Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Social disorganization theory refers specifically to the failure of a neighborhood's social institutions to develop cohesion, exert social control, and diminish crime. A departure from individual explanations of crime, social disorganization theorists examine how the structural characteristics of neighborhoods—residential stability, housing quality, economic opportunity, income levels, and social institutions—affect how residents realize common values and wield social control. In general, socially disorganized neighborhoods are characterized by high residential turnover, poverty, overcrowded living conditions, racial and ethnic heterogeneity, and social isolation. Together, these conditions hinder strong social ties and trust among neighborhood residents, making it difficult to develop the informal social control that maintains conventional values and reduces crime. In socially disorganized neighborhoods, residents often move, choosing not to invest in their communities and strengthen neighborhood institutions that preserve traditional values (e.g., churches, voluntary associations, youth clubs). Poverty also makes it difficult to address social problems; little funding exists to support ...