Differential association theory

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  • Psychological explanations: Differential associations theory
    • Description (AO1)
      • Scientific basis
        • Edwin sutherland set out principles to explain all types of offending
      • Crime as a learned behaviour
        • Offending behaviour is acquired in the same way as learning any other behaviour, through interactions
      • Pro-criminal attitudes
        • When someone is exposed to a group they are also exposed to their views, attitudes and values towards the law. if they acquire more anti criminal attitudes they will be likely to offend
      • Learning criminal acts
        • An offender may learn particular techniques for committing a crime, Sutherland theory also accounts why prisoners go on to re-offend as they learn new techniques from other prisoners
    • Evaluation (AO3)
      • +Explanatory power
        • A strength for the differential association theory is that it accounts for crime for all members of society including the rich affluent in which Sutherland coined the term "white collar crime"
      • Individual differences
        • It does not explain why some people who are exposed to criminality do not go on to become criminals themselves.  This suggests that other factors such as moral reasoning and free will influence the choice of these individuals.
      • Shift of focus
        • Sutherland was sucessful in moving away from biological accounts for crime and drawing attention to the fact that dysfunctional circumstances and the environment which may have more to blame for criminality.
      • Difficulty of testing
        • Despite Sutherland's scientific and mathematical framework, his theory suffers from being difficult to test an it is hard to measure how many pro-crime attitudes a person has


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