Integrated Theory-Definition and Examples in Sociology
The word ‘integrated’ in this sense means that the theories are “combined into a coherent whole.” It also means that they are not compartmentalized but somewhat unified.
An example of an integrated theory would be Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Sigmund Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development. These two theories have been combined with other psychological theories to form the basis for much modern psychology.
In sociology, there are many examples: Karl Marx’s Theory of Capitalism and Max Weber’s Conceptualizations of Social Action. Integrating theories is essential for sociology in this way: it allows for a greater understanding of social life.
Theoretical integration is also called theoretical synthesis or theoretical unification. It refers to the process of coming up with a new theory by combining two or more theories. The specific integration method makes the links explicit between conceptually, formally, or historically different paradigms.
Theoretical integration is an essential concept in sociology because it allows for a better understanding of social life. For example, Karl Marx’s Theory of Capitalism and Max Weber’s Conceptualizations of Social Action was integrated to understand social life better.
Examples of Integrated Theories of Crime
Some of the integrated criminological theories are:
Interactional Theory by Krohn
This theory borrows from the social control theory and the differential association theory. It focuses on the interaction between people, which leads to criminal behavior.
There are two primary components to this theory: internal and external factors. Internal factors that are considered are personality, family environment, and peer pressure. External factors that are important to this theory are social conditions and punishments for criminal acts.
Control Theory by Cohen and Felson
Control theory was created as an alternative for the differential association. The main difference is that control theory does not focus on peer pressure to explain criminal behavior but instead focuses on routine activities. The control theory is based on the social disorganization and strain theories.
Here is an example of how this theory would work: a person goes to the grocery store daily at night. One night they are robbed at gunpoint, and the next time they go to the grocery store, they are more careful.
The control theory states that this person will change their routine and only go to the grocery store during the day when there are more people around, which lowers their chances of being attacked again.
Social Conflict Theory by Cloward and Ohlin
This theory is based on the social disorganization theory, strain theory, and deprivation-aggression hypothesis. The social conflict theory states that there are two types of crimes: predatory crime and violent crime.
These occur when people are motivated by a need, such as money, food, or shelter. These crimes are often committed by the poor who cannot support themselves and their families.
People commit predatory crimes to survive. These crimes would include things such as burglary, stealing, and robbery.
People commit these crimes because they need power or revenge. An example of violent crime would be homicide and assault. Social inequality and unequal distribution of power are the main reasons that people commit violent crimes.
Social Structure and Anomie Theory by Merton
It is derived from Durkheim’s anomie theory of suicide. Merton argued that there are five types of deviance: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. These different types of deviance are based on the norms in society and how well they are followed.
For example, if a person feels like their needs cannot be achieved in society, they may engage in ritualism. Ritualism is when a person follows the norms of the society but only does so because they don’t have the opportunity to achieve essential needs.
Interactionist Perspective by Sutherland and Cressey
This theory is a derivative of the differential association theory and the control theory. Sutherland and Cressey believed that criminal behavior is learned through direct contact with other criminals. This perspective also states three different types of criminals: the thief, the rebel, and the thrill-seeker.
The thief is someone who comes from a law-abiding family but commits a crime because they believe it is the path to financial security. The rebel comes from a law-breaking family and rebels against their parents by committing a crime.
The thrill-seeker commits crimes because they enjoy the rush that comes with committing a criminal act.
Integrated Theory of Crime by Gottfredson and Hirschi
Gottfredson and Hirschi created the integrated theory of crime. This model is anchored on self-control, which means that a person’s level of maturity and intelligence is the main factor in committing a crime. Low self-control is considered the main reason for criminal behavior.
Gottfredson and Hirschi tested this theory by using data from a survey of 1,600 high school students in America. The results showed that low self-control was a better predictor of criminal behavior than other variables such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status.
Informal Social control theory by Sampson and Laub
Sampson and Laub developed this theory because social bonds help prevent criminal behavior from occurring. Bond ties can be broken into three parts: attachment, commitment, and involvement.
- Attachment- people feel close to each other and like they belong in a friendship.
- Commitment- people decide to follow the rules and norms of society because they see them as important or beneficial.
- Involvement- people are active participants in society, and they like to be involved in their community and with other people.
Groups or communities with high levels of attachment, commitment, and involvement are less likely to commit crimes.
Lifestyle Theory by Cohen and Felson
Lifestyle theory is derived from the routine activity theory and the rational choice theory. Cohen and Felson believed that violent crime could happen in two different ways: opportunistic and situational.
Opportunistic crime occurs when a person decides to commit a crime and follow their impulses without planning ahead of time.
