How Is Social Ecology Theory Related to the Earlier Work of Shaw and McKay?

Understanding the relationship between social ecology theory and the earlier work of Shaw and McKay is crucial for comprehending the evolution of criminological thought. In this article, we will explore the key concepts of social ecology theory and how they align with the foundational work of Shaw and McKay.

The Context: Shaw and McKay’s Concentric Zone Theory

Shaw and McKay were pioneers in urban sociology and criminology. Their groundbreaking study, conducted in 1942, examined crime rates in Chicago neighborhoods. They proposed the concentric zone theory, which suggested that crime rates were influenced by the social disorganization within a community.

The concentric zone theory posited that crime rates were highest in areas characterized by poverty, residential instability, and ethnic heterogeneity. These factors contributed to social disorganization, leading to an increased likelihood of criminal behavior among residents.

Social Ecology Theory: Exploring its Key Concepts

Social ecology theory builds upon Shaw and McKay’s work by further emphasizing the role of environmental factors in shaping criminal behavior. Developed by sociologist Robert E. Park, this theory posits that individuals are influenced by their physical surroundings and social interactions.

1. Human Ecology:

2. Social Disorganization:

3. Ecological Succession:

The Connection: Social Ecology Theory and Shaw and McKay’s Work

Social ecology theory builds upon Shaw and McKay’s concentric zone theory by providing a more comprehensive framework for understanding the relationship between environment and crime. While Shaw and McKay focused on the influence of social disorganization within specific neighborhoods, social ecology theory broadens the scope to incorporate various ecological factors.

Both theories recognize that crime rates are not solely determined by individual characteristics but are also influenced by external factors. By considering the interplay between individuals, their physical environment, and social interactions, both theories offer valuable insights into understanding patterns of criminal behavior.

In Conclusion

The evolution from Shaw and McKay’s concentric zone theory to social ecology theory represents an important progression in criminology. Social ecology theory expands upon the earlier work by incorporating additional concepts such as human ecology, social disorganization, and ecological succession. By understanding these interrelated theories, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of how environmental factors contribute to criminal behavior within communities.