Social process theory is a criminological perspective that explains how criminal behavior develops through social interactions and processes. This theory is built on the assumption that an individual’s behavior is influenced by their interactions with others, and their environment. In this article, we will explore the main assumption of social process theory and how it relates to criminal behavior.

The Main Assumption of Social Process Theory

The main assumption of social process theory is that individuals are not born criminals but become criminals as a result of their socialization experiences. This means that criminal behavior is not biologically determined, but rather, it is learned through social interaction.

According to this theory, individuals learn criminal behavior through their interactions with others who engage in criminal activities. The learning process occurs through observation, imitation, and reinforcement. This means that individuals are more likely to engage in criminal behavior if they observe others engaging in such activities and receive positive reinforcement for doing so.

How Social Process Theory Explains Criminal Behavior

Social process theory suggests that there are several factors that contribute to criminal behavior:

The Role of Environment in Social Process Theory

The environment plays a critical role in shaping an individual’s behavior according to social process theory. The environment encompasses all the external factors that an individual interacts with, including their neighborhood, school, workplace, and community.

Individuals who grow up in low-income neighborhoods with high crime rates are more likely to engage in criminal activities than those who grow up in safer neighborhoods. This is because they are exposed to criminal activities more frequently and have fewer opportunities for positive reinforcement.

Similarly, individuals who attend schools where delinquent behavior is prevalent are more likely to engage in such activities themselves. The same applies to the workplace. If an individual’s workplace has a culture of corruption or unethical behavior, they may be more likely to participate in similar activities.


In conclusion, social process theory suggests that criminal behavior is not innate but is learned through social interactions and experiences. The theory emphasizes the importance of family, peers, social learning, rewards and punishments, and the environment in shaping an individual’s behavior.

Social process theory provides a comprehensive framework for understanding criminal behavior and developing effective prevention strategies. By addressing the factors that contribute to criminal behavior at an early age, we can prevent individuals from engaging in criminal activities and reduce crime rates significantly.