Differential association and social learning theory are two theories that have been used to explain the development of criminal behavior. Although both theories are similar in some ways, they differ in their approach to explaining how individuals learn deviant behavior.
Differential Association Theory
Differential association theory was first proposed by Edwin Sutherland in 1939. According to this theory, individuals learn criminal behavior through their interactions with others. In other words, people are more likely to engage in criminal behavior if they have been exposed to it through their social networks.
Sutherland argued that individuals are more likely to engage in criminal behavior if they associate with people who hold deviant attitudes and values. These values may include beliefs that breaking the law is acceptable or that certain groups of people deserve to be victimized.
Social Learning Theory
Social learning theory was first proposed by Albert Bandura in 1977. This theory suggests that individuals learn behavior through observation and imitation of others. Bandura argued that people are more likely to engage in certain behaviors if they see others being rewarded for those behaviors.
Bandura identified four key elements of social learning: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention refers to the individual’s ability to focus on the model’s behavior.
Retention refers to the individual’s ability to remember the model’s behavior over time. Reproduction refers to the individual’s ability to replicate the model’s behavior accurately. Finally, motivation refers to the individual’s desire or willingness to engage in a particular behavior.
- The Role of Associations: Differential association theory emphasizes the role of social networks and associations in shaping criminal behavior.
- The Role of Imitation: Social learning theory emphasizes the role of observation and imitation in shaping behavior.
- The Importance of Reinforcement: Social learning theory places greater emphasis on reinforcement as a key factor influencing whether or not an individual will engage in a particular behavior.
- The Role of Cognitive Processes: Social learning theory also emphasizes the importance of cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, in shaping behavior.
In conclusion, while both theories seek to explain how individuals learn criminal behavior, they differ in their approach. Differential association theory emphasizes the role of social networks and associations, while social learning theory places greater emphasis on observation and imitation.
Both theories highlight the importance of reinforcement and cognitive processes in shaping behavior. By understanding these differences, researchers and practitioners can develop more effective strategies for preventing and intervening in criminal behavior.