The social disorganization theory was a major theory in criminology which posed that crime rates are directly linked to the locations of neighborhoods. Social disorganization theory, developed by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay of the Chicago school, became dominant for the claim that social factors determine criminal behavior. Core concepts of the social disorganization theory suggested that high crime rates were caused by poverty, physical dilapidation (damaged/poor housing), and higher levels of ethnic/cultural mixing.
While Shaw and McKay didn’t provide a simplistic connection between economic impoverishment and crime, they showed why poor neighborhoods had high crime rates. Their study revealed that neighborhoods with social disorganization were pro-delinquency since there was a high lack of behavioral control mechanisms & the transmission of delinquent values. For criminologists, the theory revealed that deviant behavior patterns were created by socio-economic among other ecological factors.
Pop media examples of the social disorganization theory can be seen in the 1991 John Singleton film, ‘Boyz n the Hood’ which shows teenage boys growing up in a low-income neighborhood. Since the community had low-levels of involvement, Doughboy, Ricky, and Trey dealt with crime every day of their lives, revealing that neighborhoods can play a huge role in delinquent behavior. Thus, for anyone living in any crime-prone neighborhoods, especially the youth, they are likely to engage in crime too either by learning or adopting to a lack of control mechanisms.
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