Crime and Deviance

Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by Karl Thompson

A Level Sociology Crime Revision | A Level Sociology Deviance Revision

This page provides links to blog posts on the main topics of the AQA’s Crime and Deviance module. It includes links to posts on sociological perspectives on crime (Functionalism, strain theory etc); crime control and punishment, including surveillance; the relationship between class, gender, ethnicity and crime; and globalisation, state and green crime (everyone’s favourite!). 

Crime and deviance mind map A-level sociology

Introductory Material

Sociological Perspectives on the London Riots – The London Riots remain the biggest act of mass criminality of the 2000s, I like to use them to introduce sociological perspectives on crime and deviance. You can also use this as an example of how media narratives on the causes of the riots differ so much from the London School of Economics research findings on the actual ’causes’ of the riots.

Perspectives on Crime and Deviance – A Very Brief Overview –  A summary grid of 21 theorists, their ‘key points’, their ‘perspective’ and an evaluation. If you like you can cut and paste, cut it up and use it as a sentence sort!

Key Concepts for A Level Sociology Crime and Deviance– definitions of most of the key concepts relevant to crime and deviance within A-level sociology. 

Hints on how to answer the AQA’s Sociology Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods exam paper – in case you need to know how you’re assessed (only covers the crime and deviance material).

The social construction of crime – a timeline of some relatively recent events that have been criminalised due to changes in the law – once they weren’t criminal, now they are! (U.K. focus).

Consensus Theories of Crime and Deviance

The Functionalist Perspective on Crime and Deviance – class notes covering Durkhiem’s ‘society of saints’ (the inevitability of crime), and his views on the positive functions of crime – social integration, social regulation and allowing for social change.

Hirschi’s Social Control Theory of Crime – class notes covering Hirschi’s four bonds of attachment – attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. 

Robert Merton’s Strain Theory class notes: the easy summary of Merton’s strain theory is that people who try to succeed by normal means (getting a job for example) and fail turn to crime in oder to achieve what they couldn’t through normal means. 

Functionalism and Strain Theories of Crime summary revision notes – a briefer version of the three posts above. 

Subcultural Theories of Deviance class notes on mainly Albert Cohen’s consensus theory of status frustration, but also with details of other subcultural theories (e.g. Willis). 

Subcultural Theories of Crimesummary revision version of the above. 

The Underclass Theory of Crimebrief class notes covering Charle’s Murray’s theory of the underclass. Murray argues the long term unemployed get cut off over the generations and socialise their kids into a culture of worklesseness and criminality. 

Marxist Theories of Crime and Deviance

The Marxist Perspective on Crimevery detailed class notes covering concepts such as crimogenic capitalism, the costs of corporate crime and the ideological functions of selective law enforcement. 

The Marxist Perspective on Crime summary revision notes of the above. 

Evaluating the Marxist Perspective on Crimeevaluative posts, mostly links to research which supports the Marxist perspective on crime. 

Assess the Contribution of Marxism to our Understanding of Crime and Deviance – an outline 30 mark essay plan. 

Interactionist Theories of Crime and Deviance

The Labelling Theory of Crimevery detailed class notes covering concepts such as labelling as applied to education and crime, the self fulfilling prophecy, Howard Becker’s Master Status, and Cicourel’s Negotiation of Justice. 

The Labelling Theory of Crime brief summary notes of the above. 

Realist Theories of Crime and Deviance

Right Realist Criminology – Includes an introduction to Realism and detailed class notes on Right Realism covering rational choice theory, broken windows theory, Charles Murray’s views on the underclass, situational crime prevention and environmental crime prevention (mainly zero tolerance policing)

Evaluating Broken Windows Theoryevaluative post. Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory has been referred to as ‘the most influential theory of crime control’ of recent decades, this post offers some evaluations of this theory. (Spoiler Alert – it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny very well!) 

Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition and Examples – supplementary notes to Right Realism covering zero tolerance policing and ASBOs

Public Space Protection Orders and Criminal Behaviour Orderssupplementary notes to Right Realist policies of crime control 

Left Realist Criminology – class notes covering relative deprivation, marginalisation, subcultures, early intervention, community based solutions to crime and community policing

Post and Late Modern Theories of Crime and Deviance 

Post/ Late Modern Criminologybrief summary notes covering how crime has changed with shift to post modernity, which as resulted in society being more consumerist, more fragment and more globalized, as well as summaries of Jock Young and Cultural Criminology (covered in more detail below)

Jock Young – Late Modernity, Exclusion and Crime  – Jock Young argues that more people suffer from the ‘Vertigo of Late Modernity’ in late modern society. This is essentially a state of extreme anomie, and this is kind of an updated version of Strain Theory.

Cultural Criminology – Crime as Edgework – argues that a lot of crime is done for thrill for of it today.

Foucault – Surveillance and Crime Control – A very simplified explanation of Foucault, who argued that surveillance by agents of the state becomes more important for social control in modernity than the threat of physical punishment.

Synoptic Surveillance and Crime Control – synoptic surveillance is surveillance from below rather than surveillance from above. In simple terms it means all of us watching each other rather than just the state watching citizens.

Actuarial Justice and Risk Managementthis is statistical surveillance, a form of surveillance long used by insurance companies, but increasingly used by state agencies. It is where people who have a statistically higher risk of truanting/ offending/ failing will be under a higher level of surveillance than the norm.

Controlling and Reducing Crime – the Role of the Community, the Police and Different Forms of Punishment

Crime Prevention and Control Strategiesvery brief summary revision notes on situational crime prevention, environmental crime prevention and community crime control strategies

The Role of the Community in Controlling and Reducing Crimea summary of consensus, right realist, left realist and postmodern perspectives on the community in controlling crime

The Role of the Police in Controlling and Reducing Crimeright and left realists both tend to be on the side of the police, but right realists believe the police should be more ‘militaristic’, while left realists emphasise that they should work with communities and avoid being antagonistic. Marxists and interactionists tend to see the police as being ‘the problem’ and are more likely to side with the criminals.

Sociological Perspectives on Punishmentsummary notes covering the Consensus, Marxist, interactionist, Realist and Postmodern views on punishment.

Does Prison Work? – an evaluative post looking at some of the evidence on whether prison works to prevent crime. Spoiler alert: it generally doesn’t!

Social Class and Crime 

Social Class and Crime – detailed class notes covering the consensus view which tends to see most crime being committed by the working classes and the underclass, hence these classes are seen as part of the problem of crime; this is contrasted with mainly the Marxist view which sees all classes as committing crime, with agents of social control largely ignoring elite crime.

Outline and Analyse Two Ways in Which Patterns of Crime Vary by Social Class10 mark exam style question

See also the perspective links above, especially Marxism!

Ethnicity and Crime

Official Statistics on Ethnicity and CrimeOfficial statistics suggest that black people are around 6 times more likely to go to jail than white people, while Asians are 2-3 times more likely to go to jail. Of course there are limitations to these statistics!

Ethnicity and Crime – The Role of Cultural Factorsstructural theorists focus on some of the background differences between ethnic groups. Pointing out, for example, that the high rates of absent fathers among British-Caribbean households may explain the higher rates of recorded offending by ‘black’ boys especially.

Left Realist Explanations for Ethnic Differences in Crimeleft realists explain the higher rates of offending among certain ethnic groups as being due to higher rates of relative deprivation and marginalisation.

Neo-Marxist Approaches to Ethnicity and CrimeApplying the fully social theory of deviance to explaining the higher rates of black offending.

Paul Gilroy’s Anti-Racist Theory summary notes on this classic text, taken from Haralambos.

Criminal Justice, Ethnicity and Racism – Selected Key Statistics – evaluative post

Racism in the Criminal Justice System – Selected Evidencethere is A LOT of evidence that suggests the police are racist – the stop and search stats alone point to this, with black people being almost 30 times as likely to be stopped compared to white people in some circumstances. There is also more qualitative evidence based on Participant Observation which suggests this.

Ethnicity and CrimeTwo examples of possible short answer 4 and 6 mark ‘outline’ questions.

