Contemporary Issues in Criminology

Criminology and Sociology of Deviance

The concept of a deviant behaviour serves as a bridge between a simple violation of the norm and a serious violation of the law. It refers to both deviant and criminal patterns of personal behaviour (Chamberlain 2015). The paper focuses on criminology and sociology of deviance and explores their aims and objectives. A deep analysis of both disciplines allows understanding how they are connected with each other. Previous research proved that a sociological aspect of deviance has a significant impact on the criminology as it helps to distinguish the features of a person who could commit a crime.

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Criminology and its Aim

Criminology is a discipline that studies criminality as a social phenomenon. The central aim of criminology is the scientific study of crime (Maguire, Morgan & Reiner 2012). The definitions of crime vary. They reflect the philosophical views of authors of various schools that promote opposing legal and religious beliefs. Crime is a form of social behaviour which disrupts the normal functioning of the social organism (Maguire, Morgan & Reiner 2012). However, any form of violation is an immoral act that is usually called delinquent or deviating behaviour. However, in a myriad of violations, crime is the most dangerous for society.

Crime is a social and legal phenomenon. The crime rate consists of the number of crimes committed in a given society and in a given period provided by the criminal code. Crime is not simply the number of crimes committed but a phenomenon that has its laws of existence associated with other social phenomena and often determined by them (Cullen 2017). In the criminological literature, the origin of crime lies in the period when the state, law, social, property, and class stratification of society emerged.

The second aim of criminology is the study of the causes of crime and the conditions that contribute to it. The problem of causality is one of the key difficult problems in the social sciences, particularly in criminology (Cullen 2017). The solution is largely determined by philosophical views. However, the problem of causality is not only theoretical but also practical. Without studying the causes of such a phenomenon as crime and the conditions that contribute to it, it is impossible to address it scientifically (Cullen 2017). The study of criminology is based not only on the forces of a particular law enforcement system but also on economic, social and other means that society and state have.

The development of criminology and the implementation of its recommendations into practice have established both causal connections in the problem of crime and conditions conducive to the commission of crimes. While the law enforcement agencies have been identifying conditions and causes of crimes, science has armed them with the methods of identification (Wortley & Townsley 2017). The legislator has enshrined the duty of law enforcement agencies to identify causes and conditions of the crime commission and to take measures within their capabilities and competence to prevent them.


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Further, criminology aims at exploring the identity of a criminal. It is believed that the science of criminology began with the study of social identities (Wortley & Townsley 2017). Initially, scientists regarded a criminal as a personality type that was different from the human population. While theological groups considered criminals to be marked with the curse of Cain, others, observing the cruelty of many criminals or their commitment, began to investigate the reasons stemmed from biological characteristics of people. The latter idea had been widely used since the inception of phrenology and the introduction of theories of Cesare Lombroso and his followers (Andresen 2014). However, another group designed specific social types of criminals, rejecting the biological approach. The fourth group sought a compromise between sociological and biological approached to the individual (Andresen 2014). An in-depth study of the problem led many scholars to the notion that the “identity of the criminal” was questioned. The scientists aimed at replacing it with a more extensive but more accurate concept of the identity of people committing crimes.

Finally, crime prevention is another aim of criminology. The problem of crime prevention is inseparable from other components of the subject of criminology. It covers every aspect connected to the presence of crime in human society and the fight against it (Andresen 2014). Understanding crime as a social phenomenon, which reflects social and psychological inconsistencies, is the basis with the help of which the theory of crime prevention was found. The problem of crime prevention is considered at three levels: general social, special criminological, and individual.

Since crime is a social phenomenon, it is necessary to proceed from the fact that the struggle against it can only be successful when the approach to study and prevent it is complex. Therefore, the fight against crime in a broad social sense is the use of economic, socio-cultural, educational, and, finally, legal measure (Cullen 2017). In fact, it is obvious that the political atmosphere in society can either nullify any forms and methods of social management, bringing them to chaos and collapse, or lead to stabilization of public and state organism. Generally, the higher the level of economic, technical, cultural progress is, the lower rates of crime in a society are compared to a society that lives in economic ruin, social and political instability (Cullen 2017). The latter scenario is also true in a society where people’s care is declared (even a speculative political slogan) but not implemented.

Sociology of Deviance and its Aim

Throughout history, society has been eager to overcome unwanted forms of human behaviour. Undesirable behaviour was initially associated with thieves and geniuses, lazy and too hard-working. Various deviations in social behaviour and violations from the average norm – both with positive and negative consequences – threatened the stability of society, which was always valued more than anything else (Franzese 2014). The deviation from norms is called deviant in sociology, meaning that particular actions of people and social groups are contrary to social norms or recognized patterns and standards of conduct. The essence of deviant behaviour is the non-observance of the requirements of the social norm in different situations, which leads to the complicated interaction of individuals and society (Franzese 2014).

