What is norm and enforcement theory?

Ragnar Hauge

Crime are acts contrary to current law, which is punished by punishment (Thorsen, Lid & Stene, 2009, p. 22).

There are two general theories within criminology that are central (Hauge, 2001).

  • Norm - How the laws affect crime..

  • Enforcement - How the laws are enforced by police and judicial authorities.


Norms are rules and expectations others have to our behavior.

The laws are changing because of the norms changing. An example is the abortion law:

King Christian Vs Law of 1687 said that abortion should be punished to death. In 1964, women in Norway had to apply for abortion. There was two doctors that had to agree that the abortion could be peformed. In 1972, women were entitled to self-abortion. In Ireland, it is now being discussed whether the days of abortion should be allowed or not.

Cecilie Høigård points out that the laws change with (Høigård, 2007):

  • Time and place

  • History and culture

  • Community interests

  • Power Interests

  • Press groups impact power


The enforcement theory asks why are a offence enforced? Eg. If you see an incident in traffic, you intervene because you feel obliged. But its a real police job to work with trafic, its not proper police work. Proper police work is driving with blue lights, chasing a car and making a arrest (Finstad, 2000).

To get a crime, an action must be enforced so that it is subject to a legal provision.

Angelika Schafft points out that we all have a socioeconomic status based on our income and education level. This has a direct impact on the wealth of people, that is who are rich and who are poor (Schafft, 2007, s181).

You can draw parallels between the socioeconomic status and different forms of capital. Looking at cultural, economic and social capital, you see that the people who hold a lot are also those with high socioeconomic status.

You are divided into different classes according to your amount of socioeconomic status.

We think and say that the law is equal to everyone, but unfortunately it is not the truth. Those who are in prison are mainly those from low classes.

The typical prisoner in jail is poor, drug addict, male and low educated.

So why are the prison full off people from the lower classes? Angelika Schafft (2007) has the answer:

  • Offenses - Those from low social classes commit simple offenses like, for example, purchase and sale of drugs. Those from higher social classes commit other crimes, usually to data.

  • Control - It is easy for the police to control the buying and selling of drugs, and easily for the judicial system and get through.

  • Statistics - Offenses committed by those in higher classes have special laws, and thus other basis for statistics and reporting.


Hauge, R. (2001). Kriminalitetens årsaker: Utsnitt av kriminologiens historie (2. utg.).Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Høigård, C. (2007) Hva er kriminlologi? I L. Finstad & C. Høigård (Red.), Kriminlologi (s. 13-29). Oslo: Pax.

Schafft, A. (2007). Kriminalitet, sosial bakgrunn og kontroll. I L. Finstad & C. Høigård (Red.), Kriminologi (s. 116-129). Oslo: Pax.


Write a comment