Criminal Behavior Theories

 
 
 
 
Sutherland's Differential Association Theory suggests that people commit crime by learning in a social context through their interactions with others and communication with them (Essential 137). He believed criminal behavior, whatever its nature, is learned by interaction with others, and this includes learning the techniques of committing the crime, and the motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes for committing it. This is due to their definition of legal codes as being favorable or unfavorable, and so if someone believes the legal codes are unfavorable, they will be more likely to commit a crime. The mechanisms for learning criminal behavior from others are the same as all the mechanisms involved in other types of learning. Sutherland did not believe that criminal behavior could be explained by a person's needs or values because these also shape the behavior of people who do not commit criminal acts.

There have been modifications of the theory since Sutherland proposed it in 1957 and 1960 (Essential 141-142). Reis and Rhodes, 1964 proposed peer group association is responsible for criminal behavior, but only in specific kinds of delinquent behavior. Jensen, 1972 found criminal behavior independent of other variables. Akers et al, 1979, found it to be true in regard to marijuana use. Jaquith, 1981, found marijuana use was learned from peers, but alcohol use was learned from both peers and parents. Thompson, Mitchell and Dodder, 1982, found having delinq

     
 
 
 
    

 

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