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Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency
Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

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2.4.1 Strengths and weaknesses of the ICAP theory

One of the strengths of this theory is that it identifies different factors that may influence future criminal and antisocial behaviour, and how criminal behaviour may have short-term or long-term risk factors. As a result of their focus on risk factors associated with offending, the ICAP theory, along with findings from the Cambridge study, have been very influential in the development of programmes to try and reduce offending.

The ICAP theory focuses on risk factors of those who go on to commit crimes; however, there is research that has shown that many people can have these risk factors, but do not later go on to be offenders (Webster et al., 2006). The ICAP theory has also been criticised for only focusing on risk factors related to family, parenting and peer groups, while neglecting wider issues, such as the role of the neighbourhood (Webster et al., 2006).

  • Now that you have read about the Cambridge study and the ICAP theory, do you think that they adequately explain why some people may be more likely to commit deviant acts, or crime, as compared to other people who do not?
  • Most of Farrington’s research and his theory focuses on males from working-class backgrounds – can you see any problems with focusing on this specific group?
  • Do you think that this research and the ICAP theory could be used to explain why other groups in society such as females and those from middle or upper classes, or even rural areas, may commit deviant acts and go on to become offenders?