How Does Social Learning Theory View the Delinquency?


Diego Sanchez

The social learning theory provides a unique perspective on understanding delinquency. Developed by Albert Bandura in the 1970s, this theory emphasizes the role of social interactions and observational learning in shaping an individual’s behavior, including their involvement in delinquent activities.

Understanding Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory proposes that individuals learn through observing others and imitating their behavior. According to Bandura, this learning process occurs through four key mechanisms:

  • Observation: Individuals observe the behavior of others, particularly those they consider as role models or significant others.
  • Imitation: After observing a particular behavior, individuals may imitate or replicate it in their own actions.
  • Reinforcement: The consequences of the observed behavior influence whether it is reinforced or discouraged.
  • Identification: Individuals are more likely to imitate behaviors of those they identify with or admire.

Social Learning Theory and Delinquency

The social learning theory provides valuable insights into understanding delinquency among individuals. It suggests that delinquent behavior can be learned through observation and imitation of delinquent role models. This means that if individuals observe and identify with people involved in criminal activities, they may be more likely to engage in similar behaviors themselves.

Evidence supporting this theory

A number of studies have supported the link between social learning theory and delinquency. One such study conducted by Bandura himself involved children observing aggressive behaviors towards a Bobo doll. The study found that children who witnessed aggressive actions were more likely to imitate them compared to those who did not witness such behaviors.

Factors influencing delinquency

Social learning theory also suggests that various factors contribute to the likelihood of delinquent behavior:

  • Family environment: Children growing up in families with criminal behavior or where deviant actions are reinforced are more likely to engage in delinquency.
  • Peer influence: Peers play a significant role in shaping an individual’s behavior. If peers engage in delinquent activities, it increases the chances of the individual also participating.
  • Media influence: Exposure to media content that glorifies or portrays criminal behavior can influence individuals to imitate such actions.

Prevention and Intervention

Implications for prevention and intervention programs

The social learning theory provides important implications for preventing and intervening in delinquent behavior:

  • Educational programs: Promoting positive role models and providing education about the consequences of delinquency can help individuals make informed choices.
  • Mentorship programs: Establishing mentorship programs where individuals have access to positive role models can help reduce involvement in delinquent activities.
  • Addressing family dynamics: Providing support and resources to families with deviant behaviors can help break the cycle of delinquency within generations.

In conclusion

The social learning theory offers valuable insights into understanding delinquency. By recognizing the impact of observation, imitation, reinforcement, and identification, we can better understand how individuals become involved in delinquent behaviors. By addressing these factors through appropriate prevention and intervention strategies, we can work towards reducing delinquency and promoting positive social behavior.