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  1. Agenda Review Social Structure Theories Especially Anomie/Strain Theories Start Social Process Theories

  2. Social Structural Theories • Aspect of the social structure is related to crime • Tend to be macro-level theories • Social Disorganization • Chicago School • Sampson and friends (Collective efficacy) • Anomie • Merton (both macro and micro themes) • GST (sort of a misfit here) • Institutional Anomie (Country level theory)

  3. Social Process Theory • Focus on crime unfolds over time (through a process) • How individuals interact with the environment • Process of “Socialization”

  4. Socialization ▪ How a person learns the “proper” way to live ▪ Includes norms and values that guide human behavior ▪ Primary sources: social institutions ▪ Education ▪ Religion ▪ Family ▪ Peer group

  5. Social process theory traditions ▪ Differential association/social learning ▪ Adequate socialization toward the incorrect norms and values ▪ Informal social control ▪ Inadequate socialization ▪ Labeling theory ▪ Socialized to accept delinquent identity as result of criminal justice system


  7. Differential Association and Social Learning Theory • Differential Association (Edwin Sutherland) • Differential Reinforcement (Burgess and Akers) • Social learning (Ronald Akers)

  8. Differential Association ▪ Developed by Edwin Sutherland ▪ Focus on cultural transmission of delinquent values ▪ Akers was student (and later a professor) at the University of Chicago • Disputed the term “social disorganization” (reframed as “differential social organization”) • Asks a “Chicago School” question based on Shaw and McKay’s theory

  9. Differential Association • Criminal Behavior is learned • Negatively, this means it is not “invented” • Communication within intimate groups • Learning involves techniques and attitudes • Attitudes expresses as “definitions of the situation” • A person becomes delinquent because of an “excess of definitions favorable to law violation” • The process involves the same learning process as all other behavior

  10. Differential Association ▪ Criticism ▪ Vague concepts and phrasings ▪ Difficult to test empirically

  11. Techniques of Neutralization ▪ Developed by Sykes and Matza ▪ First good attempt to measure Sutherland’s “definitions” • Documented common rationalizations (excuses) for delinquency among a sample of delinquents

  12. Techniques of Neutralization ▪ Denial of responsibility ▪ Denial of injury ▪ Denial of victim ▪ Condemnation of the condemners ▪ Appeal to higher loyalties

  13. Techniques of Neutralization Definitions or Something Else?? ▪ Sociology criticism  Such attitudes do not actually cause criminal behavior. ▪ Rationalization is utilized only after the offense is committed when behavior is called into question. ▪ Psychologist (Behaviorism): To the extent that these rationalizations neutralize guilt, they reinforce behavior (Negative Reinforcement)

  14. Social Learning Theory ▪Developed by Ronald Akers ▪ Early version: differential reinforcement ▪ Revision of differential association theory ▪ Added concepts of operant conditioning and imitation (observational learning) to explain how behavior was learned

  15. Social Learning Theory Key concepts ▪ Differential associations ▪ Definitions ▪ Differential reinforcement ▪ Imitation

  16. Social Learning Theory (Akers) Exposure to definitions or different role models Balance of definitions or role models produces initial behaviors Positive or negative reinforcement Definitions Behaviors Role models R(+/-) DA

  17. Social Learning Theory ▪ Empirical research measures ▪ Attitudes that support crime (definitions) ▪ Exposure to delinquent peers/family members (differential associations) ▪ Rewards or punishment for delinquency (differential reinforcement)

  18. Delinquent Attitudes • Same as “procriminal attitudes,” “neutralizations,” “stinking thinking…” • In pretty much every test of crime or deviance, they strongly predict offending. • As noted, there is debate about whether this is causal (vs. after the fact excuses)

  19. Delinquent Peer Association ▪ Most common measure of social learning theory ▪ Connection between the proportion of person’s friends who were delinquent and delinquency • Mapping of friendship networks, proportion of pro-social friends vs. antisocial friends ▪ Nonsocial learning interpretation ▪ Measurement issues, Delinquent youths attract one another as peers Evidence: It likely goes both ways, but its pretty clear that peers have a some causal influence on future behavior

  20. Role of Reinforcement & Punishment ▪ Clear that people do respond to rewards and punishments in their environment • Behaviorists: operant conditioning works • Deterrence (formal punishment) could be absorbed into social learning theory as simply one form of punishment

  21. Social Learning Theory ▪Empirical research findings ▪ Strong relationships between measures of social learning and a wide range of outcomes ▪ Smoking ▪ Computer crimes ▪ Gang-related delinquency ▪ Other forms of criminal or delinquent activity

  22. Social Learning Theory Criticism ▪ Unclear the exact role that delinquent peers and delinquent attitudes play in generating delinquency and crime • Are they really “causes?” • Evidence from rehabilitation programs suggests that they at least part of the relationship is causal (look at the next slide Jeff)

  23. Policy Implications:Social Learning Theory ▪ Use the principles of learning to ▪ Reduce access to delinquent peers ▪ Confront and change antisocial attitudes ▪ Change the balance of reinforcement so that it supports prosocial behavior ▪ Behavioral/cognitive restructuring programs