Culture of Crime


As we study criminal behavior and precipitating factors, we must first try to establish a standard of how we define what is criminal.

From a psychological perspective, we do not really focus on the specific definition of a crime, but instead put our efforts into understanding the symptoms the person experiences that, in turn, result in the criminal behavior. Forensic psychologists evaluate for personality characteristics and leave defining crime to the criminal justice system. In psychology, we see significant variances in how different cultural factors contribute to how they define what is considered to be deviant behaviors.

The use of various psychological tests and interviews can assist the courts in determining whether an individual’s psychological state warrants consideration as to an individual’s mental health at the time the crime was committed and whether such metal state had a direct effect on crime committed. In this course, you will identify and discuss certain crimes such as homicide, domestic violence, victimology, terrorism, and economic type crimes. So it is important that, as a western society such as the United States, we start with a clear insight into the specific elements of specific crimes and how they are viewed and defined.

Jeff Ferrell had this view of crime back in 1995:

Criminal behavior is, more often than not, subcultural behavior. From the interactionist criminology of the Chicago School and Edwin Sutherland to the subcultural theories of Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin, and others, criminologists have long acknowledged that actions and identities labelled “criminal” are typically generated within the boundaries of deviant and criminal subcultures. In this sense, much of what we take to be crime is essentially collective behavior; whether carried out by one person or many, particular criminal acts are often organized within and instigated by subcultural groups. Though the boundaries may remain ill-defined, and the membership may shift in gross numbers and level of commitment, these subcultures constitute definitive human associations for those who participate in them. Biker, hustler, Blood and Crip, pimp and prostitute—all name subcultural networks as much as individual identities. (p. 26)


In your main post:

  • Explain your understanding of Ferrel’s statement, “Criminal behavior is, more often than not, subcultural behavior.”
  • Describe your reaction to this statement. Does it fit with your own personal opinion or perspective about what crime is? Explain why or why not.

Ferrell, J. (1995). Culture, crime, and cultural criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 3(2), 25–42.

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