Differential Association Theory

  • Created by: mayono1
  • Created on: 14-09-18 11:19


Sutherland set himself the task of developing a set of scientific principles that could explain all types of offending.

Sutherland (1939) proposed the differential association theory and it explains how people learn to become criminals from their environment. It takes an integrated stance, which means it recognises the differing factors playing a part in causation of crime and combines them into one theory.

They learn the motivations, attitudes and drives of those engaging in criminal activity around them. It may also be acquired through interactions with family, friends or the media. It is the contact with lots of favourable messages towards committing crime that increases the likelihod of deliquency. Sutherland called these messages 'favourable differentiations'. Criminality rises from 2 factors: learned attitudes towards crime and the learning of specific criminal acts.

When a person is socialised into a group they will be exposed to values and attitudes towards the law. Some of these values will be pro-crime, some of these will be anti-crime. Sutherland argues that if the number of pro-crime attitudes outweighs the anti-crime attitudes, they will go on to offend.

Differential association suggests that it should be possible to mathematically predict how likely it is that an individual will commit crime if we have knowledge of the frequency, intensity and duration of which they have been exposed to deviant and non-deviant norms and values.

In addition to being exposed to pro-criminal attitudes, the would-be offender may also learn particular techniqus for committing crime. As well as offering an account of how


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