Deviance is behavior that violates norms and rules of society, and crime is a type of deviant behavior that violates the formal criminal law. Criminology is the study of crime from a scientific perspective.
Deviance is behavior that is recognized as violating expected rules and norms and that should be understood in the social context in which it occurs. Psychological explanations of deviance place the cause of deviance primarily within the individual.Sociologists emphasize the total social context in which deviance occurs. Sociologists see deviance more as the result of group and institutional, not individual, behavior.
Functionalist theory sees both deviance and crime as functional for the society because it affirms what is acceptable by defining what is not. Structural strain theory, a type of functionalist theory, predicts that societal inequalities actually force and compel the individual into deviant and criminal behavior. Conflict theory explains deviance and crime as a consequence of unequal power relationships and inequality in society. Symbolic interaction theory explains deviance and crime as the result of meanings people give to various behaviors.
Differential association theory, a type of symbolic interaction theory, interprets deviance as behavior learned through social interaction with other deviants. Labeling theory, also a type of symbolic interaction theory, argues that societal reactions to behavior produce deviance, with some groups having more power than others to assign deviant labels to people.
Mental illness, stigma, and substance abuse are major forms of deviance studied by sociologists, although deviance comprises many different forms of behavior. Sociological explanations of mental illness focus on the social context in which mental illness develops and is treated. Social stigmas are attributes that are socially devalued. Substance abuse includes alcohol and drug abuse but is not limited to these two forms.
Sociological studies of crime analyze the various types of crimes, such as elite crime, organized crime, corporate crime, and personal and property crimes. Many types of crimes are underreported, such as rape and certain elite and corporate crimes. Sociologists study the conditions, including race, class, and gender inequality, that pro- duce crime and shape how different groups are treated by the criminal justice system, such as showing group differences in sentencing.
In general, crime rates for a variety of crimes are higher among minorities than among Whites, among poorer persons than among middle or upper class persons, and among men than among women. Women, especially minority women, are more likely to be victimized by serious crimes such as rape or violence from a spouse or boy- friend.
International terrorism is a crime, and crime is thus global. Other global crimes of significance are bioterrorism and cyber terrorism. Osama bin Ladenís al Qaeda organization, assumed to be the organization that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed over 3000 individuals, was centered in Afghanistan and was central to the international drug trade. Thus, crimes are clearly not just the acts of a crazed individual or small group of individuals, but the result of structural and cultural conditions.