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May 11, 2018 / C H Thompson

Locality and crime revision notes – with evaluative points

Shaw and McKay

  • Shaw and McKay (1942) carried out a study into the delinquency in Chicago, USA. They argued that cities like Chicago are divided into a series of concentric zones (a zonal hypothesis):  Zone of Transition 2
  • Shaw and McKay argued that the zone of transition was characterised by social disorganisation, with large numbers of people constantly moving in and out of the area, creating low community cohesion and little sense of community.
  • This makes the zone of transition a breeding ground for deviants and criminalsShaw and McKay’s theory was further developed into three related concepts that were said to explain crime and deviance.
    1. Social disorganisation -> this is that a high population turnover prevents formation of stable communities and weakens the hold of established values and informal social control over individuals.
    2. Cultural transmission -> this is that in areas of social disorganisation, different delinquent values develop a subculture of delinquency, to which children are exposed and young boys learn from older ones.
    3. Differential association -> this was developed by Sutherland and is that people’s behaviour is conditioned by reference to the behaviour of others around them

Evaluation of Shaw and McKay

  • (+) Shaw and McKay’s methods were applied to a number of American cities (rather than just Chicago) and these also produced similar results.
  • (-) Their theory has been criticised for being too vague and hard to prove.(-) Studies carried out in Britain by carrying out Shaw and McKay’s methods have contradicted their results. There were little or no difference found in one estate compared to another in terms of class, income, unemployment rates etc


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