Social structure theory is a framework that seeks to understand how society is organized and how various structures within society influence individual behavior. There are three independent but overlapping branches of social structure theory: social disorganization theory, strain theory, and cultural deviance theory.

Social Disorganization Theory

Social disorganization theory posits that crime and deviance are the result of the breakdown of social institutions in certain neighborhoods. According to this theory, neighborhoods with high levels of poverty, unemployment, residential mobility, and ethnic heterogeneity experience social disorganization, which weakens social bonds and increases the likelihood of criminal behavior.

Research has shown that communities with high rates of crime tend to have low levels of collective efficacy – the willingness of community members to intervene in the supervision and discipline of young people. This lack of collective efficacy allows for the emergence and persistence of criminal activity.

Key concepts in social disorganization theory:

Strain Theory

Strain theory suggests that crime is a result of individuals’ inability to achieve culturally prescribed goals through legitimate means. When individuals face strain or stress caused by blocked opportunities or limited resources, they may turn to criminal behavior as a means to achieve their goals.

The strain experienced by individuals can be categorized into five types:

Cultural Deviance Theory

Cultural deviance theory suggests that crime and deviance are more prevalent in certain subcultures due to their unique cultural values and norms. These subcultures emerge in response to social disorganization and strains experienced within society.

Key concepts within cultural deviance theory include:

In conclusion, social structure theory encompasses three distinct yet interconnected branches: social disorganization theory, strain theory, and cultural deviance theory. By understanding the factors that contribute to crime and deviance at the societal level, we can develop strategies to promote social cohesion, reduce strain, and address the root causes of criminal behavior.