Social background, social control and registered crime - What is the relationship?

Social background

Angelika Schafft wrote that we have an socioeconomic status in the society. This comes from the persons education and income. Those with high education and income will have a high socioeconomic status (Schafft, 2007, s181).

There are three different types of capital that are important for the socioeconomic status. These are economic, social and cultural capital. If you have high capital you will have high socioeconomic status.

Social control

A norm are the rules and expectations society has for each individual. The norms are important for the community to function as it does. The norms can either be informal or formal:

  • Informal norms - Different rules in society that are not illegal. Example: you should not lie.

  • Formal norms - Written laws that each contry has.

We have two different types of control of the norms. The first is the primary control. This is exercised by family and friends. The other is the secondary control, which is exerted, for example by police.

Breaking a norm is seen as a deviation. The social control in society is strong. This social control is designed by those with high socioeconomic status, the same people who make the laws. The norms thus help differently based on individuals status. The result is a class division in society.

Paul Larsson substantiates this by explaining who is in prison. It is the poor who have problems at school, who are drug addicts, who are men from cities. These are the ones that make up the largest part of the captive population. You can not find directors in prison.

Fig: Inmates in prisons, on the left side they are from low socioeconomic class, while on the right side they represent high socioeconomic class.

Crime Statistics

The crime statistics will show the crime based on who is in our prisons. Because of this it will not show the real crime in society. This is problematic because it is used as a government document for the state by using it for priorities. The statistics are also used by the media.

What goes into the criminal statistics will therefore be reviews made by the victim himself or by police reports. All crimes that are not detected will not be part of the statistics, which is referred to as dark numbers.

Registered crime + Dark numbers = Actual crime.

There is reason to believe that crime in higher socioeconomic classes has dark numbers, which is supported by Liv Finstad's investigations into the police stop and search. She writes that the police look does not look through walls (Finstad, 2000). This means that the police do not see those who carry out crime in the rich parth of a city. It is much easier to drive down to the poor communities and arrest people selling drugs.

The people with high socioeconomic status is the one controlling the laws. They will of course protect themselves.


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

Finstad, L. (2000). Politiblikket. Oslo: Pax.


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