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Social Process Theories of Crime

Social Process Theories of Crime. Chapter 8. Social Process Theories of Crime. Attempt to explain how individuals become law violators. Micro-level theories Typically do not approach crime and delinquency as primarily a lower-class problem.

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Social Process Theories of Crime

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  1. Social Process Theories of Crime Chapter 8

  2. Social Process Theories of Crime • Attempt to explain how individuals become law violators. • Micro-level theories • Typically do not approach crime and delinquency as primarily a lower-class problem. • Socializing influences are key to explaining behavior (e.g., family, education, peers) • Three forms of social process theories: • Learning • Culture Conflict • Social Control

  3. Learning Criminal Behavior • Criminal behavior is learned in a social context. • Law-breaking values, norms, and motives are acquired through interaction with others. • The skills and techniques are learned, although their content varies widely with the complexity of the crime. • Crime is considered to be normal.

  4. Edwin H. Sutherland - Differential Association • Theories thought to have substantial influence on Sutherland’s Differential Association: • Symbolic Interactionism • Culture Transmission • Culture Conflict • Differential association suggests that person socialized in disorganized neighborhoods are likely to have associations that will encourage criminal adaptations. • Wrote Criminology (1924), Principles of Criminology (1934), and the Professional Thief (1937). • White Collar Crime

  5. Sutherland’s Nine Principlesof Differential Association 1. Criminal behavior is learned. 2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication. 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. 4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes: a. techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometimes very simple b. the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalization, and attitudes. 5. The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable.

  6. Sutherland’s Nine Principlesof Differential Association, cont. 6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law. 7. Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity. 8. The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning. 9. While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, because noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same needs a values.

  7. Criticisms of Differential Association • Major criticisms have focused on the theories testability, causal framework, and breadth. • Concepts incorporated in the theory were vaguely and imprecisely explained, leaving researchers to generate their own operational definitions. • Differential association presumes that definitions acquired in association with others lead to behavioral patterns. • Differential association is so broad that, in attempting to explain all criminal behavior, the theory succeeds in explaining none. • Testing Differential Association.

  8. Ronald Akers - Social Learning Theory • Expanded Sutherland’s Differential Association theory by adding components of operant (voluntary response) and respondent (involuntary response) conditioning. • Identified four key elements that help shape behavior: • Differential Associations - the learning of definitions favorable or unfavorable to the law through processes of social interaction. • Definitions- apply to one’s own attitudes; including orientations, rationalizations, definitions of the situation, and other evaluative aspects of right and wrong. • Differential Reinforcement - the actual or anticipated consequences of engaging in specific behavior. • Imitation • Criticisms of Social Learning Theory • The reinforcement proposition is tautological – which first? • The temporal sequencing of peer association and delinquency is poorly specified.

  9. Techniques of Neutralization - Gresham M. Sykes and David Matza To allow violation of laws in which one essentially believes, while preserving self-image, neutralization must precede the offense.

  10. Sykes and Matza’s Techniquesof Neutralization TechniqueDefinition Denial of Responsibility disclaiming person accountability for law violation Denial of Injury claiming that the prohibited behavior is absent the element of harm Denial of the Victim transforming the victim of illegal behavior into a justifiable target Condemnation of the denouncing the persons that allege Condemners law violation Appeal to Higher Loyalties justifying law violation by conforming to the moral demands of another group affiliation

  11. Culture Conflict and Crime • Closely allied with versions of learning theory. • Focuses on how members of a group are trained through the learning process. • Culture Conflict Theories locate the cause of crime and delinquency in subcultural features. • Views deviance as conformity to norms of a subculture that runs counter to those of the dominant group.

  12. Thorsten Sellin - Conflict of Conduct Norms • Wrote Culture Conflict and Crime (1938) • Argued that the task of criminology was to explain violation of conduct norms. • The catch-22 is that conformity to the norms of many subcultures may contradict norms of the dominant culture, placing members of those subcultures in the position of violating the norms of some social group no matter how the members conduct themselves. • Primary Culture Conflict - the collision of norms from distinct cultural systems. • Secondary Culture Conflict - occurs with the evolution of subcultures in a heterogenous society. • Focused on immigration

  13. Walter Miller - Lower-Class Focal Concerns • Focuses on features of lower-class culture. • The stage is set for culture conflict because the norms learned in lower-class settings depart from those of the dominant middle-class culture.

  14. Walter Miller’s Lower-Class Focal Concerns Trouble - Interference from official social control agents of the dominant culture. Toughness - Distorted image of masculinity. Smartness- Skill and ability to dominate verbal exchanges pertinent to the lower-class environment. Excitement - Relieving the monotonous routine of lower-class existence through emotion-arousing entertainment that often violates norms of the dominant culture. Fate - Belief in little control over the forces shaping one’s life. Autonomy - Ambivalence regarding freedom from external control reflected in overt resentment of control, but covert pursuit of control.

  15. Social Control and Crime • Revolves around the process of socializing people. • Rests on the premise that, if left alone, people will pursue self-interests rather than those of society. • Views crime as predictable behavior that society has failed to bridle. • Depicts choice as relevant to behavior. • Value consensus lies at the basis of control theory.

  16. Control Theories • Containment Theory - Walter Reckless • Very broad perspective that provides a general framework for the control perspective. • Criminogenic forces may be contained or controlled by two mechanisms: • Outer Containments - controls external to the individual that take the form of social sanctions • Inner Containments - self-control. Similar to the concept of conscious and is facilitated by a strong self-concept.

  17. Travis Hirschi - Social Bond Theory • Assumes that “a person is free to commit delinquent acts because his ties to the conventional order have somehow been broken” (1969:3). • Weakened or broken social bonds reduce a person’s stakes in conformity. • Four interrelated elements of the social bond: • Attachment (most important) • Commitment • Involvement • Belief

  18. Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi - A General Theory of Crime • Rooted in low self-control, as opposed to inadequate social controls. • Crime is the result of individuals with low self-control encountering situations or opportunities in which crime will produce immediate gratification with relatively low levels of risk. • Argue that the cause of all crime is low-self control and that this characteristic is stable across the life course and set by age eight. • Theory is rooted in the classical hedonistic view of human nature.

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