The reason for this research paper is to interpret Ronald L. Akers’ social learning theory, which was an expansion of Edwin H. Sutherland’s differential association theory of criminal behavior. Sutherland said that behavior is learned through differential associations, but he never stated exactly how they learned crime. Robert L. Burgess and Akers pinpointed the learning devices for Sutherland’s theory in their theory of criminal behavior, differential association-reinforcement theory. After Akers’ work with Burgess he developed a modification of their theory, social learning theory. Akers applied it to criminal, delinquent, and deviant behavior in general. The basic assumption in social learning theory is that the same learning process in a context of social structure, interaction, and situation, produces both conforming and deviant behavior (Akers, R. L., & Sellers, C. S., 2009). The making of the theory depended on differential association, definitions, differential reinforcement and imitation to explain how we learn crime. Akers set the framework for how we learn crime from others and our surroundings.
Principles of Social Learning Theory Direct and indirect differential associations provide definitions, models to imitate and differential reinforcements. Your differential associations can change your attitude and meanings, definitions, about crime whether your friends view it positive, negative, or neutral. Positive definitions are attitudes that make an act desirable
Psychology plays a very important role in the field of criminal justice. It is needed to help assess individuals who commit crimes, as well as, help to be a predictor of criminal behavior. Utilizing theories such behaviorism and operant conditioning, individual behavior is able to be assessed by the response to learning what actions result in rewards and what actions result in punishment. As a result of how individuals respond to rewards and punishment, learned behaviors have the possibility to be deterred or corrected.
High crime rates are an ongoing issue through the United States, however the motivation and the cause of crime has yet to be entirely identified. Ronald Akers would say that criminality is a behavior that is learned based on what an individual sees and observes others doing. When an individual commits a crime, he or she is acting on impulse based on actions that they have seen others engage in. Initially during childhood, individuals learn actions and behavior by watching and listening to others, and out of impulse they mimic the behavior that is observed. Theorist Ronald Akers extended Sutherland’s differential association theory with a modern viewpoint known as the social learning theory. The social learning theory states that
From birth, our families, friends, and society influenced our choices. We were told what we could and could not accept. The music we listened to, the food we ate, and the clothes we wore were all influenced by someone in our community or household. These experiences from your childhood tend to determine the choices we will make as adults. We are living in a world that approaches life with a black or white perceptive, meaning decisions in life are either morally right or morally wrong. Differential Association Theory is defined as a criminological theory created by Edwin Sutherland that focuses on criminal behavior being learned through association with others (Walsh, 559). The theory focuses on an individual’s life that could lead them to a life of crime.
The Social Learning Theory is similar to the Differential Association Theory in the respect that they both depend on the approval of others. It says that "...crime is something learned by normal people as they adapt to other people and the conditions of their environment" (Bohm, 2001: 82). People learn by reinforcement weather it is positive or negative. Growing up Kody began to feel more and more that his mom no longer expressed any love or care for him, but that she only nagged him. After returning home from juvenile hall the greeting that Kody got from his mother wasn't exactly what he wanted. "I knew she meant well, but I wasn't up to it tonight. I wanted to be loved, to be missed, to be wanted, not scolded" (Scott, 1993: 173). The
It is known that crime is caused through imitation, arousal and desensitising. The social Learning theory (2009), looks at how people engage in crime due to their associations. It explains that a person’s behaviour is a product of the people who surround ourselves – people imitate those who people admire. Theorist Bandura (1997) had completed an experiment in which looked at
Sutherland, both a sociologist and professor, developed Differential Association theory in 1939. Sutherland made a realization that crime happens in all social standings, not just the lower class. According to Sutherland, criminal activity is not inherent but learned. For example, children are not born to be racist but learn racism either through a family member or a close group of friends or acquaintances. Although Differential Association theory is a learned behavior, one needs to mentor someone on how to engage in deviant behavior and also how to have the right motivation and attitude to commit illegal corruption. What is the person undertaking the activity going to get out of the deviant behavior money, approval from friends or a better job? Criminals know that committing a crime is wrong, but they somehow have to rationalize to themselves that its alright because of the guilt they feel. Differential Association theory also states that people committing these crimes are doing it because it's more promising to violate the law than not too. Likewise, just because people commit deviant acts doesn’t mean they will continue to engage in those acts later in life according to
The Social Learning Theory strives to show how behaviors are acquired and maintained through various techniques. According to this theory, three basic constructs are apparent. Differential association explains that a person engages themselves in a group that has an acceptance toward crime as a possible means of obtaining necessary life goals. People engaged in these groups learn to view crime as either positive or negative. Differential reinforcement explains how well the participation in crime is accepted and imitation is the final acceptance of the crime by observing others and committing the crime as well. Applied to mental illness, individuals with mental illness are more likely to be engaged with individuals of these ideals due to excessive exposure from close contact in low socioeconomic areas.
