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Role of Attenuated Culture in Social Disorganization Theory

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 41 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 73-98
Date Published
February 2003
26 pages

This article integrates the role of cultural disorganization into the contemporary social disorganization theoretical model.


Community-level criminological research that draws upon social disorganization theory has largely focused on structural disorganization while ignoring aspects of cultural disorganization. As such, the role that cultural aspects may play in criminal activities has been left undeveloped. The author thus explores how elements of cultural disorganization may be integrated with the social disorganization model to produce a more complete understanding of crime. Although the social disorganization model has included aspects of both culture and structure, the author places the role of values more centrally, emphasizing the role of a weakened normative culture on informal social control mechanisms. In order to empirically examine the new model, the author collected community-level survey data from 66 neighborhoods in the 2 largest cities of a Southern State. Structural equation modeling was utilized in the analysis of the data. Results indicate that concentrated neighborhood disadvantage and the level of social bonds affect cultural strength. In turn, the level of cultural strength significantly impacts informal social control. As such, the author has demonstrated the relevance of culture in accounting for informal social control and contends that the absence of cultural elements within social disorganization models weakens its explanatory powers. Figures, tables, references

Date Published: February 1, 2003