What Is the Social Learning Theory in Juvenile Delinquency?


Jane Flores

The Social Learning Theory in Juvenile Delinquency

When it comes to juvenile delinquency, there are many theories that attempt to explain why young people engage in criminal behavior. One of the most prominent and widely accepted theories is the Social Learning Theory.

What is the Social Learning Theory?

The Social Learning Theory proposes that individuals learn behavior through observation, imitation, and modeling. This means that young people learn how to act and behave from the people around them, particularly their peers and family members.

The theory was first introduced by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1970s. According to Bandura, individuals have a choice in their actions and behaviors based on what they have learned and observed from others.

How Does It Apply to Juvenile Delinquency?

In terms of juvenile delinquency, the Social Learning Theory suggests that young people may learn criminal behavior from those around them. For example, if a teenager’s friends engage in drug use or stealing, they may be more likely to participate in those activities as well.

Additionally, if a young person grows up in an environment where criminal behavior is normalized or even encouraged (such as within a gang), they may be more likely to engage in such behavior themselves.

What Are the Implications of This Theory?

The implications of the Social Learning Theory are significant when it comes to addressing juvenile delinquency. If young people are learning negative behaviors from their environment, then it stands to reason that positive behaviors can also be learned.

This means that interventions aimed at reducing juvenile delinquency should focus on creating positive environments for young people. This could include mentoring programs, after-school activities, and other initiatives aimed at providing positive role models and opportunities for growth.


The Social Learning Theory is a valuable tool in understanding why young people engage in criminal behavior. By recognizing that behavior is learned, we can take steps to create positive environments and provide opportunities for growth and development, ultimately reducing juvenile delinquency.