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Social Process Theories of Deviance. Lane Carkuff , Spencer Weishaupt , Breanna Wellhauser , Lara McQue. Differential Association. Sutherland - 1939. Sutherland’s Principles of Differential Association. Criminal behavior is learned

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Social process theories of deviance

Social Process Theories of Deviance

Lane Carkuff, Spencer Weishaupt, BreannaWellhauser, Lara McQue

Differential association
Differential Association

Sutherland - 1939

Sutherland s principles of differential association
Sutherland’s Principles of Differential Association

  • Criminal behavior is learned

  • Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others in a process of communication

  • The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups.

  • When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometimes very simple, and (b) the specific direction motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes.

Sutherland s principles continued
Sutherland’s Principles Continued

  • The specific direction of motives and drives is learned for definitions (examples) of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable

  • A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violations of law over definitions unfavorable to violations of law.

  • Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity.

  • The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anticrimnal patterns involves all the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning

  • Although criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values it is not explained by those general needs and values since noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values.


“Criminal behavior is a part of human behavior, has much in common with non-criminal behavior, and must be explained within the same general framework as any other human behavior.” – Sutherland 1947


Some residents of poverty-ridden ghettos learn quickly that fast money can be made in the illicit drug trade, and they tend to follow the examples of material success that they see around them

Social learning
Social Learning

  • Burgess and Akers

  • A psychological perspective that says that people learn how to behave by modeling themselves after others whom they have the opportunity to observe

  • The primary mechanism through which such learning occurs is operant conditioning


Strengths and weaknesses
Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Pro – Provides the basis for most research in modern crimin0logy

  • Con – Fails to explain why people have the associations

    • Very general and imprecise


  • A type of restraint theory that assumes that all of us are subject to inducements or pushes to crime. Some resist the pushes but others to not, and the difference between people can be found in forces that contain/control behavioral development

  • Outer containment depends on social roles and the norms/expectations that apply to them

  • Inner containment depends on the conditions in which the culture is idolized and homogeneous, class and population also occur


  • Small close-knit societies such as the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites

  • Outer – People who occupy significant roles in society generally stay away from deviant tendencies because of the pressure on them to conform

  • Inner – “I’m not that kind of person. That would be wrong.”

Strengths and weaknesses1
Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Pros –

  • Cons – Applicability to modern American society is questionable

Social control theory
Social Control Theory

Travis Hirschi


  • The bond between individuals and society as the primary operative mechanism.

  • There 4 components of the bond

  • 1) emotional attachments to significant other

  • 2) Commitment to appropriate life styles

  • 3) Involvement or immersion in conventional values

  • 4) A belief in the “correctness” of social obligations and the rules of the larger society


Herschi made a theory saying that children that had less attachments so their parents and school teachers, and who had a low view of themselves and their achievements were more likely to committee crime and other deviant behavior.

Strengths and weaknesses2
Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Pro – identifies the source and motivation for behavior

  • Con – Only provide one-half of the picture


  • Most people will not commit a crime unless they have been made available ‘neutralization techniques’

  • Similar to defense mechanisms


  • Denial of responsibility

  • Denial of injury

  • Denial of the victim

  • Condemnation of the condemners

  • Appeal to higher loyalties


  • “I’m a product of my background” – (differential association)

  • “No one was really hurt”

  • “They deserved it”

  • “The cops are corrupt”

  • “I did it for my friends”

Strengths and weaknesses3
Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Pros – some techniques provide reasons for actions (condemnation of condemners)

  • Con – assume offenders are conformists suffering lapses in judgment

  • Con – Doesn’t address why people allow these neutralizations to affect their behavior


  • “The person becomes the very thing he is defined as being.” – Frank Tannenbaum 1938

  • Howard Becker 1963

  • Everyone behaves in a deviant manner at least once = primary deviance

  • Degradation Ceremony

  • The offender accepts his “label” and behaves in accordance = secondary deviance

  • Deviance becomes their master status

Primary and secondary deviance
Primary and Secondary Deviance

  • Primary Deviance = the temporary, exploratory, trivial, or easily concealed deviance that when made public can lead to the degradation ceremony

    • Ex.) Saints and Roughnecks

  • Degradation Ceremony = person is accused, lectured and perhaps punished over their “deviant” act

  • The person is now labeled as “nut” “queer” “addict”

  • Secondary Deviance = when the offender accepts their labels and behaves accordingly

  • The label proves prophetic and the deviance becomes habitual


  • Only 7% of Americans consider alcohol abuse a problem because it is common among all social classes and groups

  • Marijuana use however is generally illegal and is often known for its use among blacks, jazz musicians, and hippies in the past

Strengths and weaknesses4
Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Pro – can explain why certain people and acts are considered deviant

  • Con – Cannot account for habitual but “secret deviance”