Outline and Analyse Question on Police Racism10 mark exam question and answer – ‘Analyse two criticisms of the theory that police racism is the main factor which explains the higher imprisonment rates of ethnic minorities’

Gender and Crime 

Sex-Role Theory – suggests that women commit less crime than men because of their different roles in society, such as the motherhood role, which results in them being more constrained and more caring and responsible.

The Liberationist Perspective on the (Long Term) Increase in the Female Crime Rate – This classic Liberal Feminist perspective argues that the female crime rate has increased in line with female liberation.

Globalisation, state and green crime

Globalisation, global criminal networks and crimecovering Misha Glenny’s work on the McMafia. He argues that the growth of the Mafia in ex-communist countries such as Bulgaria have been central to the growth of global crime – because they are perfectly located to ship illegal products such as drugs and sex-slaves from the global south to meet demand in the wealth global north.

Capitalism, Globalisation and CrimeA Marxist perspective on global crime covering global finance and tax havens and TNCs and law evasion. 

What is State Crime? A simple explanation is that state crimes are crimes committed by governments, which are in breach of human rights. Historically the Nazi Genocide is the most obvious example.

Sociological perspectives on state crimecovering the different types of state crime and a slightly unusual take applying material from global development to analyse state crime.

Green crime and green criminology – revision notes covering primary and secondary green crime, Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society theory and Marxist views of Green Crime.


Victimologycovering trends in victimisation, and positivist and critical victimology.

The Economic and Social Costs of Crimea summary of a recent (2021) government report looking at the social and economic harms crime does in England and Wales.

What are the impacts of crime on victims? – a post examining how crime affects individuals and their families, including a look at secondary victimisation.

The Media and Crime

How the Media Simplifies Crime a brief post summarising how the media tends to take the side of the police and victims, focus on crimes with easy to understand individual ‘harm’ stories and provide a narrow analysis of crime control options.

Sensationalisation of Crime in the MediaThere are a lot of fictional programmes about crime in the UK, many of them tend to present criminal characters as likeable and make the hideous crimes they commit (in fiction) seem ‘cool’.

Moral Panics and The Mediabrief class notes covering the definition of a moral panic, Stan Cohen’s work on the Mods and Rockers and some criticisms.

The Exaggeration of Violent and Sexual Crimes in the MediaThe mainstream media exaggerates the extent of violent crime 10 times, tending to focus a lot more on very serious horrific crimes rather than less serious crimes which are much more common according to official statistics.

What is CyberCrime? – A long form post examining crimes such as identify theft, online fraud, ransomware attacks and phishing scams.

Posts on Specific Types of Crime

How do we explain the recent surge in Knife Crime?exploring this is a useful way to evaluate Right Realist theories of deviance especially.

Sociological Perspectives on Hate Crimea very ‘postmodern’ type of crime, but some of the other sociological perspectives can also help us understand this crime.

How is Coronavirus affecting crime and deviance?all of a sudden certain acts that used to be ‘normal’ are now criminal, this is perfect analytical feeding ground for any A-level sociology student!

Fraud and Computer Misuse – this seems to be one of the more common types of crime. Roughly one in five adults was a victim to the twelve months ending December 2020.

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Crime Deviance A-Level Revision

It contains

  • 12 exam practice questions including short answer, 10 mark and essay question exemplars.
  • 32 pages of revision notes covering the entire A-level sociology crime and deviance specification
  • Seven colour mind maps covering sociological perspective on crime and deviance

Written specifically for the AQA sociology A-level specification.

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Crime and Deviance in Contemporary Society

Below are some selected, recent posts outlining how you might use contemporary examples to illustrate key concepts within crime and deviance. Examiners like this sort of contemporary focus!

How Coronavirus is changing crime – all of a sudden sitting on a park bench was illegal!

The deportation of foreign nationals – an example of a state crime? Outlines when the UK government tried to deport 42 criminals (in some cases ‘criminals’) back to Jamaica on their release from prison, despite the fact that some of them had been in the UK since they were children!

Contemporary examples of crime and deviance in the news – further examples from 2019 and 2018 which are relevant to A-level sociology.