Sociological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
CRIM 2252
Sociological Explanations of Criminal Behaviour
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 4 hrs. per week / semester
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

  • lectures
  • seminar presentations
  • audio visual materials including video
  • small group discussions
  • research projects
  • research papers
Course Description
This course will critically examine the sociological, socio-cultural, and socio-psychological explanations of criminal behaviour such as the ecological theories, conflict theories, control theories, and symbolic interactionist theories. Some of the specific theories subjected to critical examination will be those concerned with class and group conflict, subcultures, social conditioning, containment, differential association, labelling and gender.
Course Content
  1. Introduction and Overview
    • Reviewing Sociological Paradigms and Concepts
    • Determining What is Good Theory
    • Distinguishing Different Types of Theories
    • Social Context and Theories
    • Conceptions of Deviance
  2. Theories and Perspectives
    • The Classical School
    • The Positive School
    • The Functionalist Perspective
    • Anomie / Strain and Opportunity Theories
    • The Chicago School
    • Social Disorganization
    • Differential Association/Differential Opportunity
    • Techniques of Neutralization
    • Control/Containment Theories
    • Culture, Radical and Analytical Conflict Theories
    • Peacemaking Theories
    • Postmodernist Theories
    • Gender Theories
  3. Themes of Crime and Deviance, such as:
    • Prostitution
    • Rape and Other Sexual Assaults
    • Family Violence Including Sexual Abuse
    • White Collar Crime
    • Alcohol and Drug Issues
    • Homicide
    • Mental and Physical Illness as DevianceTerrorism
Learning Outcomes

The primary objective of this course is to familiarize students with the general principles of sociological analysis.  Students will learn to describe sociological explanations of law and sociological explanations of deviant and criminal behaviour.  In addition, students will learn to critically evaluate and assess sociological theories of crime and deviance and discuss the implications of relevant research. Students will be able to apply specific theoretical perspectives to the exploration of how deviance and crime are created and maintained and how specific individuals become identified as deviant or criminal both within institutional and non-institutional settings.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on some of the following:


  1. Short Answer Tests
  2. Exams
  3. Oral Presentation
  4. Research Project/ Term Paper
  5. Class Participation


An example of one possible evaluation scheme would be:

2 mid-semester exams         
30% each
Final exam  10%
Research Paper  30%
Total 100%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:


Reiman, J. (2010). The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Prison. (9th ed.). Boston:  Allyn & Bacon.


Thio, A., Calhoun, T.C., Conyers, A. (2010). Readings in Deviant Behaviour. (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


Additional texts may include:


Williams, F. P. & McShane, M.  (1999). Criminological Theory, (4th ed.).  New Jersey:  Prentice Hall.


Brym, R.J. (2008). Sociology as a Life or Death Issue. Toronto: Pearson .