Examine the role of access to opportunity structures in causing crime and deviance. Crime is where an individual commits and act in a way that violates the law. Deviance can also be a crime as this is where an individual's behavior or action goes against what is socially accepted by society.
Different sociologists hold different views on the causes for crime and deviance in society. Functionalists refer to access of opportunity structures within society. Merton suggests that crime and deviance can be explained through the `strain to anomie' theory. This is where it is near impossible to achieve socially approved goals which ends in frustration and the individual turning to criminal means in order to get what they want, which is a quick fox answer. This theory has two main elements under lining it: these are structural and cultural. Deviance is the result of strain between these factors. Merton argues that an individual’s position in the social structure affects their response to the strain as he identified different types of adaptation, an example of a form of deviance is the `innovator' where an individual accepts the goal of money and success, but however uses `new' illegitimate means such as theft and fraud to achieve it.
Disadvantaged groups that are denied these opportunities to achieve legitimately are within the ethnic minorities and the lower classes. This theory claims that when opportunity is inaccessible, crime and deviance is the result as it is an easy faster option for what they want.
Merton’s theory is supported by patterns within crime statistics which has been criticised as it may show working class to have higher levels of lower levels of crime such as robbery but middle class crime may be covered up such as fraud, so this level of crime may not be part of his statistics. Statistics show that most crime is poverty crime, suggesting the high value of material wealth. In addition lower class crime rates are highest, demonstrating that this group has the least opportunity to achieve wealth legitimately.
In addition Marxists would criticize this theory as it ignores the power of the ruling class to make and enforce laws in ways that criminalise the poor and not the rich, rather than the access of opportunity structure.
Cohen is a subcultural theorist who agrees with Merton's view of deviance stemming from lower