Situational crime- occurs when a person plans out their criminal activities in advance, and they are careful not to get caught.
For example, if a person breaks into a house because they have nothing else to do, it would be categorized as an opportunistic crime. If a person broke into a house because they needed money to pay rent, it would be categorized as situational.
Delinquent Development Theory by Farrington
This theory is based on the idea that delinquency can happen in four stages: early-onset, adolescent limited, adolescent continuity, and adult persistence.
- Early onset- children begin to break the law and show signs of delinquency between age 10 and 13. Adolescents limit their criminal activity between the ages of 14 and 17. Adolescents’ criminal activity solidifies during their teens and continues into their early 20s.
- Adult persistence- adults continue to commit crimes throughout their adult life.
Delinquency Theory by Moffitt
Moffitt’s theory is based on the idea that there are three different types of offenders: life-course-persistent, adolescence-limited, and adolescent-transitional.
- Life-course persistent offenders-these are people who started committing crimes at an early age and continued to do so into adulthood. These people continue to commit crimes because they have not been punished for their actions, and there is no reason for them to stop.
- Adolescence-limited offenders- refers to people who started committing crimes during their teenage years and stopped between 19 and 23. These people stop committing crimes because they have enough self-control to stop themselves, and they know that if they do not, their life will be filled with consequences.
- Adolescent-transitional offenders- people who started committing crimes during their teenage years, but they stopped once they turned 24. These people do not entirely stop committing crimes. They just do not commit crimes when they are transitioning into adulthood.
These three groups of offenders have different needs in terms of rehabilitation, and what works for each group would be different.
Merton’s strain theory states that crime results from an imbalance between cultural goals and institutional means. When there are too many people striving for the same limited goals, there will be stress and strain between those who have what they want and those who do not have what they want.
People will deal with this strain and stress in different ways, making it more likely for some people to commit crimes rather than others.
Merton’s first theory of anomie states that there are five types of adaptations to strain.
- Conformity- people in this category are not very troubled by strain, and they try harder to reach society’s goals.
- Innovation- people use different ways to reach society’s goals because they think there are better means than others.
- Ritualism- Those in this category continue to follow the rules but lose hope of reaching their goals.
- Retreatism- people, reject society’s goals and commit crime instead.
- Rebellion- In this category, people reject society’s goals and commit crimes instead. They also try to change the laws to make it easier for everyone to achieve the privileged goals.
Merton’s second theory of anomie is that there are four types of reactions to strain:
- Emulation- people choose to follow others who are achieving the goals of society.
- Innovation- In this category, people use different ways to reach society’s goals because they think that there are better means than others.
- Conversion- people change their goals so that they can reach them.
- Retreatism- Here, people reject society’s goals and commit crime instead.
Merton’s third theory of anomie is that there are three types of inequalities:
- Functional- this type of inequality is required to run a society, and it provides everyone with opportunities.
- Distributive- It is based on achievement, effort, and need.
- Cultural- This one depends on a person’s ability to fulfill the cultural goals that society has set.
Every type of inequality has its strain. Functional inequality produces role strain, distributive inequality produces class strain, and cultural inequality produces status strain.
Theoretical Integration Process
Theoretical integrations are when theorists take an idea from one theory and put it into another. The process of integrating different theories requires a good understanding of each theory’s concepts.
For instance, the process of integrating Merton’s strain theory with his anomie theories requires that you understand each theory and then put them together.
Merton’s strain theory states that when there is too much stress and pressure to achieve society’s goals, people will either adapt by changing their goals or by deviant behaviors.
Merton’s anomie theories state three types of reactions to strain: conformity, innovation, and retreatism.
Integrating these two theories would mean that strain causes people to either adapt by changing their goals and reaching the privileged goals or by resorting to deviant behavior.
You can integrate the theories in different ways, such as using the concepts from one theory and applying it to the other. It is also possible to integrate the theories by doing a case study that uses both sets of concepts together.
Integrating Merton’s strain theory with his anomie theories allows you to understand the importance of strain in causing deviance.
Steps of the theoretical integration process
Step 1: Identify the theories you want to integrate
You start by choosing two different theories that you want to integrate. Decide which theories you want to integrate and make a list of the concepts that should be used.
Step 2: Identify the key concepts from each theory and list the main concepts of each one.
Step 3: Take a major concept from one existing theory and apply it to the other.
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Conceptual integration is when a theorist uses the same concept from one theory in another. It helps to clarify a concept and expand on it by making it more concrete.
Integrating concepts in this way allows theorists to see the similarities and differences between theories based on similar or different concepts.
