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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 5 Discussion 1 - Criminological Theory.

What possible factors could have allowed Oprah to turn her life around and find success when many others in similar or better situations end up becoming criminals? Include the impact of the following factors in your discussion:
  • The impact of gender on crime
  • The impact of attachment to school and social activities on crime.
  • The relationship between income and crime
  • The ability to avoid or overcome negative labels
Which criminological theories best describe Oprah's life and success? Why?

The question of how some people like Oprah can overcome a bad environment is subject to many factors. Michael Turner presented a report to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service in which he dicusses this question and it's relationship to these factors. Turner decribes the ability to avoid a deviant lifestyle as “resiliency”: “Work in this area is often called 'resiliency' research because the focus is on high-risk youths who refrain from serious involvement in delinquency-that is who are 'resilient' despite the multiple adversities that they face.” (2001, p.2) One factor that may have played a role in Oprah's resiliency is her gender. Women tend to commit less crime then men in general. Although feminist theory predicted that as feminist policies were advanced, women would commit crime at the same rates as men, this is not the case. Adler contended that the “process will result in women committing more traditional male crimes, such as violent crimes and white-collar crimes. The rate of female crime will also increase” (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.149) Williams and McShane point out that ““research has yet to find much support for her position”(2014, p.149) . Raine addresses the gender difference in crime rates from the point of evolutionary psychology: “Women have to be very careful in their use of aggression...because personal survival is more critical to women then men. That's because the bear the brunt of child care and their survival is critical to the survival of their offspring (2013, p.34)
A second factor that likely played a part in Oprah's resiliency was her participation in social activities aprt from her deviant activities. Oprah took part in the Upward Bound program, was on her high school speech team, and competed in beauty pageants. Turner states that “The correlation between associating with delinquent peers and delinquent behavior is one of the strongest and most consistent findings in criminological research (2001, p. 38) By particpating in such programs, Oprah not only disassociated to some point from deviant peers, but was instead associating with peers more likely to strengthen her social bonding with the main culture.
A factor we can certainly see that Oprah oversame is the relationship between family income and crime. Although crime and poverty have been linked by some criminologists, I would argue that many of the factors that play a part in poverty ( physical dilapidation, high mobility, high rates of disease, unemployment) share an underlying factor, low inpulse control). Although Oprah may be accused of low self-control in her delinquent actions, there is no proof that she was not making a rational decsion to steal and to enjoy a lot of sex. On the other hand, she has displayed much evidence to the point that she is driven to succeed in her media career, which indicates strong impulse control.
And perhaps that drive to succeed came from a reaction to the labelling she received as a child as “poor”. Her peers labeled her that way, but perhaps she did not take on that master label. Since she was not caught breaking the law, she never recived an offical label as as juvenile delinquennt. Finally, Oprah states that her grandmother "gave me a positive sense of myself"
We can use the example of Oprah's resiliency to demonstate several criminological theories. ““Another way to look at social control theory is to call it socialization theory. Since unsocialized humans—babies, for example—will simply act out their desires, it is the presence of other people that necessitates those behaviors be controlled. The most important way we exercise control is through the process of socialization. We teach the “right” way to do things.”(Williams & McShane, 2014, p.161) Oprah's grandmother certianly socialized Oprah when she would “hit her with a stick when she did not do chores or if she misbehaved in any way. “ We can see this also as an example of social learning theories. We can see the effect of labeling theory as it seems that Oprah's grandmother gave her a positive master label. We can see Classical school theory in that Oprah has made the decision to be a success. We can see the observation of many criminologists that some people “age out” of delinquency and apply that to Oprah.
Perhaps the best theory to apply to Oprah's resiliency would be social control theory: “According to social control theorists, human behavior is organized around 2 areas:
-seeking pleasure
-avoiding pain

Humans learn deviant behavior just as we learn any other behavior, Reinforcement increases the frequency of a behavior, while punishment decreases this frequency.”
(South University Online, 2010, sidebar). In Oprah's case, we can see reinforcement in her career success, and punishment in her grandmother's early discipline as well as her mother's placing her with other family members. In addition, social control relies on social bonding to the norm, which Oprah also maintained.

Raine, A. (2013). The anatomy of violence: The biological roots of crime. Kindle Ed. Random House LLC
South University Online. (2010). MCJ6003: Criminological Theory: Week 5: Rhode Island Truancy Court (2 of 2). Retrieved May 5, 2014 from myeclassonline.com

Turner, M. (2001) Good kids in bad circumstances: A longitudinal analysis of resilient youth. National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). Retrieved May 5, 2014 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/188263.pdf

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology Theory (6th edition). Pearson

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