The objects of the sociological study on deviations are, therefore, the subjects of deviant behaviour, particularly people, groups, and organizations. The subject of this discipline is the characteristics and nature of the social phenomenon of a deviant behaviour (McIntosh & Rock 2018). Consequently, any behaviour that does not have the approval of public opinion is called deviant. In the narrow sense, the deviant behaviour is considered to be the violation of informal norms that derive from customs, traditions, ethics, and manners (Anderson 2014). However, a serious violation of formal norms and laws, which the state should monitor and suppress, is illegal and is known as delinquent behaviour.

With the aim of exploring sociology of deviance, sociologists apply a few theories of the origin of deviation: the theory of anomie (E. Durkheim) according to which the deviation occurs due to the absence of norms; the theory of social disorganization according to which the deviation occurs when cultural values ??are absent, weakened, or become contradictory; cultural approach according to which the deviation occurs due to conflicts between the norms of the subculture and the dominant culture; legal approach which refers to the development of radical or contradictory laws (Anderson 2014). According to experts, the existence of deviant behaviour in some people in modern society is inevitable, it is simply impossible to eradicate it (McIntosh & Rock 2018). However, they note that deviations naturally occur in societies where people face transformations and are discontent with their position, which causes the feeling of social dissatisfaction, the lack of demand, and the alienation from society (McIntosh & Rock 2018). In some cases, this feeling of deprivation can lead to the emergence of pessimism among the population and its demoralization, discouragement, and confusion.

According to sociologists, more than a half of planet population is characterized by varying degrees of demoralization (Franzese 2014). Typical reactions to anomie become indifference to the means to achieve the goal, corruption, cynicism, and extremism (Anderson 2014). The mechanism of deviant behaviour is revealed through the analysis of the interaction of the regulatory framework, the personality characteristics, the attitude to the norm, and the real-life conflict situation. The main forms of deviant behaviour include alcoholism, drug use, crime, suicide, and prostitution (McIntosh & Rock 2018). There are different kinds of deviation: civil, labour, and international wars, racial discrimination, genocide, and international terrorism; it can happen in various fields (Anderson 2014).

Types of deviant behaviour are also different: conformism or adaptability, blind adherence to fashion; innovation, including frequent innovations and introduction of innovations; ritualism or not accepting goals and recognizing only means; retreatism or the simultaneous rejection of means and ends; insurgency or armed form of opposition (Franzese 2014). Deviations are also individual and massive. At the individual level, the specific action of a particular person is considered while at the broad level, the patterns of public violations of social norms are addresses. Deviant behaviour refers to such a behavioural form that entails criminal penalties (Franzese 2014). Unlawful acts are known as delinquent behaviour in sociology (Anderson 2014). Deviant behaviour is relative because it is related to moral norms, values ??of this group while delinquent behaviour is absolute because it violates the norms expressed in the legal laws of society.

Sociology of Deviance’s Impact on Criminology

Sociology remains one of the most influential and authoritative in the field of cognition and interpretation of crime. Undoubtedly, sociology of deviance is connected with criminology as its main thesis is that criminals are not born but made (Downes 2016). Within sociological framework, the dependence of crime on the conditions of the social environment, on the stability of the basic parameters of crime, on the possibility of its prediction in the future, on the need for correction of criminal behaviour and crime through the primary influence, and on external social factors were formulated (Downes 2016). Sociology of deviance is essential for criminology as it deals with certain features of identity that could motivate to commit the future crime.

Even though being distinguished from the legal science of criminal law, criminology belongs to the field of scientific knowledge which focuses on the laws of crime development from the perspective of a social process. It has been gradually turning into the sociological science about social pathology or sociology of deviant behaviour (Newman & Wolfgang 2017). The significance of investigations on the identity of the offender is the accumulation of valuable data obtained on persons committing crimes, which is helpful in investigating specific crimes and imposing penalties.

Evidently, the criminogenic character of behaviour can result from the unfavourable social environment of a person. Criminology with the help of sociology of deviance studies how to prevent future crimes and how to distinguish the identity of a criminal. Preventing a person’s inclining tendency toward the deviant behaviour is possible with the condition of improving the social environment and the level of education (Newman & Wolfgang 2017). The concept of “the identity of a criminal” leads to the idea that a person can be already predisposed to committing a crime (DeKeseredy, Ellis & Alvi 2014). Thus, only with the help of sociology of deviance, it is possible for criminologists to assess the credibility of criminal identity.

