Examining Theory Paper
Introduction There are many theories in the field of criminology that seek to explain the reasons behind why people commit crimes. Social process theory is one such theory and asserts that criminal behavior is learned through interactions with others (Schmalleger, 2012). There are four types of social process theories including: social learning theory, social control theory, labeling theory, and dramaturgical perspective. This paper will explore two of the theories including social learning theory and social control theory.
The paper will discuss social process theory and the history of its development, the theory’s importance to criminology, examples of the theory, and any positives or negatives associated with the theory. Theory and the History of its Development Social Learning Theory Social Learning Theory is the process that occurs through observing the consequences of others and by determining if such behavior is worth replicating (Wallace, n. d.
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) Basically this theory suggests that humans learn by watching others. Social Learning Theory was developed in the 1930’s by Theorists, Edwin Sutherland, Robert Burgess, Ronald L.
Akers, and Daniel Glaser. These theorists developed the learning theory by recognizing patterns of criminal behaviors and the types of values that went along with criminals, the way they lived and communicated which they called differential association (Schmalleger, 2012. ) Another theorist that has helped in the development of theory is Albert Bandura. Bandura’s work emphasized reciprocal determinism, which focuses on how a person’s behavior, environment, and personal qualities all reciprocally influence each other. (“Learning-Theories. com”, 2012).
Bandura developed a model that involved the following steps. 1. Attention: In order for an individual to learn, they must be able to pay attention to the behavior being observed 2. Retention: In order for a person to use what they have seen they must have the ability to remember what they have seen. 3. Reproduction: in order for a person to re-produce the behavior they observer, they mush have the ability to organize their responses. This can be achieved with practice. 4. Motivation: the person must have a drive or a need to recreate the behavior they have observed.
Social Control Theory Social control theory is a theory that emphasizes the inhibiting effect of social and psychological integration with others whose potential negative response, surveillance, and expectations regulate or constrain criminal impulses (Schmalleger, 2012. ) In layman’s terms this theory is about looking at the world around us and identifying the triggers that causes some people to commit crimes but not others. Albert J. Reiss and Travis Hirschi first developed social control theory in the 1950’s (Newman, n. d. Reiss and Hirschi believed that understanding social learning would lead to a better understanding of social control. To do this Hirschi broke the theory down into four sub groups. 1. Direct social control:
The attempt to punish or get rid of the negative behaviors that are different form society’s norms. 2. Indirect social control: Identification by family or the government of bad influences and improper behavior. 3. Internal social control: The process of internalizing the norms of society and accepting them. A person accepts these norms and adapts their life to fit them. Newman, n. d. ) Importance to Criminology Both social process theory and social control theory are important to criminology because it helps create an understanding of the many connections between behavior, social interaction and crime. Social learning theory is important to criminology because this theory focuses on the behavior and how it is learned, it focuses on the connection with how both crime and behavior are processed and the impact that modeling and observational learning has in regards to crime being committed.
The social learning theory also shows the connection due to the interaction with others and the socialization process as a “result of group membership and the primary route through which learning occurs; also called interactions theory” (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 177). People, especially younger children, are learning daily from their role models and the environment. Any type of behavior display socially is learned primarily by observing and imitating the actions of others. The social behavior is also influenced by being rewarded and/or punished for these actions.
Social control theory is critical to criminology because of the strength and impacts a relationship or bond between people have. These relationships are influenced and shaped by behavior, personality and the environment they choose to surround themselves in. Direct social control is important for children, having a healthy family relationship and role models create a balance with social control. If a society works together to create positive support for each other it helps control the crime that is once influenced by negative activities and poor role models.
Examples of the Theory An example of the social process theory is watching how children respond to the adults and other children they are around. (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 180) A child who watches his parents smoke cigarettes may be told by the parent that they shouldn’t smoke but watching their parents smoke, a child is more likely to pick up the habit as an adult. It is a familiar process, that is not breaking any rules and in certain circles is an acceptable behavior.
In discussing criminality, subjects who do not want to conform or do not know how to conform to society are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. Individuals in gangs are an example of a group of individuals, who by coming together and having a common interest, become engaged in deviant activities. They have learned by acting out in a certain way will gain them acceptance from their peers. The social process theory can also have a negative effect on people because of the alienation they feel from others based on an emotional conflict the person may have.
This alienation can result in hostility that can manifest into violence behavior or socially non-accepted behavior. The lack of commitment the person feels toward creating any type of social bond will be reflected in the person’s actions as far as getting a job, continuing with educational pursuits or building a positive reputation. Conclusion The social process theories assert that crime is a product of one’s social environment. Additionally, this theory unlike others, helps to explain how otherwise normal individuals can and will turn to crime.
The social learning theory and the social control theory both highlight that criminality is not an innate behavior that we are born with but is rather the result of socialization and learning from one’s environment. One example of how individuals learn certain behaviors includes a parent smoking cigarettes in front of a young child. The child learns from this interaction that this behavior is socially acceptable and maybe even enjoyable. Ultimately, the social process theory is a contribution to the field of criminality that seeks to explain why criminal behavior occurs and why certain individuals commit crimes as opposed to others.