obo/page/criminology).
First, you should read an excerpt from Shaw and McKay’s Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas. As the title suggests, this work examines delinquency (i.e., crime committed by juveniles). Their goal is to theorize why there are higher rates of delinquency in some neighborhoods than others.
Basically, Shaw and McKay theorize the following: By definition, organized communities are those whose residents agree on what is bad, agree on how to deal with those problems, and effectively put those solutions into practice. Disorganized communities don’t agree on those things, nor are they capable of following through in practice. Therefore, disorganized communities have more crime and delinquency.
That raises the question of why some communities are less organized than others. The answer is complicated, but it more or less boils down to this: Poorer people, especially if living in a poor neighborhood, are less able to obtain and do things that society tells them they should want, such as money. Therefore, those people are more likely to turn to crime to get those things. If there’s more people committing crime, then there’s fewer people likely to agree that crime is bad, agree on how to handle it, or actually do something to reduce it. Thus, the neighborhood disorganization further increases crime.
Plus, more criminals in an area means there’s more people teaching and learning crime. You learn more about that idea in the section on culture and social learning.
Second, you should read Sampson’s article, “Collective Efficacy Theory.” Put simply, collective efficacy theory is a popular spin-off of social disorganization theory.
The article goes into how the latter relates to the former, and why he thinks collective efficacy theory is better.
For now, all you need to know is that, according to the theory, there is less crime in neighborhoods with more collective efficacy, which refers to the residents’ ties to each other and shared expectations.
Whereas those readings focus on the traits of communities that stop or allow crime in them, the next two readings are about the traits of individuals that stop or allow them to commit crime.
The first reading of this sort is Hirschi’s Causes of Delinquency. This is a very famous work in criminology for a few reasons. One of them, I think, is that the book is very simple and to the point. (In case you’re wondering, this is the same Hirschi as the self-control theorist; in other words, he has two famous theories.)
As you’ll see, Hirschi is interested in what stops people from committing crime, rather than asking why they would want to commit it. In effect, he thinks everyone wants to commit crime, so he wants to know what stops them.
He theorizes that there’s four “social bonds” that keeps juveniles out of delinquency, though the theory also applies to keeping adults out of crime. These four social bonds are attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. When reading this work, be sure to focus on what these things are and why Hirschi thinks they prevent people from offending.
Fourth, and finally for this section, you should read Sampson and Laub’s article, “A Life-Course View of the Development of Crime.” (This is the same Sampson mentioned above.) Similar to how collective efficacy theory is a popular spin-off social disorganization theory, Sampson and Laub’s “age-graded theory” is a popular spin-off of social bond theory.
Though the following is left somewhat implicit in this article, Sampson and Laub adopt Hirschi’s theory that a person’s bond to society keeps them out of crime. But whereas Hirschi’s book was solely about youths, Sampson and Laub’s article also is about adults. They show, for instance, that delinquents may stop offending once they’re adults if they gain a stronger bond to society, such as getting married or a good job.
Also, you should note that unlike Hirschi’s theory, that of Sampson and Laub has a stronger emphasis on “human agency.” What this means is that people aren’t simply passive participants in life or, in other words, that “they’re simply along for the ride.” Instead, the notion of agency suggests that people actively choose the ride they go on.
Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1942. Juvenile Delinquency and UrbanAreas. University of Chicago Press. (Fair use of pp. 164-183 and 435-441.)
Sampson, Robert J. 2008. Collective Efficacy Theory. Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory 15:149-167. (Fair use.)
Hirschi, Travis. 1969. Causes of Delinquency. University of California Press. (Fair use of pp. 16-34.)
Sampson, Robert J., and John H. Laub. 2005. A Life-Course View of the Development of Crime. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 602:12-45. (Paywalled here but open access here.)
For this section, you’ll watch an interview with Robert, or Bob, Bursik. Though he didn’t author any of those readings, he is a very important person in social disorganization literature. You’ll hear about his contributions during the interview. I also chose him because he’s very entertaining (I’m serious this time) and knows a lot of great stories about classic and contemporary criminology. If you’re interested in reading some of his work, you can find it by clicking on this link: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=2aDTP80AAAAJ&hl=en
Recall that you’re doing discussion posts to see whether you can apply the theories to the real world. Some theories can be complicated, but their fundamental points don’t need to be. People, including you, may disagree with me (this is what makes academia fun), but I think the gist – or essence – of the theories examined in this section is as follows:
The dependent variable is crime, meaning acts prohibited by law.
Crime in communities is theorized to be affected by whether residents agree on right and wrong and are willing and capable to do something about it.
In theory, a community is less likely to have crime if residents agree on what is wrong and are willing and capable to do something about it. Also, that theory could be thought of as operating at the individual- and situational-level of analysis.
An individual is less likely to commit crime in a community in which residents agree on what is wrong and are willing and capable to do something about it.
An interaction is less likely to result in crime in a community in which residents agree on what is wrong and are willing and capable to do something about it.
A small place, such as a bar, is less likely to have crime in a community in which residents agree on what is wrong and willing and capable to do something about it.
Crime by individuals is theorized to be affected by whether they have a social bond and agency, defined above. In theory, an individual is less likely to commit crime if they have a stronger social bond and more agency. Also, that theory could be thought of as operating at the community- and situational-level of analysis.
A community is less likely to have crime therein if there are more people with a stronger bond and more agency.
An interaction is less likely to result in crime if the involved persons have a stronger social bond and more agency.
A small place, such as a bar, is less likely to have crime therein if there are more people with a stronger bond and more agency.
If you truly understand the above, you’ll be able to do very well on the discussion post. If you don’t get it right now, don’t worry about it. The readings, video, study guide, and quizzes will get you where your knowledge where it needs to be – if you truly do your best on them.
Now that you have reviewed this overview lecture, you should do the other things mentioned in the course outline: read the readings; watch the theorist video; fill in the study guide; memorize that material; take the quizzes; do the discussion post.