Crime Causation: Sociological Theories
Several theorists have attempted to combine certain of the above theories in an effort to create integrated theories of crime. The most prominent of these integrations are those of Terence P. Thornberry and Delbert S. Elliott and associates. Elliott's theory states that strain and labeling reduce social control. For example, school failure and negative labeling may threaten one's emotional bond to conventional others and investment in conventional society. Low social control, in turn, increases the likelihood of association with delinquent peers, which promotes the social learning of crime. Thornberry attempts to integrate control and social learning theories. Like Elliott, he argues that low control at home and at school promotes association with delinquent peers and the adoption of beliefs favorable to delinquency. Thornberry, however, also argues that most of the causes of crime have reciprocal effects on one another. For example, low attachment to parents increases the likelihood of association with delinquent peers, and association with delinquent peers reduces attachment to parents. Likewise, delinquency affects many of its causes: for example, it reduces attachment to parents and increases association with delinquent peers (an argument compatible with labeling theory). Further, Thornberry argues that the causes of crime vary over the life course. For example, parents have a much stronger effect on delinquency among younger than older adolescents. Factors like work, marriage, college, and the military, however, are more important among older adolescents.
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