Based on Ronald Akers ideology of social learning theory, many people commit crimes based on the observations they encounter. These observations can come from a number of sources such as, media, family, and peers. Family and friends as well as the social norms of a neighborhood can be influential to an individual because of acceptance. This theory also says that based on positive or negative reinforcements an individual’s behavior will be based on the rewards or punishments that are given. If given an opportunity to change the violence that occurs among neighborhoods there are many who choose to do so (Akers, 1990).
Theories of crime causation get to the fundamental characteristics of human nature. Theories of crime causation can be separated into trait theories and choice theories. Both types of theories make valid points about the causes of crime, yet they are have different implications for preventing the causes of crime. Thesis: Trait theories and choice theories both assume that humans are self-interested, but their conceptions of self-interest limit the applicability of each to certain types of crime. Trait theories appear more suited for explaining the causes of violent crime, whereas choice theories are more appropriate to property crimes or economic crimes.
Through differential association theory and social learning theory crime can be explained as behaviors that individuals learn. American criminologist Edwin Sutherland developed differential association theory in order to explain why certain individuals choose to participate in criminal behavior. The theory suggests that crime is a learned behavior, and is more likely to occur if one surrounds themselves in it. To clarify, the theory proposes that those with close connections to criminals have a greater likelihood of committing a crime. Subsequently, Ronald Akers created the social learning theory to elaborate further on Sutherland's theory (Carl, John D. 192).
1. Explain what differential association refers to. Next, provide an example of differential association. Differential Association is a theory that implies people learn deviant behavior from society through contacts with primary groups like peers, family, and coworkers. Deviant behavior is constructed very similarly to that of conventional behavior.
Differential Association theory was designed by Sutherland and Cressey (1960) which has a concept that mainly states criminal behavior is learned. The theory itself brings forward nine separate points that’s described what can lead to criminal behavior being learned. Some of those include; criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other persons, the setting is within intimate personal groups, techniques of committing the crime are learned, a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of the law. However the final point of this theory defines that while “criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values since non-criminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values”
Sutherland argued that the concept of differential association and differential social organization could be applied to the individual level and to the group level respectively. While differential association theory explains why any individual gravitates toward criminal behavior, differential social organization explains why crime rates of different social entities differ from each other's. In his fourth edition of Principles of Criminology he presented his final theory of differential association. His theory has 9 basic postulates:
The famous criminologist Edwin Sutherland developed Differential Association Theory in 1939. He felt that criminal behavior is behavior, learned, and is learned in face-to-face interactions with others. Differential association, which operates on the individual level, is where behavior is learned through interaction with others. Through this interaction an individual will learn the techniques and skills necessary to commit crime as well as the motives, rationalization, and attitudes necessary for the crime. This is achieved by determining whether the pros outweigh the cons using the factors of frequency, duration, priority, and intensity.
The social learning theory states that criminal behavior is learned. Criminals learn their bad behaviors from close relationships they may have with criminal peers (Siegel & Worrall, 2016). Children look up to their parents; they want to be just like them. So, if children grow up surround by crime, they think that it is both normal and acceptable, and it is likely that they will participate in criminal behavior when they are older. As a result of learning this behavior, it is passed down through generations and is never broken. This can also be learned from friendships people may have with negative influences. Young adults and children want to fit in with their peers, so if they are surrounded with those who commit crimes, they are probably going to do the same because “everyone is doing it”.