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

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

4.2 The sociological approach

In contrast, the social control approach starts from very different questions:

  • How does some behaviour come to be defined as deviant?
  • How do some people come to be labelled as deviant?
  • What do such processes tell us about social order and the way it is made and remade?

This leads to a search for explanatory factors:

  • Who gets to define what is normal and deviant?
  • What explains why some people are labelled and not others?
  • What social purposes are at stake in the processes of social control?
  • Why are societies prone to moments of ‘moral panic’?

This search orients social control studies to some types of evidence: historical studies of law making; statistical studies of legal processing (for example, stop and search processes, prosecution decisions); the social biases of social control agencies; analyses of media content; studies of the relationship between politics and social control. But here, too, social scientists work at different levels of analysis: at the micro-level they may study interactions between police officers and ‘suspects’; at the meso-level, they may investigate how organisations make social order – looking at police culture, for example; and at the macro-level, they investigate why some things are turned into crimes; or why some sorts of behaviour (or people) become a problem at a specific place and time. But the starting points – the questions that begin the process of inquiry – really do make a major difference. We hope this course has revealed why this matters – and how both the approaches contribute something distinctive to an understanding of social order – and disorder.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371