Social Disorganization Theory Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Community, Sociology, Crime, Social Issues, Control, Family, Neighborhood, Theory

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/20

In the 1940’s, Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay conducted a research in the neighborhood of Chicago to explain the social disorganization theory. From their research, the theorists proposed the three factors that often result to the disruption of a balanced and unified social organization that leads to the commitment of crimes and delinquency. According to Shaw and McKay, the community has the intervening capacity to control and supervise its members, but the inability of the community to uphold operational social controls may lead to social disorganization. They presented that delinquency is a linked to the behavior of the group as a whole, and the “capacity of the community to control group-level dynamics is a key mechanism linking community characteristics with delinquency” (Sampson and Groves). These are the low economic status, ethnic heterogeneity, and residential mobility (Sampson and Groves). It was concluded that these issues leads to the imbalance of control over social organizations, resulting to the proliferation of delinquent and criminal act.

Factors that Leads to Social Disorganization

a) Socio-economic Status- Shaw and McKay have emphasized on the role of socioeconomic status in the proliferation of crime and delinquency. They claimed that the number of crime and delinquency especially among teenagers are higher in more populated areas that belong to the lower economic status.
b) Residential Instability and Ethnic Diversity- Social disorganization occurs as people from lower economic standing migrate to urban areas, creating residential instability and ethnic diversity. The instability of the population within a community lessens the chance of developing a strong bond among the members. Ethnic diversity on the other hand, interferes with the creation of harmonious relationship due to the diverse traditions and lack of common practices.
c) Family Disruption- It was argued that children under two-parent families receive better supervision and guardianship. On the other hand, the disruption of the family has an enormous effect on the decrease of social controls that can be reflected at the community level. A single parent is at a disadvantage at providing well for the family, and the strain is passed unto the inability to supervise the children, and lack of communication with other adults in the community. It was hypothesized that “community level family disruption has a direct effect on the prevalence of street-corner teenage peer groups, which, in turn, increases rates of crime and delinquency” (Sampson and Groves).
d) Urbanization- Shaw and McKay proposed that urbanized areas have a lesser ability for social control. This is because the condition in urbanized areas often does not allow for the development of strong ties among the members. Crime rates are observed to be greater in urban areas. This may be explained by the confusion caused by anonymity and lesser social support from the community.

Social Disorganization Today

The research and development about social disorganization and its effect on crime and delinquency as related by Shaw and McKay are more effective and important today than ever. These theorists proposed that a higher rate of delinquency and crime happens in Chicago districts notwithstanding the variation of the members of the community, explaining that it is the ecological circumstances that affect crime more than the individual inhabitants. In a recent research conducted in a Chicago neighborhood, it was concluded that violence is in some way dependent on personal background. “Higher levels of violence were reported by those who were separated or divorce, by whites and blacks, by younger respondents, and by those with longer tenure” (Sampson et al). The high crime neighborhood today is often composed of single parent families, with lower socioeconomic status, and residential stability. Single parent family structure weakens the social control in the society, as parents are less able to exert united supervision over their children (Bellair). Further research also indicated that communities with lower neighborhood interaction are prone to report higher levels of crime and delinquency especially among the youths. Neighborhood interactions, even the less frequent once, generates an association that are needed for the circulation of information among residents and the progress of community controls (Bellair).

How has the Theory Changed Today

The theory presented by Saw and McKay many decades ago is still effective in explaining the different crimes and delinquencies occurring today. However, there are several developments that expanded on the theory as many sociology scientists conducted additional research about social disorganization.
Sampson and Groves- They included the family structure as a significant element that affects social disorganization. Divorce and single parenthood weakens social control.

Bellair- He gave an explanation for the lower crime rates in urban areas with affluent and homogenous communities.

Fischer and Wellman- They questioned the traditional claim that only a frequent interaction within the community can create effective social controls, citing that the combination of frequent and infrequent controls is more effective.
Granovetter- He suggested that infrequent social interactions, even those that require less time and connections are important in the community as they become a link for communications across local circles (Bellair).


Bellair, P., Social Interaction and Community Crime: Examining the Importance of Neighbor Network. Retrieved from
Sampson, R., Groves, B., Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-disorganization Theory. The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from
Sampson, R., Raudenbush, S., Earls, F., Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective Efficacy. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from

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Social Disorganization Theory Research Paper. Free Essay Examples - Published Oct 20, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2024.

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