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Views from Albert K. Cohen, Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin, and Emile Durkheim

Evaluate the claim that deviant behavior is the result of dysfunctional socialization. This essay will evaluate the claim that deviant behavior results from dysfunctional socialization and will be looking at views from Albert K. Cohen, Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin, and Emile Durkheim. Cohen agrees with the statement that dysfunctional socialization causes deviant behavior. Cohen argues that lower-working-class boys hold the success goals of the mainstream culture, but, due largely to educational failure and the dead-end jobs that result from, they have little opportunity to attain those goals.

Stuck at the bottom of the stratification system, with avenues to success blocked, many lower-working-class boys suffer from status frustration. They replace success goals with an alternative set of norms and values in terms of which they can achieve success and gain prestige. The result is a delinquent subculture. The delinquent subculture takes its norm from the larger culture but turns them upside down. A high value is placed on activities such as stealing, vandalism and truancy. Therefore, we can say that because there is unequal access to opportunity, there is greater pressure on certain groups within the social structure to deviate.

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However, Cohen’s views cannot be totally accepted as Steven Box believed Cohen’s theory was only plausible for a small minority of delinquents. He questioned Cohen’s view that most delinquent youths originally accepted the mainstream standards of success. Rather than experiencing shame and guilt at their own failure, Box argued, they feel resentment at being regarded as failures by teachers and middle-class youths whose values they do not share and cannot accept. They turn against those who look down on them; they will not tolerate the way they are insulted. Therefore, we can conclude that unnecessarily dysfunctional socialization causes deviance, but the feeling of the delinquents themselves makes them act as such.

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Cloward and Ohlin also agree with the states where there is greater pressure on working class members to deviate because they have less opportunity to succeed by legitimate means. They distinguished possible responses to this situation. The first one is that criminal subcultures tend to emerge in areas with an established pattern of organized adult crime. In such areas, a ‘learning environment is provided for the young which they are exposed to criminal skills and deviant values. As a result, they have access to illegitimate opportunity structures.

Other than that, conflict subcultures also develop in areas where adolescents have little opportunity for access to illegitimate opportunity subcultures. Such areas usually have a high turnover of population and lack unity and cohesiveness. The response to this situation is often gang violence. Finally, the retreats subcultures, organized mainly around illegal drug use, because they have failed to succeed in both the legitimate and illegitimate structures. Thus, Cloward and Ohlin agree that deviant behavior results from dysfunctional socialization, which mainly happens in lower-working-class people. Nevertheless, Roger Hopkins Burke identifies three main criticisms of Cloward and Ohlin.

The idea of the criminal subculture is based on gangs in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, and it is highly debatable how far the analysis would be applicable today. Hopkins Burke also argues that their theory is based on a false assumption that the working class is homogeneous. Besides, he believes that Cloward and Ohlin offer a grossly simplistic explanation of drug misuse, which is in reality fairly common among successful middle-class professional people. Hence, it is clear that Ohlin and Cloward’s view has flaws.

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` Lastly, Emile Durkheim comes out with his study of suicide. Suicide is a form of deviance. One of the types of suicide is anomic suicide. This is related to the dysfunctional socialization that causes deviant behavior. Anomic suicide is more typical of modern industrial society. This is often due to sudden social change, which may result in downward and upward mobility. An example of this form of suicide was provided in Wall Street Crash when several stockbrokers allegedly threw themselves from high office windows. A less dramatic form of anomie occurs to skidders those who experience downward social mobility. The 1980s and early 1990s has been a period of economic restructuring, which has resulted in fortunes being made and lost.

Anomie may likely be a useful concept to explain suicide n this period. Modern society tends to encourage high expectations of material rewards which are not easy for everyone to achieve. The gap between hopes and reality may result in some people becoming very unhappy with their lot in life. However, Durkheim has been criticized by interactionists. Maxwell Atkinson has a different way of examining suicide. Coronels always use cues that a person who dies through drowning at sea is more likely to have committed suicide if their clothes were left neatly folded than if they were not.

The folding of the clothes implies premeditation and intent, or it could be the usual behavior of a very tidy person. In the 1970s, the Labour Act John Stonehouse was thought to have committed suicide when his clothes were found on the beach neatly folded after he had disappeared. However, it was later discovered that he had disappeared due to his involvement in the fraud. Thus, we can conclude that Durkheim’s view on dysfunctional socialization causes people to commit suicide is not totally correct due to criticism by Atkinson. In conclusion, this essay has provided the pros and cons of the claim that deviant behavior results from dysfunctional socialization.

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Views from Albert K. Cohen, Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin, and Emile Durkheim. (2021, Sep 14). Retrieved June 24, 2022, from