Social Disorganization Theory


Social disorganization theory, throughout its history, has been among the most broadly utilized ecological presumptions of criminal offending (Porter, Capellan & Chintakrindi 1). The theory argues that an individual’s social and physical environments are mainly accountable for the behavioral choices made by a person. Unlike other theories of crime that concentrate more on the individual, social discrimination theory focuses more on locality and attempt to explain the reason as to why some communities experience high crime levels. Mark (1) notes that communities with the highest levels of crime rates have got at least three common problems, poverty, physical dilapidation, and elevated levels of culture and ethnic mixing.

The social disorganization theory

Social organization theory debates that owing to failures in networking abilities and skills of community organizations (business, educational, social services, religious, law enforcement, or health care organizations) a particular neighborhood can experience high levels of crime rates via a collapse in the social order. Delinquency is not caused at the personal level, but rather, is a typical response by an ordinary person to abnormal conditions (Mark 1). The primary assumptions of the theory are highlighted below:

  1. a) Social factors cause crime rather than ill individuals also termed as “environmental determinism.”
  2. b) The breakdown of community-based controls and people residing in disadvantaged communities respond naturally to the conditions of the environment.
  3. c) Rapid rise of immigration within disadvantaged urban communities
  4. d) Disadvantaged communities results to growth of criminal values that substitute ordinary society values

Social discrimination theory argues that an individual’s residential area is more important than the individual’s qualities when predicting criminal activity, and therefore, when dealing with criminality, location matters, according to social disorganization theory (Mark 2).

Visible Signs of Social Disorganization in the City Of Chicago

Urban areas have five distinct districts of natural competition including the central business, transitional, the working class, residential and commuter zones. Indeed, a city evolves via an outward expansion, and successful and desirable zones are the ones that avoid competition for resources in the inner city. The transitional zone is thus, the most disadvantaged and prove the highest levels of crime because the zone is determined by industrial expansion and serves as a point of residential entry for immigrants. The zone also has a broad mixture of high unemployment, cultural groups, poor welfare rates, low real-estate rentals values, low occupational attainment levels, and social institution with miserable community organization abilities. According to Mark (1), despite high in and out movements on the zones, each district hold its features. Social institutions in the zone are not only disadvantaged but also disorganized to accomplish their primary social roles of socializing or training persons to be law abiding members of the neighborhood. Also, the institutions fail to monitor and control the behaviors of the individuals so as to ensure lawful conduct.

Three Main Components of Social Disorganization Theory

Within this setting, social disorganization can be defined as the inability of the local neighborhoods to realize ordinary values of their inhabitants or solve related experienced problems (Porter, Capellan, & Chintakrindi 2). The theory specifies several variables, such as residential instability, ethnic/racial heterogeneity, and poverty, which influence a society’s capacity to formulate and maintain firm organizations of social relationships.

Residential Instability/Mobility

 The rates of residential mobility increases, young violence in countryside communities increases too (Rogers & Pridemore 28). Based on the transitional zone of the Chicago city, the residents have no commitments in their areas because they relocate more frequently, and when the population of a region keeps changing, the dwellers have no chances of developing strong, individual ties amongst each other and participate in society organizations. Therefore, there are no social structures to guide the communities to abide by the law.

Ethnic/Racial Heterogeneity

 Due to ethnic heterogeneity, cultural, racial, and language barriers are set up to the extent that populace secluded themselves from unrelated community members in tiny pockets of minority regions. As a result, they gave up the meaningful connections that might have led to solutions overarching neighborhood problems like crime. Ideally, crime is depicted to arise from associations between ethnic groups, rather than from some groups that are more prone to crime than others (Rogers & Pridemore 28).


 Due to limited local resources and small tax base, members of a community lack resources to help deal with social problems and hence, the occupants of the transitional zone keep seeking to house in less disorganized residential zones. According to Mark (1), poverty facilitates crime but does not in itself cause it owing to deficiency of necessary resources that can be utilized to get rid of criminal behavior.

Policies to Address the Issue of Crime in the City

Perhaps, the social disorganized theory has public policy implications and is utilitarian in real life.  The most significant policies should be to organize the disorganized communities, and services provided to community residents. Furthermore, recreation programs and many other community organizations should be developed to discourage delinquent actions and enhance community involvement. Through improving communities and making more appealing, social controls will be strengthened (Mark 2).

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