In the field of sociological criminology, social structure theories emphasize the relation between social structure and criminal behaviour, asserting that disadvantaged economic conditions are primary influential factors in criminal activity. As an interdisciplinary approach, it combines an examination of the social dynamics of human behaviour with the a study of systemic barriers in place that drive crime increase, such as concentrated poverty, community frustration, and class struggle. Social structure theories for the most part identify poor educational resources, absence of marketable skills, economic hardship, and subcultural values as being the fundamental causes of criminal behaviour.
There are three sub types within the hierarchy of social structure theories: social disorganization theory, strain theory, and culture conflict theory. Social disorganization theory posits that crime rates are interrelated with issues of social pathology, and are often associated with perspectives of the Chicago School of criminology; this theory implies a direct link between residential location as a factor in influencing a person’s inclination towards engaging in criminal behaviour. Strain theory focuses on a schism between socially approvable goals and the availability of means by which to socially achieve those goals which results in a turn to crime by individuals unable to succeed legitimately. Lastly, culture conflict theory proposes that the root cause of criminality is to be found within the values dissonance of differently socially taught groups as to what constitutes acceptable or appropriate behaviour.
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