Social Structure Theory

Social learning theory is based on a theory of deviant criminal and conforming behavior. It looks into the causes of criminal behavior while social structure deals with the environment in which the behavior occurs. The purpose of this paper is to discuss social structure, socioeconomic structure in the United States, social organization, concentric zone theory, ecological theory, strain theory, anomies, and cultural deviance and how they contribute to the social structure theory.

Social Structure
Social structure is the manner in which the society is structured and is based on relationship that is predictable and people s interactions with each other. These interactions are largely independent of the individual, and shapes behavior, and identity of the individual from the force that it exerts. Based on the social structure and the need for interaction to exist in a society, it requires bargaining, compromising, redefinitions, and production of an evolving sense of order to match the existing reality.

This social structure is geared around negotiation, some situation more than others. It is also based on formal versus informal rules, such as guilty pleas, role making and tax laws. Culture is the backbone of social structure, with norms, languages, and values playing important roles. The social structure is also based on each individual s status, role and the groups of people and their interaction with each other based on shared expectations (Keel, 2010).

Socioeconomic Structure (US)
A stratified society like the United States (US) is classified as the prestige wealth and power being unequally distributed. The social classes in any society are population segments who share similar lifestyle, norms, attributes, and values. In many societies such as the United States (US) the population is divided into class structures upper, middle, and lower class citizens based on their economic levels in the society. The smallest segment is the upper class who when compared to the other two groups earns or creates significant wealth and social resources, with more than 50 percent of the total household income. The lowest class (poorest fifth) in the population represents approximately 20 percent of the population and earns 10000 or less annually, which is at least 3 percent of the total US income. On the other hand, the middle class (top fifth) approximately 20 percent of the population, earns in excess of 150,000 annually (Siegel, 2008, p. 162).

Wealth is not only concentrated in the US, because based on the World Wealth Report there are over 8 million individuals with high net worth in excess of 1 million, and a collective network of over 30.8 trillion and growing. The lower class on the other hand faces underemployment, inadequate housing, inability to afford proper healthcare services, and overall despair. The problems of the lower class are complicated with issues of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, obtained through illegal means, and although not unique to this class, is their case it is caused by poverty (Siegel, 2008, p.162).

Social Organization
Social organization of groups incorporates interaction, marriage and patterns of residency, kinship system, division of labor, a ranking strategy and the individuals with the knowledge and goods within the group. Archeologists study the social organization of a people or group by looking for areas where there is a concentration of artifacts, and a comparison of grave goods and other belongings. This leads to social stratification which is created based on ethnic groups. Urbanization of the social organization studies the traditional societal patterns to get a better understanding of today s society. This involves class structures, and the social relationships, the people, persons of caste, ceremonial occasions such as marriage, childbirth, initiation ceremonies, and funerals (Social Organization, n. d).

Concentric Zone Theory
The emergence of this theory was based on the studies conducted by Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess in the 1920 s on urban environments. Based on results of their studies they developed the theory of urban ecology in 1925 which stated that  cities were environments like those found in nature, governed by many of the same forces of Darwinian evolution that affected natural ecosystems  (Brown, 2001). The study revealed that competition between groups was the principal forces of Darwin evolution due to the struggle that occur for scarce urban resources such as land. This led to urban space being divided into distinct ecological niches or  natural areas and each niche is shared by people from the same social standing, and share similar ecological pressures (Brown, 2001).

The land was divided into zones with the more popular areas with higher rents. The less advantaged individuals and less prosperous businesses live and operate in the inner cities and spread outwards based on their economic standing, with the most prosperous living in the outer zones, in process parks and Burgess called succession. This model known as the concentric zone theory was based on a prediction that cities formation would take the shape of five concentric rings, with social and physical deterioration in city centers, and prosperous areas on the city s edge. Burgess and his students between 1923 and 1924 designed a Social Science Research Map of Chicago where the studies were conducted, which included physical, political, zoning, residential, commercial, and vacant lots within the city. From the Social Science Research Map several dozen of thematic maps were designed based on Chicago s social characteristics to identify zones and natural areas (Brown, 2001).

