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Luca's Purple Aster

A-Level Sociology


Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods is Paper 3 of the A-Level Sociology course (7192/3). It's a 2-hour written examination with 80 marks and is worth 33.3% of the qualification.  

The content in the Crime and Deviance section sees Mayfield students study the Reasons for Crime, the Social Distribution of Crime and Deviance, Crime in Society and the World & the Control of Crime and Punishments. While, the content in the Theory and Methods section sees Mayfield Sixth Formers learning about several Methods of Research, Sources s of Data & Types of Theories.  

The Assessment Overview

Crime and Deviance: short answer and extended writing, 50 marks
Theory and Methods: extended writing, 30 marks

S3's Content

These are all Luca's notes for each topic and lesson in A-Level Sociology Paper 3's Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. These notes are from classes, private study periods or at home, and are written by a Sixth Former so some notes may contain errors.

S3A | The Reasons for Crime
S301 | What Crime and Deviance Are
S302 | Non-Sociological Explanations for Criminal Activity
S303 | The Functionalist View on Crime and Deviance
S304 | Left Realism and Crime
S305 | Marxist Theories on Crime and Deviance

| The Social Distribution of Crime and Deviance
SG3/2A | Ethnicity: Racism and the Criminal Justice System
SG3/2B | Explaining the Ethnic Differences in Offending
SG3/2C | The Victimisation of Ethnic Minorities 
SG3/2D | Gender in Terms of Crime and Deviance
SG3/2E | Social Classes' Role in Crime

SG3/3 | Crime in Society and the World

SG3/3A | Globalisation and Crime in Contemporary Society
SG3/3B | The Media and Crime
SG3/3C | Green Crime: Harming the Environment
SG3/3D | Human Rights and State Crimes

SG3/4 | The Control of Crime and Punishments
SG3/4A | Crime Control, Surveillance, Prevention and Punishment
SG3/4B | Victims of Crime
SG3/4C | The Justice Sys
tem and Other Agencies 

SG3/5 | Theory and Method
SG3/5A | Research Design: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods of Research
SG3/5B | Different Sources of Data
SG3/5C | The Distinction Between Different Types of Data
SG3/5D | The Relationship Between Positivism, Interpretivism and Sociological Methods
SG3/5E | Different Considerations Influencing Choice of Topic and Methods
SG3/5F | Consensus, Conflict, Structural and Social Action Theories
SG3/5G | The Concepts of Modernity and Post-Modernity
SG3/5H | The Extent to Which Sociology can be Regarded as Scientific
SG3/5I | The Relationship Between Theory and Methods
SG3/5J | Debates about Subjectivity, Objectivity and Value Freedom
SG3/5K | The Relationship Between Sociology and Social Policy

The Reasons for Crime

A-Level Sociology, Paper 3, Topic A
S3A | Lessons S301-S305

S301 | What Crime and Deviance Are

The defentions of Crime and Deviance

  • The definitions in terms of simplicity 

    • Crime is an illegal action punishable by law​

    • Deviance is an action that goes against social norms

  • The definitions in terms of sociology 

    • Crime is an offence which goes beyond the personal and into the public sphere, breaking prohibitory rules or laws, to which legitimate punishments or sanctions are attached, and which requires the intervention of a public authority​

    • Deviance is an action and/or behaviour that violate social norms across formally enacted rules as well as informal violations of social norms

  • Are crime and deviance socially constructed?

    • French philosopher, Michel Foucault, describes crime and deviance as culturally determined ​

      • He's essentially saying that different countries and religions all have their own ways of determining what's considered legal or not​

      • An example of different countries' cultures determining what is criminal or not is that in India arranged marriages are legal while in the UK they're not

      • An example of a country's culture changing and how that determines what's criminal is that before 1833, children under 9 could work in the UK but in modern-day Britain, it's illegal

    • British sociologist, Ken Plummer, defines deviance into two categories ​

      • Situational deviance

        • An example would be going out in public nude as this violates the social normality of wearing clothes​

      • Societal deviance​

        • An example would be swearing at a person of authority as this is agreed to be disrespectful and inappropriate ​

S302 | Non-Sociological Reasons for Crime


  • Physiological explanations

    • These see deviance in terms of the biological makeup of individuals

    • Inherited abnormalities are said to predispose certain individuals towards deviance

    • Lombroso's findings

      • Italian criminologist, Cesare Lombroso, compared the physical characteristics of convicted criminals with non-criminals and found some differences

      • He discovered biological characteristics custom to criminals including:

