Social structure theory is a sociological perspective that explains the occurrence of a crime in the society. It argues that the social structures of a society can influence an individual’s behavior and lead to criminal activity.

This theory suggests that the root cause of crime lies in the unequal distribution of power and resources in society. In this article, we will discuss how social structure theory explains crime.

What Is Social Structure Theory?

Social structure theory is a framework that examines how social structures, such as economic inequality, poverty, and social disorganization, contribute to criminal behavior. It suggests that individuals who are marginalized or disadvantaged within society are more likely to engage in criminal activities.

How Does Social Structure Theory Explain Crime?

Social structure theory argues that crime is not due to individual characteristics such as personality or biology but rather results from broader social factors. It suggests that there are three main types of social structures that contribute to criminal behavior:

The Role Of Poverty In Crime

Economic inequality is one of the primary causes of crime according to social structure theory. Individuals who live in poverty have limited access to resources such as education and healthcare, which can make it difficult for them to succeed in life. As a result, they may turn to criminal activities to make ends meet.

Moreover, the lack of opportunities for employment and upward mobility often leads to frustration and hopelessness, which can lead individuals to engage in criminal activities. Poverty also increases the likelihood of substance abuse, which can further contribute to criminal behavior.

The Impact Of Social Disorganization On Crime

Social disorganization occurs when communities lack effective social control mechanisms such as law enforcement or community organizations. This can lead to an increase in criminal activity as individuals do not feel accountable for their actions.

Communities that lack social cohesion are more likely to experience crime as individuals do not feel connected or responsible for one another. This can lead to a breakdown in social norms and an increase in deviant behavior.

The Influence Of Cultural Deviance On Criminal Behavior

Cultural deviance occurs when individuals adopt values and beliefs that conflict with mainstream societal norms. This can lead them to engage in criminal activities as they reject the values of the dominant culture.

For example, gang members may adopt a code of conduct that glorifies violence and criminal behavior. They may view themselves as outsiders who are excluded from mainstream society and therefore reject its values.


In conclusion, social structure theory provides an insightful perspective on crime by examining how social structures such as economic inequality, social disorganization, and cultural deviance contribute to criminal behavior. It suggests that crime is not simply due to individual characteristics but rather results from broader societal factors. By understanding these factors, we can develop more effective strategies for preventing crime and promoting social justice in our communities.