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Product Code:- Sociology-PH188

Assignment 2: Sociological Theories of Criminal Behaviour (15%)


This assignment is graded out of 100 marks and is worth 15 per cent of your final course grade. It is due at the end of Unit 2. The assignment has three parts:

  • Part A: Choose two questions and provide one or two short paragraph answers of 150–200 words for each.

Part B: Write one short essay of 600–800 words.

Part C: Write one short essay of 600–800 words applying the concepts from the course readings.

Part A: Short Paragraph (20 marks)

Answer two of the following questions in short, one or two paragraph answers of 150–250 words each. (10 marks each)

  1. Interpret Merton’s statement (Ch. 3): “Contemporary [North] American culture appears to approximate the polar type in which great emphasis upon certain success-goals occurs without equivalent emphasis upon institutional means” (p. 22). In this context, why does he argue that deviant behaviour is normal?
  2. Briefly compare Sutherland and Cressey’s (Ch. 4), Hirshi’s (Ch. 5), and Braithwaite’s (Ch. 6) explanations for why a person becomes criminal. Provide an example that illustrates their different emphases.
  3. Why is deviance more about the process of labelling, or the reaction of others, rather than the personality or life situation of the deviant according to Becker? Why is labelling a “self-fulfilling prophecy”?

Note Make sure to define the process of labelling in your answer.

  1. What aspects of criminality does phenomenological theory focus on? What problems in positivist causal explanations of crime does Katz (Ch. 8) seek to address? Use an example to illustrate.
  2. How do structured relations of power based on class (Quinney, Ch. 9) and gender (Daly, Ch. 10) affect the amount and character of crime in society?
  3. Define government as the conduct of conduct. Provide an example from either Valverde or Fischer et al. to illustrate.

Note Both readings are assigned in Unit 2, Topic 2.3.

Part B: Short Essay (40 marks)

Answer one of the following questions in a short essay of 600–800 words.

  1. What is the difference between the positivist and constructionist perspectives on the subject, method, and theory of criminal and deviant behaviour?

Note Recall how these three components were outlined in the “Introduction” section of the textbook.

Select and compare one of the positivist chapters in your text (Chapters 3–6) with one of the constructivist chapters (Chapters 7–10).

How do the theories you have selected differ in their explanation of crime or deviance? What is the significance of this difference? For example, why would you choose one approach over the other, or what do you learn from one that you do not with the other?

  1. Apply the governmental perspective to one of the positivist chapters (Chapters 3–6) and one of the constructivist chapters (Chapters 7–10). How is deviance or criminality problematized differently in the chapters? (For example, differential association theory problematizes the type of associates from whom individuals learn social norms, while labelling theory problematizes the institutional methods by which offenders are labelled as deviants.) What strategies of control, intervention, or government are proposed implicitly or explicitly by the chapter authors? Identify at least one strategy from each theory you have chosen.
  2. Are crime and deviance really “caused” or do people simply choose to engage in criminal or deviant behaviour? How do the three theoretical approaches (positivism, constructivism, and governmentality) deal with the question of free choice?

Part C: Applied Short Essay (40 marks)

Answer one of the following questions in a short essay of 600–800 words using the readings from Unit 2 and the provided videos.

  1. Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

Watch the following video and briefly summarize the main ideas presented during Philip Zimbardo’s discussion of how people become monsters or heroes. Based on the definitions and theories regarding crime covered so far in this course, how would you view and explain the treatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib? Explain your answer by providing your reasons.


This video contains graphic and disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised.

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Zimbardo, P. (2008). Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil. TED. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil?language=en

  1. Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer

Watch the following video and briefly summarize the main ideas presented by Jim Fallon in his discussion of the mind of a killer. Based on what you have learned so far about the different theoretical frameworks in the sociology of crime and deviance, how would you classify Fallon’s explanation? Explain your answer by providing your reasons. What are the strengths and/or drawbacks of Fallon’s approach?

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Fallon, J. (2009). Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer. TED. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/jim_fallon_exploring_the_mind_of_a_killer?language=en


Download Questions

Part A 1. Interpreting Merton’s statement: The main underlying theory of the statement “Contemporary [North] American culture appears to approximate the polar type in which great emphasis upon certain success-goals occurs without equivalent emphasis upon institutional means” is based on Robert Merton’s strain theory in order to explain the heightened rate of crime witnesses in USA (Akers, 2017). The eminent sociologist argued that the existing American cultural system is built on American Dream that provides one with meritocratic ideology of assuring the public with equal opportunity regardless of class, ethnicity and gender.

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