What Is the Definition of Cultural Deviance Theory?

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The cultural deviance theory states that social disorganization and delinquency are linked, resulting in crime as a normal response to the social, structural and cultural characteristics of a community. This theory uses cultural mapping to explain that people are not inherently deviant, but they are influenced by circumstance.

Sociologists Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay first penned the cultural deviance theory when studying inner city Chicago between 1900 and 1933. Shaw and McKay discovered that crime rates remained the same in specific neighborhoods, even when the ethnic population changed.

The cultural deviance theory follows a concentric zone model, where crime is most prolific at the center and decreases as the population fans out. The zones, listed from center to outward circle, are the business district, the transitional zone, the working class zone, the residential zone and the commuter zone. The cultural deviance theory influenced future sociological and criminological analysis of delinquency and crime. In 1989, researchers Robert Sampson and Byron Groves analyzed 238 British neighborhoods. They discovered that poverty, ethnic diversity and family disruption in certain locations influenced social disorganization, correlating the cultural deviance theory. In 2006, Sampson and newcomer Lydia Bean found poverty and single-parent homes correlated to juvenile violence.