Crime and Deviant Behavior


Crime is an act that goes against the set laws governing a given group of individuals. It might also entail omission of a duty that is commanded by public law. Going against the law makes the offender liable to a punishment based on the degree of the offence. Crime is universal since it is found all over the world. Acts such as murder, rape and theft comprise of criminal activities and are prohibited by the laws of different societies all over the world (Garland, 2001). On most occasions, a criminal offence is defined by the criminal law of every country. Every state has the liberty of limiting the extent of crime in its country. This has led to the enactment of various policies and regulations.

There are several types of crime that include crimes against persons, crime against property, crime against morality, white-collar crime and organized crime among others (Barak, 2009). Crime against persons includes acts such as aggravated assault, murder, robbery and rape. Crime against property on its part involves theft of property without any bodily harm such as larceny, burglary and arson among others. Crimes against morality on most occasions are regarded as victimless crimes. This is because there are no complainants or victims. On the other hand, white collar crimes are committed by individuals of high social status who commit their crimes in the context of their occupation. This includes insider trading, tax evasion and embezzling of funds among others.

In criminal justice, there is a variety of punishment for crime offenders. The nature and extent of punishment is dependent on the degree of the crime committed by the individual. They include incarceration, restitution and fines, rehabilitation and capital punishment just to mention a few.

Deviant Behavior

Deviant behavior entails those acts that are contrary to the dominant norms of the society. It is a behavior that maybe tolerated, approved or disapproved by the society. Deviance behavior is not universal. This is because what might be considered deviant in one society may not be considered as such in another (Clinard, & Meier, 2011).  What is deviant in a particular society at a particular place and time may not be considered as deviant at a future time. For this reason, every society has its own way of dealing with the behavior. Several aspects are put forward to prevent its occurrence. Karl Marx viewed norms as a strategy by the rich and powerful to control the society in order to protect their interests.

Types of deviant behavior can be analyzed by taking into account groups of individuals with similar deviant behavior. They include ritualists, innovators, rebels and retreatists (Barak, 2009). Innovators are those individuals that accept culturally approved goals but disregard the institutional means to achieve them. A good example is government officials and low-wage earners who commit graft and corruption to achieve a higher standard of living. Ritualists on the other hand, are those who give up cultural goals but follow the prescribed norms.  A religious fanatic and an employee who reports to work but does nothing about it are good examples. Rebels are those individuals that reject both the societal goals and prescribed means to achieve them but try to set up new goals and norms. Examples include rebel soldiers. Retreatists on their part are those individuals who abandon both the cultural goals and the prescribed means to achieve them. They include drug addicts, hippies and alcoholics among others.

Causes of Crime in the Society

A variety of theories can be used to explain various causes of crime in the society. Among them is the strain theory of crime. This theory stipulates that individuals in the society are pushed by circumstances to the extent that they cannot live without crime (Garland, 2001). A good example is the persistence of poverty in the society. Every household wants to provide for its daily needs for survival. In light of poverty there are great chances of criminal activities such as robbery and murder to rise in need of quenching every day desire.

Conformity to some norms and values in the society also results in crime. This is because some norms found in different communities might not be in accordance to the law. For example, the Pokot community views cattle rustling as a sport. According to the Kenyan Law, this is a crime liable to a punishment. As a result, a community’s beliefs lead people to commit crime unknowingly.

Poor parenting skills also contribute significantly to criminal activities. Children who are neglected or abused are more likely to commit crimes later in life than others (Garland, 2001). Similarly, sexual abuse in childhood often leads these victims to become sexual predators as adults.

Causes of Deviant Behavior in the Society

Causes of deviance behavior can be analyzed by having a greater insight into some sociological theories. Among them is social disorganization theory that postulates environments with high population density are more prone to deviant behavior. This theory focuses more on the geographical traits than individuals’ traits. Stark asserts that these regions are characterized by poverty, dilapidation, mixed race and transience (Clinard, & Meier, 2011). Lack of necessary resources induces individuals to participate in deviance behavior.

Social control theory can also be used to explain the causes of deviance behavior in the society. The theory is based on people’s social ties as a deterrent or motivator to deviant behavior. Some rules in the society are more favorable to break, such as students cheating in school. The reasoning behind this is that when the outcome is favorable and the action is not considered to have a victim, the deviant behavior is easily accepted within social groups (Clinard, & Meier, 2011). The phenomena of peer pressure also tend to surface through this theory.

The theory of anomie can also be used to explain this phenomenon. It is characterized by legitimate and illegitimate means to shared goals and desires.  A perfect example of this would be drug use. Drug use is accepted amongst addicts mainly because there is a shared desire to continue to use. This is usually considered deviant behavior but among this social group it is readily accepted. They are driven by the need to quench their desires. Another example would be social classes and the competition into these classes, thus the justification that the ends justify the means.




Barak, G. (2009). Criminology: an integrated approach. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield      Publishers.

Clinard, M. B., & Meier, R. F. (2011). Sociology of deviant behavior (14th ed.). Belmont, CA:      Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Garland, D. (2001). The culture of control: crime and social order in contemporary society.           Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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