Differential Association Theory Key Points


Point 1 + 2

Criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with other people in a process of communication.

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Point 3

One principle part of the learning of criminal behaviour is that it occurs within initmate personal groups.

The influence of family or peer groups was more important then external influences such as the media.

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Point 4

When criminal behaviour is learned this includes learning the techniques of comitting the crime and the specific direction of motives, drives and attitudes.

What this means is that a criminal has to learn the tricks of the trade and also the attitudes taken and the excuses made for behaving in a criminal fashion.

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Point 5 + 6

The offender will learn sets of attitudes that are favourable or unfavourable to crime.

E.g. some groups will see certain laws as pointless so they will feel like they have the right to break them.

If an offender learns more favourable attitudes to crime then they will become delinquent - they have had repeated contact with criminal activity.

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Point 7

The extent of a person's criminal career varies depending on the extent of the contact with criminal activity.

Differential associaitions vary with frequency, duration, intensity and priority.

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Point 8

The process by which you learn criminal behaviour is no different to learning other types of behaviour.

If you are socialised to believe criminal behaviour is normal then this is normal behaviour for you.

Criminality is all nuture no nature.

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Evaluation Points

Determinism: DAT theorises that patterns of behaviour can be predicted based on the intimacy of relationships in family and peer groups. If you spend a lot of time/live in an environment with pro-crime values, you are more likely to be a delinquent. Suggests we don't have the free will to choose to commit crime - it is our relationships and contact w/ criminal activity that determines this.

Reductionism: Only looks at relationships and criminal contact as a reason as to why people offend. (Boils it down to one or two factors). Doesn't take into account other factor such as biological (ADHD, impulsiveness etc), or cognitive factors.

Nurture: DAT is strongly nuture, it states that all behaviour is learnt similar to the SLT and ignores individual aspects. States that criminal behaviour cannot be invented without prior influnce so must be learnt.

Situational: It assumes that behaviour is dependant on the situation (e.g. time with peers and family) and therefore ignores dispositional factors (e.g. personality), so turning to crime would be due to contact with offenders (the situation). Ignores individual factors such as someone being naturally more risk taking and therefore pro-crime.

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Evaluation Points ctd

Scientific?: Not scientific as it is just a theory; no experiments or tests were conducted to support the theory - it would be unethical to, (essentially making people become criminals). No data was collected to support the theory so it cannot be proved nor disproved.

Application/Usefulness in real life: Intervention schemes can be planned and implemented to tackle various areas such as better parenting and monitoring to influence better family relationships and pro-law attitudes. Setting up youth clubs and having schools teach youth about pro-law attitudes and values to prevent bad habits and encourage a sense of community cohesion and a sense of responsibility to uphold morality in the community.

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