Just Sociology

Understanding Deviant Behaviors: Subcultural Theories and Status Frustration Theory

Subculture theories and status frustration theory have offered key insights into the factors that cause individuals to engage in deviant behaviors. The theories have explained the role of subcultures and status deprivation in promoting deviance and have pointed out the collective realities that create and reinforce criminal subcultures.

This paper will discuss the main principles of subcultural theories, including the emergence of delinquent subcultures, cultural codes, values and norms, and practical and violent crimes. Additionally, the paper will highlight Albert Cohen’s Status Frustration Theory, which explains how status deprivation leads to personal failures and rejection of socially acceptable values.

Subcultural Theories

Subcultural theories highlight how the development of criminal subcultures in society is a result of the collective realities that influence the attitudes and behaviors of individuals. According to this theory, subcultures emerge in response to a denied status in society, particularly among working-class individuals who struggle to gain self-esteem and a sense of identity in a society that has failed to reward them for their achievements.

Subcultures provide opportunities for individuals to create new values and beliefs that overcome the sense of failure and inadequacy that arises from being denied status within society.

Emergence of Deviant Working-Class Subcultures

The sense of failure and inadequacy among working-class individuals has led to the emergence of deviant subcultures that are characterized by their rejection of socially acceptable values and norms. The subcultures encourage behaviors that are considered deviant, such as truancy, substance abuse, and criminality.

The focal concerns of the lower class, as highlighted by Miller’s Cultural Deviance Theory, promote the acceptance of deviant behaviors as a way of escaping the sense of doom and gloom that is associated with their lives. The focal concerns include toughness, smartness, excitement, fate, and trouble.

Three Types of Subcultures

Cloward and Ohlin’s theory of subcultures identifies three types of subcultures: criminal, conflict, and retreatist. The criminal subculture is characterized by practical crimes, such as theft and fraud, and is the most stable of the three types.

The conflict subculture is characterized by violent crimes, such as gang violence and extortion, and occurs in neighborhoods that experience an abundance of illegal opportunities. The retreatist subculture represents individuals who are unsuccessful in engaging in either practical or violent crimes and resort to drug addiction or alcoholism as a way of coping with their sense of failure and inadequacy.

Matza’s Criticism of

Subcultural Theories

Matza’s critique of subcultural theories points out that individuals who engage in delinquent behaviors often share similar values to those who do not engage in such behaviors. Therefore, society should focus on preventing delinquency by promoting shared values that discourage these behaviors.

Additionally, Matza’s theory of drift, based on the subterranean values or non-criminal values that delinquents maintain, argues that individuals who engage in delinquent behaviors may become more aware of opportunities in their social environment to engage in positive behaviors. Albert Cohen: Status Frustration Theory

Albert Cohen’s Status Frustration Theory explains how status deprivation leads to personal failures and rejection of socially acceptable values.

According to this theory, individuals who are denied status in society are likely to feel frustrated and inadequate, leading to the development of a sense of personal failure. This sense of failure is then projected onto a broader cultural level, resulting in the emergence of delinquent subcultures and counter-norms and values that reject mainstream cultural values.

Delinquent Subcultures

The emergence of delinquent subcultures is thus an attempt to create an alternative system of values that reflects the experiences and frustrations of those who have been denied status in society. Delinquent subcultures are therefore an expression of resistance against mainstream culture and an affirmation of the values of the subculture.

Conclusion

In conclusion, subcultural theories and status frustration theory provide a compelling explanation of the development of deviant behaviors in individuals. Subculture theories highlight the importance of collective realities in shaping attitudes and behaviors, while status frustration theory points out how personal failures lead to the emergence of delinquent subcultures that reject socially acceptable values.

It is essential to understand the factors that contribute to the development of deviant behaviors if we want to tackle the issue of crime and delinquency effectively. Cloward and Ohlin’s Illegitimate Opportunity Structures

Cloward and Ohlin’s theory of illegitimate opportunity structures explains how different criminal subcultures emerge in response to the availability of illegal opportunities in society.

According to this theory, individuals who are denied legitimate opportunities to attain financial stability will seek illegitimate opportunities to achieve financial gain. The availability of these illegitimate opportunities is what creates the basis for the emergence of criminal subcultures.

Criminal Subcultures

Criminal subcultures offer young criminals the learning opportunities and career structures necessary for them to advance within the criminal organization. These subcultures comprise of individuals who engage in practical crimes, such as theft and fraud, and provide them with a sense of financial stability.

The subcultures are hierarchical, with the more successful criminals serving as mentors and providing the necessary training for the younger members to succeed.

Violent Subcultures

Violent subcultures, known as conflict subcultures, arise in socially disorganized areas where there is a lack of social cohesion. These subcultures are characterized by violent crimes, such as gang violence and extortion, and occur in neighborhoods that experience an abundance of illegal opportunities.

The peer subculture values within these subcultures consist of loyalty, courage, and toughness, and adherence to these values is necessary for individuals to succeed within the violent subculture.

Retreatist Subcultures

Retreatist subcultures emerge among lower-class youths who fail to succeed in either practical or violent crimes. These individuals resort to drug addiction or alcoholism as a way of coping with their sense of failure and inadequacy, and sometimes engage in petty theft, or prostitution.

This subculture is an indication of the lack of legitimate opportunities for these individuals, who seek escapism from their social reality. Walter Miller’s Cultural Deviance Theory

Walter Miller’s Cultural Deviance Theory emphasizes the importance of cultural variables in shaping the behaviors of individuals within lower-class subcultures.

According to this theory, distinct lower-class subcultures emerge with alternative values that reflect the experiences and frustrations of those who have been denied legitimate opportunities. These values thus constitute an alternative culture which forms the backdrop of delinquent behavior.

