social disorganization theory


  • They considered the concentric zone model, and produced a diachronic analysis to demonstrate that delinquency was already dispersed in urban areas, and that more wealthy and
    important groups moved to avoid the existing social disorganization.

  • The time frames they selected showed strong patterns of immigrant migration; Shaw and McKay believed that they could demonstrate whether delinquency was caused by particular
    immigrant groups or by the environment in which the immigrants lived: • If high delinquency rates for particular immigrant groups remained high during their migration through the city’s different ecological environments, then delinquency could
    be associated with their distinctive constitutional or cultural features.

  • Specifically Bursik points out that “development of primary relationships that result in informal structures of social control is less likely when local networks are in continual
    state of flux.”[5] In the example of Chicago, as immigrants continue to come in, the population already there leave soon as it’s financially feasible, which in return makes it difficult for any stable form of social control to take place.

  • In turn, crime also contributes to disorganization, and disorganization of such conventional mechanisms is especially likely in large, rapidly growing industrial cities where
    such disorganization permits highly organized criminality, as well as less organized forms of group and individual crime and delinquency.

  • Although research in different countries has tended to support Shaw and McKay’s findings that delinquent rates are highest in areas with economic decline and instability,
    that research has not found that crime rates spatially disperse from the city center outward.

  • Bursik’s work helped negate some of the criticisms associated with Shaw and McKay’s work; Bursik showed that it was possible and likely to have stable crime patterns within
    an area that showed constant population change.

  • Thus, although a city was a physical organization, it also had social and moral structures that could be disorganized.

  • This theory seeks to explain the existence of social problems such as unemployment and crime in specific Chicago districts, making extensive use of synchronic mapping to reveal
    the spatial distribution of social problems and to permit comparison between areas.

  • Personal Social Control, Parochial Social Control and Public Social Control which are influenced by structural factors within a neighbourhood such as poverty, residential
    mobility, heterogeneity and broken homes affect the ability of the neighbourhood to implement models of social control.

  • • Parochial Social Control: In this model the residents take a more active approach to Social Control observing strangers coming into the neighbourhood to stop vandalism and
    theft within the community.

  • Social disorganisation may also produce crime by isolating communities from the mainstream culture.

  • [8] Lee and Martinez suggest that current immigration trends do not have the negative consequences expected by disorganization theories; rather these studies show that immigration
    can strengthen social control rather than compromise it.

  • Recent work by Matthew T. Lee and Ramiro Martinez JR, suggest that this might not always be the case; recent studies have found that immigration generally does not increase
    crime rates in areas in where immigrants settle; in fact some studies show that these areas are less involved in crime than natives.

  • In fact Lee and Martinez state that immigration is required as an essential ingredient for continued viability of urban areas where population has declined or community decay
    occurs, as was the case in previous decades.

  • Formal organizations like schools, churches, and the police act as surrogates for family and friends in many communities, but poor, unstable communities often lack the organization
    and political connections to obtain resources for fighting crime and offering young people an alternative to deviant behavior.

  • She was particularly interested in dance halls, brothels, insanity, divorce, nonvoting, suicide, and other forms of socially problematic behavior of interest to the political
    reformers, studying the working lives of “business” girls and their dispersal throughout the zones of Chicago (1929).

  • [4] Researchers during this period felt that it was unlikely that crime patterns remained stable even though there were constant changes in population without these areas.

  • • The spatial pattern of delinquency rates showed significant long-term stability, even though the nationality structure of the population in the inner-city areas changed
    greatly throughout the decades.

  • Example would be neighbourhoods with high number of residents with different race and backgrounds or low income and high unemployment which cause mistrust and lack of communication
    among the community.

  • [3] One of the main criticisms of Shaw and McKay’s theory was that it suggested, in certain area’s delinquency rates remained high regardless of the ethnicity group that lived

  • The failure of extended kin groups expanded the realm of relationships no longer controlled by the community and undermined governmental controls, leading to persistent “systematic”
    crime and delinquency.

  • In this context, Shaw and McKay asserted that ethnic diversity interferes with communication among adults, with effective communication less likely in the face of ethnic diversity
    because differences in customs and a lack of shared experiences may breed fear and mistrust.

  • The theory directly links crime rates to neighbourhood ecological characteristics; a core principle of social disorganization theory that states location matters.

  • The theory suggests that, among determinants of a person’s later illegal activity, residential location is as significant as or more significant than the person’s individual
    characteristics (e.g., age, gender, or race).

  • The basic idea proposed was that community-level patterns of racial inequality give rise to the social isolation and ecological concentration of the truly disadvantaged, which
    in turn leads to structural barriers and cultural adaptations that undermine social organisation and ultimately the control of crime.

  • They suggested that, over time, the competition for land and other scarce urban resources leads to the division of the urban space into distinctive ecological niches, “natural
    areas” or zones in which people share similar social characteristics because they are subject to the same ecological pressures.

  • • If delinquency rates decreased as immigrants moved through different ecological environments, then delinquency could not be associated with the particular constitution of
    the immigrants, but must somehow be connected with their environment.

  • • Public Social Control: In this model the entire community works together as an organization to improve and protect the community.

  • This evidenced the conclusion that delinquency rates always remained high for a certain region of the city (ecological zone 2), no matter which immigrant group lived there.

  • Immigration Revitalization argues that immigration can revitalize poor areas and strengthen social control within neighborhoods because of strong familial ties and job opportunities
    associated with enclave economies that result in less crime.

  • Lee and Martinez When scholars associated with Social Disorganization theory developed spatial analytical techniques seventy years ago, they wanted a way to study violent

  • The theory has not been used to explain organized crime, corporate crime, or deviant behavior that takes place outside neighborhood settings.

  • Example would be playing an active role to the schools, community center and other institutions within the neighbourhood.

  • Sampson Robert J. Sampson (1993)[2] claims that any theory of crime must begin with the fact that most violent criminals belonged to teenage peer-groups, particularly street
    gangs, and that a gang member will become a full-time criminal if social controls are insufficient to address delinquent behaviour at an early age.

  • He also believed that the mobility, economic competition, and individualistic ideology that accompanied capitalist and industrial development had been responsible for the
    disintegration of the large family and homogeneous neighborhoods as agents of social control.

  • Sutherland Edwin Sutherland adopted the concept of social disorganization to explain the increases in crime that accompanied the transformation of preliterate and peasant
    societies—in which “influences surrounding a person were steady, uniform, harmonious and consistent”—to modern Western civilization, which he believed was characterized by inconsistency, conflict, and un-organization (1934: 64).

  • However, even children from unstable families are less likely to be influenced by peer groups in a community where most family units are intact.

  • Shaw and McKay demonstrated that social disorganization was endemic to the urban areas which were the only places the newly arriving poor could afford to live.

  • Social disorganization theory and cultural transmission theory examine the consequences when a community is unable to conform to common values and to solve the problems of
    its residents.

  • Partly as a result of her studies, Cavan (1953) emphasized the importance to the efficient functioning of the entire social order of the regulation of sex.

  • Indeed, such research has often been used politically to ascribe immorality to specific population groups or ethnicities.

  • These theorists were particularly concerned about the adverse impacts of that immigration, and how internal migration and ethnic heterogeneity might impact the ability of
    neighborhoods to control the behavior of their residents.

  • But because society is organized around individual and small group interests, society permits crime to persist.


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