What Is the Main Thesis of the Social Structure Theory of Crime Causation?


Jane Flores

The Social Structure Theory of Crime Causation is a prominent perspective in criminology that seeks to explain why certain individuals engage in criminal behavior. This theory posits that crime is not solely the result of individual characteristics or personal choices, but rather it is influenced by social factors and the structure of society itself. In this article, we will delve into the main thesis of the Social Structure Theory and explore its key concepts.

Understanding the Social Structure Theory:

According to the Social Structure Theory, crime is primarily a result of social disorganization and strain. It argues that individuals living in disadvantaged neighborhoods with high levels of poverty, unemployment, and limited access to resources are more likely to engage in criminal activities.

Social Disorganization:

One crucial aspect of the Social Structure Theory is the concept of social disorganization. This refers to a breakdown in social control mechanisms within a community or neighborhood. When institutions such as schools, families, and local organizations fail to effectively regulate behavior and maintain order, it creates an environment conducive to criminal behavior.

Factors contributing to social disorganization include high rates of residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, and concentrated poverty. These conditions make it challenging for residents to form strong social bonds, establish collective efficacy, and effectively address community problems.

Strain Theory:

Another important aspect of the Social Structure Theory is strain theory. This perspective argues that individuals experience strain or pressure when they are unable to achieve their goals or meet societal expectations through legitimate means. This strain may arise from factors such as limited educational opportunities or lack of job prospects.

When individuals face strain without adequate resources or support systems, they may turn to illegitimate means such as theft or drug dealing as a way to cope with their circumstances. Strain theory suggests that crime can be seen as an adaptation or response to societal pressures.

The Main Thesis:

The main thesis of the Social Structure Theory can be summarized as follows: Crime is not an individual failing but rather a result of social conditions and the structure of society that create an environment conducive to criminal behavior.

It emphasizes that crime rates are not uniform across all individuals or communities but are instead concentrated in areas with high levels of social disorganization and strain. By focusing on the broader social context, this theory highlights the importance of understanding how structural factors contribute to criminal behavior.


The Social Structure Theory has important implications for understanding crime causation and developing effective strategies for crime prevention and intervention. Rather than solely focusing on punishing individuals, this theory suggests that addressing the underlying social conditions is crucial for reducing crime rates.

Efforts to reduce crime should include initiatives aimed at improving educational opportunities, increasing access to job training programs, and providing support systems for individuals living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. By addressing the root causes of crime, societies can work towards creating safer and more inclusive communities.


In conclusion, the Social Structure Theory offers a valuable perspective on crime causation by highlighting the role of social factors and societal structure. By examining issues such as social disorganization and strain, this theory provides insights into why certain individuals may be more vulnerable to engaging in criminal behavior.

Understanding the main thesis of the Social Structure Theory allows us to recognize that crime is not solely an individual problem but a societal issue that requires comprehensive solutions. By addressing social conditions and providing opportunities for those living in disadvantaged areas, we can strive towards creating a more just and equitable society with reduced levels of crime.