Focal Concerns of Lower Class

The subculture focuses on the focal concerns of the lower class, which include toughness, smartness, excitement, fate, and trouble. The focal concerns reflect the values and beliefs of the lower class, and provide these individuals with an alternative value structure through which they can make sense of their social reality.

The lower-class individuals’ focus on toughness reflects the way they perceive themselves in society, as strong individuals who can overcome any challenge, smartness as an essential means to outwit and deceive the authorities as a survival tactic, excitement as a means of finding emotional stimulation amid their often-stressful lifestyles, fate as an external force shaping their life’s trajectory, and trouble as a way of resisting social control.

Comparison to Higher Social Strata

In comparison to higher social strata, the lower class has less access to legitimate opportunities and thus develop subcultures that provide an alternative means of advancing within society. The lower-class subculture values have evolved to create a sense of solidarity among this group, but also function in resisting mainstream cultural norms.

Violence, for instance, plays a significant role in the value system of the lower-class subculture, as it represents the ultimate act of rebellion.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Cloward and Ohlin’s theory of illegitimate opportunity structures highlights the link between availability of illegal opportunities and the emergence of criminal subcultures. The availability of these illegitimate opportunities offers a means for individuals to achieve financial gain and escape their sense of failure and inadequacy within society.

Walter Miller’s Cultural Deviance Theory emphasizes the importance of alternative subcultures and the focal concerns of the lower class, which provide cohesion and structure within the subculture, offering a sense of meaning and identity at the same time that it represents resistance against mainstream cultural norms. Understanding how the subculture operates and what values underlie their actions is crucial in taking steps to reduce criminal behavior among the lower strata of society.

David Matza’s Delinquency and

Drift

David Matza’s theory of delinquency and drift challenges subcultural theories by pointing out how delinquents and non-delinquents often share similar values. According to this theory, society should focus on preventing delinquency by promoting shared values that discourage these behaviors.

Matza’s theory also claims that individuals hold subterranean values or values that conflict with society’s traditional values and roles.

Similar Values of Delinquents

Matza argues that delinquents often hold values such as regret and remorse for their actions, and that techniques of neutralization are used to justify and deny their delinquent behavior. Society’s prevention of delinquency, therefore, should concentrate on creating a shared set of core values that dissuade individuals from engaging in illegal behaviors.

Promoting shared moral values is seen as an alternative to traditional subcultural theories.

Subterranean Values and Societal Roles

Subterranean values are a set of values that cannot be seen explicitly at the surface level and conflict with society’s traditional values and roles. According to Matza, these values exist in every individual and are often in conflict with societal expectations.

Matza claims that delinquencies arise when individuals resist socially acceptable values and instead embrace subterranean values.

Drift

Drift is a period in adolescence when the ties from society to the individual are loosened. It is a time when adolescents are particularly susceptible to deviant acts due to their loosening ties to society and increasing autonomy.

This idea suggests that delinquent or deviant behavior may also be a temporary phase during adolescence rather than a permanent expression of character. Charles Murray’s Underclass Theory of Crime

Charles Murray’s theory of underclass suggests that crime is the direct result of an underclass culture of poverty, dependence on government assistance, and deviant values.

Murray argues that the transmission of this culture is what results in high crime rates and low participation in the labor force.

Underclass and Transmission of Culture

The underclass can be defined as the section of society that is unemployed, dependent on government assistance, and resists social norms. Murray claims that the underclass culture creates a lifestyle choice that is pathological and leads to criminal behavior.

This choice is seen as a reflection of the culture that is transmitted from one generation to the next, promoting deviant attitudes and behaviors. Criticism of Murray’s Theory

Murray’s theory of underclass has faced criticism for demonizing the poor and being overly reductive in its determination of the causes of crime.

The theory undermines the possibility that external factors, such as inequality or poor education, can also be significant contributors to criminal behavior. Critics also argue that the theory ignores the impact of welfare policies and their contribution to poverty and crime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Matza’s theory of delinquency and drift challenges subcultural theories by emphasizing the importance of shared values in the prevention of delinquency. The theory highlights how subterranean values come into conflict with traditional values and roles, causing individuals to resist socially acceptable values and embrace delinquent behavior.

Murray’s theory of underclass emphasizes how culture transmitted through generations can contribute to high crime rates and low participation in the labor force. While Murray’s theory has faced criticism for overly simplifying factors that contribute to criminal behavior, both theories emphasize the importance of understanding the values and attitudes that underlie these behaviors.

In conclusion, this article has explored subcultural theories, status frustration theory, illegitimate opportunity structures, cultural deviance theory, delinquency and drift, and the underclass theory of crime. These theories offer valuable insights into the factors that contribute to delinquent and criminal behavior, including the availability of illegal opportunities, status deprivation, subterranean values, and the transmission of cultural values.

Understanding these factors can help society develop policies and interventions that prevent higher rates of criminal activity and promote shared values that discourage these behaviors.

FAQs:

Q: What is the significance of subcultural theories?

A: Subcultural theories explain how criminal subcultures emerge in response to the denied status in society and encourages behaviors considered deviant. Q: What is the difference between practical crimes and violent crimes?

A: Practical crimes refer to crimes such as theft and fraud while violent crimes are more severe such as gang violence and extortion. Q: How does drift relate to delinquent behavior?

A:

Drift is seen as a period in adolescence when adolescents’ ties with society are loosened, making them more susceptible to deviant acts and delinquent behavior. Q: What is the underclass theory of crime?

A: The underclass theory suggests that crime is the direct result of an underclass culture of poverty, dependence on government assistance, and deviant values. Q: What is the significance of shared values?

A: Matza’s theory of delinquency and drift highlights the importance of shared values in preventing delinquency and criminal behavior. Shared values discourage individuals from engaging in illegal behaviors.

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