        • Large jaws​

        • Long arms

        • Extra nipples

      • Genetic abnormalities suggest some people are 'born' criminal​

    • Moir and Jessel's findings​

      • Moir and Jessel explain crime and deviance in terms of chemical imbalances in the brain​

      • Those with ADHD have low levels of serotonin in their brain and anti-social behaviour associated with people with ADHD which makes them more likely to engage in criminal behaviour

  • Psychological explanations​

    • These are seen to cause deviance due to a faulty mind​

    • Eysenck's findings

      • He explains deviance in terms of personality types, which he believed were largely inherited​

      • Eysenck suggested extroverts are more likely to commit crimes as they are more likely to take risks and take longer to learn society's norms

    • Bowlby's findings​

      • Bowlby explains deviance in terms of childhood socialisation, specifically maternal deprivation

      • He found that children who lacked a loving relationship with their natural mother during their early years were more likely to develop psychopathic personalities and commit crimes​

  • Weaknesses of non-sociological reasonings​

    • Physiological and psychological explanations have been criticised

    • The social causes of deviance such as poverty are ignored and this suggests that non-sociological explanations only offer a partial view of crime & deviance​

S303 | The Functionalist View on Crime and Deviance


  • Functionalism

    • Functionalism is a structuralist theory of crime​

    • Functionalists believe crime and deviance can be explained by looking at the way societies are organised socially - social structures 

    • Functionalists say crime is caused by society and isn't caused by the circumstances of an individual

    • Society to them is a stable system of shared values and culture which creates social solidarity; crime and deviance disrupt this stability

  • Functionalists' desire for social solidarity ​

    • ​Social solidarity combines individuals together, informing them about their goals and how they should conduct themselves ​

    • Functionalists believe to achieve social solidarity, society has two main mechanisms:

      • Socialisation: instilling society's culture onto its members so individuals internalise the same norms and values so they feel correct to act in the way society wants them to​

      • Social control: the ways in which society directs the behaviour of its members

  • Early functionalist theories: Durkheim's views and Merton's strain theory 

    • Durkheim: crime is inevitable

      • Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist ​​

      • Durkheim believes crime is normal and an integral part of all healthy societies

      • The two reasons why crime and deviance are found in all societies

        • Not everyone in society is equally and effectively socialised into the shared norms and values of everyone else and therefore some individuals will be prone to deviate​

        • There is a diversity of lifestyles and values in a society, so different groups develop their own subcultures with distinctive norms and values, and what the members of the subculture regard as normal, mainstream culture may see as deviant to others

      • The positives of crime and deviance​

        • It's necessary to generate social change - all change begins as deviation from social norms (like the authorities often persecute religious visionaries who espouse a new ‘message’ or value system). However, in the long run, their values may give rise to a new culture and morality. If those with new ideas are suppressed, society will stagnate and be unable to make necessary adaptive changes​

        • It creates social integration - society is bonded together against certain crime and criminals (like terrorism and rape) 

        • It ensures boundary maintenance - helps clarify the boundaries of acceptable behaviour (like speeding may be tolerated but paedophilia is certainly not)

      • The negatives of crime and deviance​

        • It threatens unity and stability - too much crime and deviance can put value consensus, social order and social stability at threat due to the fact the norms and values that unite society are broken and challenged repeatedly breaking society apart​

      • Structural causes of crime and deviance​

        • Crime and deviance are caused by anomie (normlessness)​

        • This is when people become unsure of society's norms and values and typically happens in periods of rapid change (like in revolutions)

      • The positives of social control and social order

        • Socialisation - agencies of socialisation instil shared norms and values to create a value consensus. This agreement then creates social order and stability (like families and schools instil the values of achievement and respect for authority, and religion instils the value of not committing adultery)​

        • Sanctions - crime and deviance is controlled by negative sanctions and punishments for deviance (like imprisonment or community service) and positive sanctions and praise for conformity (like praise for working hard at school or stopping criminal activity)

    • Other sociologists' thoughts on the other functions of crime

      • Kingsley Davis argues that prostitution acts as a safety valve for the release of men’s sexual frustrations without threatening the monogamous nuclear family (a term for just a mother, father and their children and no other family members)

      • Ned Polsky argues that pornography safely ‘channels’ a variety of sexual desires away from alternatives such as adultery, which would pose a much greater threat to a family

      • Albert Cohen states that deviance acts as a warning that an institution isn't functioning properly

    • Merton and strain theory

      • Robert K. Merton was an American sociologist ​

      • Merton developed 'Strain Theory' (also known as anomie theory) which in both sociology and criminology believes that social structures within society may pressure citizens to commit crimes