For example, a critical concept from strain theory is that of anomie. Merton defines anomie as a state in which too many obstacles create a state of strain. If you accept this definition, it would be challenging to integrate anomie with any other theories. This is because they would have different meanings for the same word.
To solve this problem, Merton defines anomie as a general condition in which there is too much strain and not enough balance between cultural goals, institutionalized means, and socially approved behaviors. By defining anomie in another way, it is possible to integrate this theory with other theories that use the term anomie.
Conceptual integration is essential because it gives the word or idea from one theory a concrete definition. This process makes it easier for theorists to communicate and understand each other.
By integrating concepts from two theories, you can see the similarities and differences between the theories because they have been compared using the same concepts.
The Balance Between Integration and Differentiation
Theoretical integration can take place at three levels:
- Concepts that are similar in both theories
- Concepts that have similar meanings but different authors
- Concepts that are similar in function but different in how they are explained
When you identify the concepts from each theory, it is important to look at them from all three of these levels to evaluate their compatibility. You should think about whether or not there will be a conflict if both theories have the same concept and explain it in different ways.
The main goal of integration is to balance the two theories together or find a model that explains the concepts from both theories. This can be done by finding more data that supports both sets of ideas or finding other parts to each theory that support the concept.
Merton’s life course theories state that three aspects of life influence a person’s deviance: age, historical time, and generation.
- Age- a person’s age influences their behavior because people have to achieve specific goals at different life stages, which drives them to adopt different behavioral patterns.
- Time period- a person’s historical time period also influences their behavior because different generations have different goals and expectations for how they should behave.
- Generation- a person’s generation influences their behavior because what is considered acceptable or deviant changes over time. People from different generations will have different perspectives on society’s goals and what they should do to achieve them.
Integrating these theories would mean that age, time period, and generation interfere with each other.
For example, during a person’s childhood, they are influenced by their family. During adolescence, they are influenced by their peers, and finally, in adulthood, they start becoming the head of a family.
As society changes over time, its goals change as well, interfering with how a person interacts with others.
In different life stages, people have to deal with different sources of strain, which will determine how they behave in society.
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Benefits of Theory Integration
- One of the benefits is that it allows you to use different ideas and concepts to understand a particular topic.
- It also creates a framework of different ideas to help you organize your thoughts on a certain topic.
- Theory integration also creates a framework that is easy to understand because it makes connections between different concepts related to each other.
- Finally, theory integration also allows you to look at the same topic from different perspectives. This enablement can help you gain a deeper understanding of the topic.
Theoretical Approach of Social Integration
The primary approach to social integration was first developed by Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology. His theory is referred to as the ‘Anomie Theory,’ and it defines social integration as a measure of how closely society adheres to moral regulations.
According to Durkheim, moral regulations are the rules and standards that help to define society and its culture.
Durkheim stated that there are three ways by which society can be regulated:
- Moral regulation- this type of regulation is based on the values and opinions accepted by society.
- Legal regulation- this type of regulation is based on laws imposed by the state.
- Mechanical regulation- this type of regulation is based on the customs accepted by society.
Durkheim believed that for a society to function smoothly, there should be a balance between these three types of regulation.
If moral regulations are too weak, there will be an excess in the amount of crime and deviant behavior, leading to a state of anomie.
To ensure there is no occurrence of anomie, Durkheim believed that all three types of regulations need to be balanced. This would lead to social integration because there is equal moral, legal, and mechanical regulation.
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Criticism Against Theoretical Integration
There are several criticisms against the process of theory integration.
- One criticism is that by integrating theories, you lose sight of each theory’s uniqueness and end up becoming less valuable.
- Another criticism is that the process of theory integration requires you to understand and have a good grasp of each theory, and this can be challenging because it requires a lot of effort.
- Critiques of theory integration also argue that it is challenging to integrate different theories because they are all based on different assumptions, and it is hard to reconcile these differences.
- The theories must be similar in structure and have at least one common element for theory integration to work.
Key Terms in Theory Integration
To further your understanding of theory integration, you must familiarize yourself with the key terms involved in theory integration.
Theory refers to a set of statements or ideas that explain the relationships between two or more concepts.
Integrative Approach- This approach to theory focuses on ways in which theories can be integrated.
Conceptual Approach- This approach to theory focuses on the philosophy of science and adds a theoretical framework that can be used to develop better theories.
Scope- This refers to the behavior, action, and activities of a particular person or group.
Interaction Approach- This approach is concerned with how different theories work and can explain the interactions between these different theories.
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Theory integration is an interesting concept that may have many practical applications. The examples in this post show how these theories can be applied to various situations, but they are by no means exhaustive or complete.
If you want to learn more about integrated theory and how it could help your organization grow through improved decision-making, read further!
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