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John Hamlin
Sociology 2311
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
UMD
A Non-Causal Explanation: Containment Theory
Walter C. Reckless


Don't look for causes of crime

instead look for what keeps folks from committing crime

External containment

Internal Buffers


External containment operates most effectively through family and other supportive groups (perhaps religions)

This is particularly true in societies characterized by mechanical solidarity or those types of societies

What about large industrial societies?

Must consist of one or more of (page 307)
  1. a role structure which provides scope for the individual;
  2. a set of reasonable limits and responsibilities for members;
  3. an opportunity for the individual to achieve a status;
  4. cohesion among members, including joint activity and togetherness;
  5. sense of belonging (identification with the group);
  6. identification with one or more persons within the group;
  7. provision for supplying alternative ways and means of satisfaction (when one or more ways are closed).


Internal containments

Aspects concerning self control

  1. a favorable image of self in relation to other persons, groups, and institutions;
  2. an awareness of being an inner directed, goal oriented person;
  3. a high level of frustration tolerance;
  4. strongly internalized morals and ethics;
  5. well developed ego and super ego.


Weak containing systems result in deviation.

Internal containment is more important in industrialized societies whereas external is more likely in small societies.

Assessment tools can be designed to measure both external and internal systems.

The theory according to Reckless is not to be applied at the extremes of deviant behavior.

Overpowering pushes, abnormal. Things that are beyond normative constraints

Is not useful to explain Criminogenic behaviors; lifestyle for example

It is best suited to look at cases where legal and social norms have been neutralized.

Reckless also maintains that unlike many other approaches, one can determine the macro from looking at the micro (individual)

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Copyright: © 2001, John Hamlin
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