Differential Association TheoryEdwin H. Sutherland
Differential AssociationIn 1947 Edwin Sutherland proposed:Crime is a learning process that couldaffect any individual in any culture.
Differential Association MainPrinciplesCriminal behavior is learned from intimate personalgroups.The learning includes techniques for committing crimes,motives, rationalizations and attitudes.The specific direction of motives and drives is learnedfrom definitions of legal codes as favorable orunfavorable.A person becomes delinquent because of an access ofdefinitions favorable to breaking the law.
PrinciplesDifferential associations may vary in frequency, duration,priority and intensity.The process of learning criminal behavior is the same asin any other learning process.Criminal behavior is an expression of general needs andvalues, it is not explained by those needs and valuessince noncriminal behavior is an expression of the sameneeds and values.
Differential Association CriticsIt does not explain a law abiding family having a childwho falls into a life of crime.The theory lacks the ability to explain acts of deviancethat aren’t learned and/or are spontaneous.The influence of drugs on an individual’s psychologicaland physiological condition could contribute to anindividual’s deviant behavior (Burgess & Akers, 1968)It ignores the role of personality or the role of biologicaland psychological factors in crime (Paul Tappan, 1947).
Differential Association: Thecomplete answer?Sutherland was one of the most astute critics of theDifferential Association Theory.He conceded: Not everyone in contact with criminalitybecomes a criminal.He recognized his theory did not take into accountvarious personality factors.
Differential Association: A large pieceof the criminal puzzleDifferential Association is not the complete answer but itdoes bring attention to:The importance of social factorsThe similarity between the process of learning criminalbehavior and that of learning lawful behaviorThe fact that criminality cannot be explained entirely interms of personality maladjustments.The answer lies in the choice of the people we associatewith and who we look up to as role models.
References:Lilly, R., Cullen, T. & Ball, Richard. (2011) Criminological Theory:Context and Consequences, Sage Publications, Inc.Burgess, R. & Akers, R.(1966). A Differential Association-Reinforcement Theory of Criminal Behavior. Social Problems, 14:363-383.Tappan, P., (1947). Short Notes on Differential Association Theory ofCrime, retrieved on line fromhttp://www.preservearticles.com/2012050131531/short-notes-on-differential-association-theory-of-crime.html