Ecological Theory
Ecological theory is otherwise called Positivist theory. This theory seeks to identify the reason for human behavior, both deviant and non-deviant, based on the social structure in the external environment. Based on this theory an individual can develop criminal behavior because of the physical environment in which they live or the social environment in which they interact. Ecological theory has some similarities to the Functionalist sub-cultural theories. These similarities include (1) emphasis on the cultural or sub-cultural group s development of their individual norms and values, physically and materially (2) structural in scope and developed from the Functionalist theory. An ecologist focuses on physical environment or the geographic location of the individual, whilst sub-cultural theorists focuses on the relationship between norms and values to the material things (Livesey, n. d).

Strain Theory
Durkheim theory has been very influential in the field of sociology and criminology and his beliefs that crime occurred as a result of social forces was considered extreme during his time. Strain theory evolved from Durkheim s theory of anomie, which was interpreted as  deregulation , while other control theorists also inspired by his work interpreted it as  normlessness  (Strain theories of crime, n. d).

Strain or structural strain is the process of inadequate regulation in the society which filters down to individuals and how they view their level of needs. On the other hand, strain or individual strain is the friction and pain individuals face as they devise ways to meet their needs.  Merton s strain theory evolved from  the means-end theory of deviance  which views economic success-based aspirations as culturally motivated, and the individual s possible achievements are distributed structurally. The strain theory assumes that a person s aspirations to be successful occurs across all social class, and that the incidence of crime are more likely to occur in lower class areas because the opportunities for achievement are lower than in middle and upper class areas. Merton (1968) states that  It is the combination of the cultural emphasis and the social structure which produces intense pressure for deviation  (Strain theories of crime, n. d). Merton believes that individuals in the lower class structure are more susceptible to the  strain  and their aspirations for economic success are likely to remain unachievable (Strain theories of crime, n. d).

Robert Merton in the 1940 s concluded that biology did not account for the variance in two different societies in terms of deviance.  Merton was concerned more about the deviance rate which varied significantly in different societies as well as sub-groups within the same society, rather than why individuals were deviant.  He believed in the functionalist perspective and the unifying function in culture (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Merton adapted Durkheim concept in his analysis of circumstances when culture causes lack of unity and deviant behavior. Durkheim s use of anomie resulted from the rapid breakdown of cultural norms, such as the occurrence of a suicide due to depression. Merton altered the concept marginally which resulted in cultural norms not matching with life s successes (goals), and the use of the cultural norms to determine the best methods to achieve the goals (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Anomie based on Merton s formula explains both the reason why deviant behavior is higher in the US society, in comparison to others, and also the occurrence of deviance in groups such as race, class, and ethnicity. Merton developed a series of adaptations (1) designated the individual s relationship in relation to norms and goals (2) categorized the relationship to norms to the way the goals would be achieved. He developed a mode of adaptation, which were (1) conformity  (2) innovation- (3) ritualism- (4) retreatism- - (5) rebellion xx. The symbols  represent acceptance, - represent rejection and x indicated the rejection of the values that prevailed and the replacement of those values (Robert Merton Anomie theory, n. d).

Cultural Deviance
Criminal or delinquent subcultures have been categorized by Kornhauser (1978) as  pure cultural deviance theories  or  mixed models  of delinquency ((Kalkhoff, 2002). Pure cultural deviance theories indicate that deviant behavior is normal in comparison to those who adhere to a delinquent subculture, because delinquency is the root cause of conflicting subcultures. This is caused by the socialization of the value system of the subcultures which condones wrong behavior as right. The models of theoretical delinquency are not considered pure due to combined assumptions of cultural deviance theory and analytical models of delinquency, such as control or strain theory ((Kalkhoff, 2002).

The connection between these theories focuses on the economic, socioeconomic, physical locations where individuals live and who they interact with socially. These theories such as cultural deviance look at criminal and delinquent subcultures and the root of this problem, and also anomie theory which looked at the deviant rate in different societies and within the same sub-culture. The studies conducted by these theorists were designed to allow people to develop a better understanding of the factors that result in certain behavior.


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