      • Cultural and structural causes of crime

        • Individuals are socialised to meet and achieve certain shared goals and values through approved norms (like achieving high grades at school or working hard in a job)​

        • Many societies suffer from anomie which is the lack of usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group

        • This creates a strain, conflict and imbalance between the goals society sets and the law-abiding means of achieving them 

        • Disadvantaged groups (like the working class or the black community) are more likely not able to obtain society's goals and therefore have to achieve them illegitimately (against the approved norms and laws) because they experience blocked opportunities at school and underachieve (for example they suffer from material and cultural deprivation, they fail school and are subject to discrimination)

        • Merton argued that some members of the working class decide to change and reject the approved means (like working hard at school or in a job) and instead turn to crime (like drug dealing, prostitution and street robbery) to obtain the goals they desire 

        • Other adaptations to anomie, depending on social class background, are conformity, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion

  • Subcultural strain theories: Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin​

    • The decades that followed Merton's strain theory saw other sociologists and criminologists create subcultural strain theories out of weaknesses and gaps in of Merton's beliefs

    • Subcultural theories attempt to explain a specific group's nature of crime and deviance through the concept of subcultures 

      • Subcultures provide an alternative deviant opportunity structure for those faced with blocked opportunities (like the working class)

    • Cohen's views​

      • Albert K. Cohen was an American criminologist ​

      • Cohen in fact accepts much of what Merton had to say on the structural causes of crime and deviance 

      • However, Cohen criticises some of Merton's explanations on deviance

        • Merton sees deviance as an individual response to strain but ignores the fact that much deviance is committed in or by groups, especially among the young ​

        • Merton focuses on utilitarian crime committed for material gain (like theft or fraud) but he largely ignores crimes such as assault and vandalism

      • In response, Cohen focuses on these issues of structural causes:​

        • Working-class youths socialised into a specific dream of success​

        • Working-class youths face blocked opportunities because of their low position in the social class structure and cause them to obtain poor qualifications because of material and cultural deprivation​

        • Working-class youths suffer from status frustration because they are unable to achieve mainstream success goals legitimately

      • Cohen focuses on these issues of cultural causes:​

        • Some working-class youths completely reject mainstream norms and values because of the status frustration they feel ​

        • Mainstream norms and values are replaced with alternative criminal subcultural norms and values with a high value being placed on negativistic (non-money making) criminal acts ( like joyriding, arson and vandalism)

        • The criminal subculture provides an alternative means of gaining status and striking back at an unequal society

    • Cloward and Ohlin's views

      • Richard Cloward and Llyod Ohlin were American sociologists ​

      • They both accept Cohen's views on the structural causes of crime and deviance

      • However, they both criticise Cohen for failing to recognise the different types of crime that emerge out of the illegitimate opportunity structure

      • Cloward and Ohlin argue that different neighbourhoods provide different illegitimate opportunities for young people to learn criminal skills and develop criminal careers

      • They identify three subcultures:

        • Criminal subcultures - have access to criminal networks and commit material (utilitarian or money-making) crimes (like burglary)​

        • Conflict subcultures - lack access to criminal networks but juveniles live in an area with high population turnover which values gang violence (like like in parts of London)

        • Retreatist subcultures – lack access to criminal or conflict subcultures so typically deviate with alcohol and drug abuse

  • Recent strain theories​

    • Recent strain theorists have argued that young people may pursue a variety of goals other than money success

      • These include popularity with peers, autonomy from adults, or the desire of some young males to be treated like ‘real men’

    • Like earlier strain theorists, they argue that failure to achieve these goals may result in delinquency

      • They also argue that middle-class juveniles may too have problems achieving such goals, thus offering an explanation for middle-class delinquency

  • Criticisms of functionalists' views on crime and deviance​

    • The criticism of Durkheim​

      • Left realists claim Durkheim neglects the victim when focusing on the positive functions of crime

      • Victims of crime can suffer both physical and psychological harm and may stay indoors for fear of repeat victimisation​

    • The criticism of Merton​

      • Merton sees deviance as an individual response to anomie and therefore does not adequately account for the collective nature of crime & deviance (like delinquent subcultures)​

      • Merton’s theories do not account for non-utilitarian crime (crime to make money) (like violent crimes and vandalism) – also it would be hard for this theory to account for crimes such as genocide or torture

      • Marxists argue that it ignores the power of the ruling class that make laws that criminalise the poor but not the rich

