Differential Association Theory

  • Created by: grestabi
  • Created on: 14-12-18 13:15
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  • Differential Association Theory (uses Social learning ideas)
    • Suggests that through interaction with others, individuals learn values, attitudes, techniques and motivation for criminality.
      • Acts of criminals as learned behaviours
      • Individuals influenced and shaped mainly by the family and friends, who the individual lives and grows up with, and also wider society.
    • Our friendship groups can significantly affect our criminality, especially through adolescence
    • Edwin Sutherland developed this in 1939
      • Suggested it's learned through operant conditioning. Longer and more frequent associations, they are more likely to have an effect.
      • Can either be directly reinforced or vicariously reinforced through role models and others.
    • Learning isn't only done in  childhood, any person who sees another person positively rewarded for negative behaviour is likely to replicate it.
    • Osbourne and west (1979) - looked at relationship between fathers who'd been convicted + their sons.
      • Found a 40% chance that the son of a convicted father would offend before age of 18, compared to 13% of sons with non-criminal fathers.
    • Changed the way people view criminal behaviour. Introduced social factors and experiences.
    • Real world application: learning environments could be changed through policy. Biological approach left little alternatives for society as genes can't be altered before this theory.
    • Unable to account for people's individuals differences - not everyone exposed to criminal influences becomes criminal
    • Difficulty in testing it as Sutherland couldn't provide a scientific and mathematical framework to predict future offending - couldn't prove his theory was the cause.


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