The classification of specific social types of criminals is important for criminology and sociology of deviance because it helps to systematize groups of criminals. For example, murderers are different from thieves as they represent a specific type of personality; fraudsters differ from white-collars although the latter may use fraud methods; robbers do not resemble sexual abusers (Elias 2013). The study of identity types of those who commit crimes requires the development of both general and individual measures and methods for the prevention of crimes. If in terms of criminal law, a criminal is the one who committed the act containing all the elements of the crime, in criminology, the definition of “identity of the criminal” is a more difficult task since it is related to assigning a person to a certain group condemned by the society (Elias 2013).

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A correct understanding of the relationships between the social and the biological in a person is crucial. Biological features affect human behaviour. For instance, a choleric in the same life situation will act differently than a phlegmatic or sanguine person. However, their actions are also dictated by the degree of social education, not the reasons for behaviour, including criminal conduct (Inderbitzin, Bates & Gainey 2014). The scientific interest in deviant behaviour is one of the first manifestations of Italian physician Lambroso who showed the connection between criminal behaviour and the corresponding physical traits (Elias 2013). In his view, people with certain physical features are more prone to negative “criminal” manifestations. A similar idea was developed by American psychologist William Sheldon who stated that deviants often have certain physical characteristics that are not inherent to other people (Inderbitzin, Bates & Gainey 2014).

Most well-known French sociologist Emile Durkheim emphasized the manifestation of the causes of order and disorder in society. Moreover, he fully analyzed the problem of deviation from the point of view of sociological approaches (Elias 2013). Antisocial behaviour is directed against the interests of society as a whole, its individual cells, and specific people (DeKeseredy, Ellis & Alvi 2014). Along with offences, antisocial behaviour includes actions related to non-compliance or non-recognition of moral norms of behaviour in society.

The criminology studies the cause of unlawful acts with the help of sociology of deviance. It focuses on various qualities of personality such as greed, cruelty, cunning, envy, deceit that are associated with deviants. Moreover, the synergy of these dangerous qualities may indicate a preposition to unpredictable situations with the demonstration of negative qualities or provoke deviant and delinquent behaviour (Maggie & O’Neill 2012). Specific combinations of character traits indicate the prevailing type of crime character – hysterical, schizoid, epileptoid, psychasthenic, asthenic, paranoiac — that can determine certain behavioural deviations (DeKeseredy, Ellis & Alvi 2014).

Deviant forms of behaviour, which are based on individual psychological stereotypes, are dependent on external conditions and situations that can either provoke or block inappropriate forms of behaviour. Criminal personality differs from a person with a normative behaviour not by some unique quality but by a complex of personality traits that lead to transitive behaviour, as well as an interaction of situational and transsituational (personal) factors (Maggie & O’Neill 2012). In fact, alcohol or drugs can easily provoke deviant behaviour that is blocked in daily life, and night time economy always faces the problems of a high crime rate. For example, the London night time economy is developing, and the number of bars, clubs, restaurants that work after midnight increases the number of crimes (McCartney, Jones & Pidgeon 2016). The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) estimates that up to 80 per cent of weekend arrests are alcohol-related (McCartney, Jones & Pidgeon 2016). Thus, the aim of criminology is to study the ways of developing deviant behaviour with the help of sociology of deviance in order to prevent such crimes.

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Generally, the significant number of anti-social and violent crimes is done by people who are associated with the deviant behaviour and use of alcohol or drugs. The Hackney statistics prove that the number of such crimes will steadily increase. In fact, the number of crimes related to violent and anti-social acts is higher than the number of other types of crimes (Fig. 1, 2, 3, 4). Therefore, the sociology of deviance is essential for criminology as it allows preventing the future crimes.

The impact of the sociology of deviance on criminology is strong because it reveals the probability of a person committing a certain type of crime. However, it is evident that almost every crime can be committed by any person. American criminologists, for example, claim that every American at least once in his/her life committed a crime (DeKeseredy, Ellis & Alvi 2014). Moreover, some features of deviance can be hidden and provoked only be some external triggers. It means that sociology of deviance cannot be applied in criminology to the vast variety of criminals and crimes.


To conclude, behaviour that causes disapproval of public opinion is called deviant. In a broad sense, a deviant is a person who acts against the norm of conduct. Such concepts as immoral, asocial, and deviant are used in psychology and sociology to prevent crimes. These types of behaviour should be considered deviant since they always lead to conduct which contradicts the rules of law or morality. Without studying sociology of deviance, it is impossible to enhance the concept of criminal identity which allows averting crime by recognizing the traits related to deviant behaviour.


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