      • Assumes there is ‘value consensus’ and everyone strives for ‘money success’ and ignores any possibility that many may not share this goal

    • The criticism of Cloward and Ohlin​

      • Cloward and Ohlin agree with Merton and Cohen that most crime is working-class, thus ignoring crimes of the wealthy so their theory also over-predicts the amount of working-class crime​

      • Unlike Cohen, they provide an explanation for different types of working-class deviance (like subcultures) but they draw the boundaries too sharply between these:

        • South found that the drug trade is a mixture of both ‘disorganised’ crime (like conflict subcultures) and professional mafia-style criminal subcultures

    • The criticism of strain theories as a whole 

      • Strain theories have been called ‘reactive’ theories because they explain subcultures as forming in reaction to the failure to achieve mainstream goals but they have been criticised for assuming that everyone starts off by sharing the same mainstream success goals

      • Miller argues that the lower class has its own independent subculture separate from mainstream culture, with its own values. This subculture does not value success in the first place, so its members are not frustrated by failure. Although Miller agrees deviance is widespread in the lower class, he argues that this arises out of an attempt to achieve their own goals, not mainstream ones

      • Matza claims that most delinquents aren't strongly committed to their subculture, as strain theories suggest, but merely drift in and out of delinquency (phenomenology)

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The Social Distribution of Crime and Deviance

A-Level Sociology, Paper 3, Topic 2
SG3/2 | Lessons SG3/1A-1E

SG3/2A | Ethnicity: Racism and the Criminal Justice System

How different ethnic groups are over-represented in crime statistics and why some ethnic groups commit more crimes than others

  • Prison population statistics

    • All statistics from House of Commons Library: UK Prison Population Statistics by Georgina Sturge on October 25th, 2022

    • As of June 2022, Black or Black British people made up 12% of England and Wales' prison population despite having a share of 3% of the general population ​

    • As of June 2022, Asian or Asian British people made up 8% of England and Wales' prison population despite having a share of 7% of the general population

    • As of June 2022, White people made up 72% of England and Wales' prison population but makeup 88% of the general population

  • Stop and searches

    • Black people, Asian people and other ethnic minorities are more likely to be stopped and searched ​

      • According to BBC News, black people were 7x more likely to be searched than white people in the year ending March 2021 with Asians or mixed ethnic background people were around 2.5x more likely than white people

    • Ethnic minority communities usually have a lack of trust in the police as they feel over-policed, under-protected and have limited faith in the force

    • Reasons for these stats and facts ​

      • Racism and the Police​

        • The Macpherson Report published in 1999 found clear evidence of institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police​

        • From IOPC data between 2011-2021 found 119 people had died from police restraint

          • 23 were black which was 6.4x the proportion among the general population​

          • 86 were white which was 0.84x the proportion among the general population

      • Ethnic differences in offending

        • Higher rates of stop and search reflect higher rates of offending amongst some ethnic minority groups (given their proportion in the population)​

      • Demographic factors​

        • Some ethnic minority groups are more likely to be part of the demographic that is likely to be stopped and searched like being young, unemployed, living in inner city areas

  • Arrests and cautions ​

    • According to, black people were over 3 times as likely to be arrested as white people – there were 29 arrests for every 1000 black people and 9 arrests for every 1000 white people​

    • After arrest, black people and Asians are less likely to receive a caution

    • Reasons for these stats and facts​

      • Minority groups are less likely to admit to an offence and therefore won't likely receive a caution ​

  • Prosecutions and convictions ​

    • The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is more likely to drop cases against ethnic minorities ​

    • Black people and Asians are less likely to be found guilty of a crime or crimes

    • Reasons for these stats and facts

      • Bowling and Phillips (2002) argue that the evidence presented to the CPS by the police is often weaker and based on stereotyping ethnic minorities as criminals

      • Cases against ethnic minorities are usually weaker due to police discrimination 

  •  Sentencing and prison​

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SG3/2B | Explaining the Ethnic Differences in Offending

New criminologists and Left Realism's views on why different ethnic groups are more or less likely to offend, be prosecuted and be punished 

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SG3/2C | The Victiminisation of Ethnic Minorities


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Crime in Society and the World

A-Level Sociology, Paper 3, Topic 3
SG3/3 | Lessons SG3/3A-3D

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The Control of Crime and Punishments

A-Level Sociology, Paper 3, Topic 4
SG3/4 | Lessons SG3/4A-4C

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Theory and Methods

A-Level Sociology, Paper 3, Topic 5
SG3/5 | Lessons SG3/5A-5K

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