Social Process Theories Theories which are based on the concept that an individual’s socialization determines the likelihood of criminality. According to social process theories, all people, regardless of their race, class, or gender, have the potential to become delinquent or criminals. Elements of family, peer group, school, and church contribute to the socialization process.
The Influences of Peers, Cliques and Crowds To what extent is our behavior influenced by others? Do all people affect our behavior to the same degree? Do different kinds of people have different kinds of effects on our behavior? How do these questions relate to delinquency and crime control?
Socialization Processes of Society Family relations Education experience Peer relations Child abuse; sexual abuse; neglect Interaction with authority figures Institutions (church attendance and religious beliefs)
Questions Does delinquency cause educational failure? Or, Does educational failure cause delinquency?
The Effects of Socialization on Crime Social learning theory suggests people learn techniques of crimes from criminal peers. Social control theory contends people are controlled by their bonds to society. Social reaction theory argues that society contributes to criminality through the use of labels.
Social Processes that Control Human Behavior
Social Process Theories Social learning theories: differential association theory, differential reinforcement theory, and theory of neutralization. Social control theories: containment theory and social bond theory. Social reaction theory: labeling.
Social Learning Theory: Differential Association Sutherland and Cressey. Criminal behavior and criminal techniques are learned. Learned behavior is a byproduct of interacting with others and may vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity. Learned behavior begins within intimate personal groups – which involves assimilating criminal techniques, attitudes, motives, and rationalization. Criminal behavior occurs when the definitions toward crime outweigh the definitions against crime.
Differential Reinforcement Theory Akers Direct conditioning occurs when behavior is reinforced by rewards and punishment. Negative reinforcement over time Applies the concepts of differential association with psychological learning theory – behavior is influenced by those groups that control reinforcement and punishment which defines normative definitions, i.e., parents, significant others or groups. Studies suggest a strong association between drug and alcohol abuse and social learning variables.
Neutralization Theory Matza and Sykes Youth learn ways to neutralize moral restraints and responsibility for antisocial behavior. Stresses that youths’ learning of behavior is based on rationalizations that enable them to neutralize values and drift back and forth between accepted social values and illegal behavior.
Techniques of Neutralization
Questions If criminal behavior is learned, how do learning theorists account for the origin of criminal definitions? How do learning theorists explain spontaneous and wanton acts of violence and damage?
Social Control Theory Control theories maintain that all people have potential to become criminals but that bonds to conventional society prevent them from violating the law.
Social Control Theories Reckless’ containment theory – a strong self-image insulates a youth from criminogenic influences. Hirshi’s social bond theory – onset of criminality is linked to the weakening of social ties or bonds. Kaplan – youths with poor self-concepts are more likely to engage in anti-social behavior or criminal activities as opposed to engaging in normative groups.
Elements of the Social Bond Commitment Belief AttachmentInvolvement CriminalBehavior
Hirschi’s Control Theory MAJOR PREMISE A person’s bond to society prevents him or her from violating social rules. If the bond weakens, the person is free to commit crime. MAJOR PREMISE A person’s bond to society prevents him or her from violating social rules. If the bond weakens, the person is free to commit crime. STRENGTHS Explains the onset of crime; can apply to both middle- and lower-class crime. Explains its theoretical constructs adequately so they can be measured. Has been empirically tested.STRENGTHS Explains the onset of crime; can apply to both middle- and lower-class crime. Explains its theoretical constructs adequately so they can be measured. Has been empirically tested.
Testing Social Control Theory Empirical studies revealed a strong support for Hirschi’s control theory: Students who had strong attachment to parents were less likely to commit criminal acts. Commitment to conventional values was indicative of conventional behavior. Youths involved in conventional activities were less likely to engage in criminal behavior. Youths involved in unconventional activities were more delinquent prone.
Testing Social Control Theory Youths with weak and distant relationships with others tended toward delinquent behavior. Those who shunned unconventional acts were attached to their peers. Delinquents and nondelinquents shared similar beliefs about society. Recent research shows attachments to peers, school and family may be interrelated.
Opposing Views of Social Control Theory Some contend delinquents may be influenced by close relationships with deviant peers and family members. Not all elements of the bond are equal. Many believe that social control theory cannot explain all modes of criminality. Bonds change over time and this is not accounted for. Some contend that delinquency weakens bonds, not that weakened bonds lead to delinquency.
Social Reaction Theory or Labeling Theory This theory holds that criminality is promoted by becoming negatively labeled by significant others, in other words – when people are labeled for their acts, they organize their personalities around the labels.
The Labeling Process
Labeling Theory: The Basis for Self-Concept Initial Criminal Act Detection by the Justice System Decision to Label Creation of a New Identity Acceptance of Labels DevianceAmplification
Question According to the previous diagram, is labeling a “cause” of crime or, the “effect” of crime?
Consequences of Labeling Labels produce stigma Condemnation is carried out in “ceremonies” such as trials and media attention (degradation ceremonies) Differential social control: Self-labeling involves one taking on the attitudes and roles reflected in how a person views the way others see them Joining deviant cliques: Some labeled people may join cliques and other outcast peers Retrospective reading: refers to the reassessment of a person’s past to fit a current generalized label or status Dramatization of evil: Labels become a personal identity
Social Reaction Theory: Differential Enforcement This theory holds that the law is differentially applied – it favors those in power in a particular society.
Social Reaction Theory Primary and Secondary Deviance Edwin Lemert defined a norm violation with little or no long-term influence as primary deviance. Secondary deviance refers to a norm violation that results in application of a negative label with long-term consequences. The process whereby secondary deviance pushes offenders out of the mainstream of society is referred to as deviance amplification.
Primary and Secondary Deviance
Is Labeling Theory Valid? Contributions of Labeling Theory: It identifies the role played by social control agents in crime causation. It recognizes that criminality is not a disease of pathological behavior. It distinguishes between criminal acts and criminal careers. Criticisms: It is unable to specify the conditions that must exist before an act or individual is labeled deviant. It fails to explain differences in crime rates. It ignores the onset of deviant behavior.
Research Reaction of Labeling Theory Evidence supports the targets of labeling (poor and powerless) are victimized by the law and justice system. Contextual discrimination: refers to judges imposing harsher sentences on minorities. Empirical evidence supports that negative labels influence self-image. Cumulative disadvantage: Provokes repeat behaviors.
Social Process Theories
Social Process Theory and Social Policy Learning theories influence development of facilities to “unlearn” criminality. Control theories influence programs to increase bonds to established values, like the Head Start program. Labeling theories influence diversion and restitution programs. Restitution/restorative justice programs permit an offender to repay the victim (and community) rather than face the stigma of a formal judicial process.