Social Theories Of Gang Violence

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Social Theories:
How It Relates to
Gangs & Gang Violence

By Stuart Brown

Criminology is a complex subject chock-full of theories that attempt to explain crime and criminal behavior. Each base theory has several branches of theory which expand upon and compliment their predecessors. Even some of the sub-theories have branches of theories. This paper is going to discuss two social theories; social structure and social process. It is also going to cover some of the branches of those theories; disorganization theory, strain theory, cultural conflict (deviance), social learning theory, social control theory, and social reaction theory. It will go into some of the branches and thoughts within these
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Social process theorists would agree that people join gangs because they do not have good influences in their life or ties to different organizations that would keep them out of trouble.
Social learning theory simply states that humans conduct themselves in an illegal manner because all they have been taught is criminal behavior. This criminal behavior is learned through interacting with other human beings that behave criminally. Differential association theory falls under the social learning theory. The creator of the differential association theory, Edwin Sutherland, believed that people became deviants because of being overly exposed to others with bad attitudes and delinquent values. Differential association assumes that criminal behavior is learned, the techniques required to commit crime are learned, the learning process involved in learning crime is the same as learning anything else, and that a person’s perceptions of the law determines how a person behaves. Differential association theory explains gang violence as a person’s exposure to existing gangs within their neighborhoods.
Neutralization theory is another theory that falls under the sub-theory social learning theory. Neutralization theory states that criminals learn techniques that allow them to offset values of society as a whole and go back and forth between conventional and criminal behaviors. This theory was created on
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