John Gotti Received More Publicity Any Crime Figure

Category: Anomie, Crime, Criminology
Last Updated: 07 Apr 2020
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Differential Association Theory Differential association theory was Sutherland's major sociological contribution to criminology; similar in importance to strain theory and social control theory. These theories all explain deviance in terms of the individual's social relationships. Sutherland's theory departs from the pathological perspective and biological perspective by attributing the cause of crime to the social context of individuals. "He rejected biological determinism and the extreme individualism of psychiatry, as well as economic explanations of crime.

His search for an alternative understanding of crime led to the development of differential association theory. In contrast to both classical and biological theories, differential association theory poses no obvious threats to the humane treatment of those identified as criminals. "(Gaylord, 1988:1) The principle of differential association asserts that a person becomes delinquent because of an "excess" of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law.

In other word, criminal behavior emerges when one is exposed to more social message favoring conduct than prosocial messages (Sutherland, 1947). Sutherland argued that the concept of differential association and differential social organization could be applied to the individual level and to aggregation (or group) level respectively. While differential association theory explains why any individual gravitates toward criminal behavior, differential social organization explains why crime rates of different social entities different from each other's.

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The first explicit statement of the theory of differential association appears in the 1939 edition of Principles of Criminology and in the fourth edition of it, he presented his final theory. His theory has 9 basic postulates. 1. Criminal behavior is learned. This means that criminal behavior is not inherited, as such; also the person who is not already trained in crime does not invent criminal behavior. 2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication. This communication is verbal in many cases but includes gestures. 3.

The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. Negatively, this means the impersonal communication, such as movies or newspaper play a relatively unimportant part in committing criminal behavior. 4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very simple; (b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes. 5. The specific direction of the motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable.

This different context of situation usually is found in US where culture conflict in relation to the legal code exists. 6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law. This is the principle of differential association. When people become criminal, they do so not only because of contacts with criminal patterns but also because of isolation from anticriminal patterns. Negatively, this means that association which are neutral so far as crime is concerned have little or no effect on the genesis of criminal behavior. . Differential association may vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity. Priority seems to be important principally through its selective influence and intensity has to do with such things as the prestige of the source of a criminal or anticriminal pattern and with emotional reactions related to the association. These modalities would be rated in quantitative form and mathematical ratio but development of formula in this sense has not been developed and would be very difficult. 8.

The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning. Negatively, this means that the learning of criminal behavior is not restricted to the process of imitation. A person who is seduced, for instance, learns criminal behavior by association, but this would not be ordinarily described as imitation. 9. While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values since non-criminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values.

Thieves generally steal in order to secure money, but likewise honest laborers work in order to money. The attempts to explain criminal behavior by general drives and values such as the money motive have been, and must completely to be, futile, since they explain lawful behavior as completely as they explain criminal behavior. They are similar to respiration, which is necessary for any behavior, but which does not differentiate criminal from noncriminal behavior. (Sutherland, 1974: 75-76)

In summary, he believed that an individual’s associations are determined in a general context of social organization (for instance, family income as a factor of determining residence of family and in many cases, delinquency rate is largely related to the rental value of houses) and thus differential group organization as an explanation of various crime rates is consistent with the differential association theory. (Sutherland, 1974: 77) Much of Sutherland’s theory relied upon the work of Chicago school theorists, Shaw and McKay (1931,1969).

According to Shaw and McKay, they found that "delinquency rates increased as one moved away from the center of the city, and ecological rates of delinquency remained stable over generations despite a complete turnover of ethnic composition and social disorganization explained the high rates of delinquency in the inner-city. " (Matsueda: 1988: 280) As a matter of fact, this statement requires qualification because once you pass through the zone in transition, delinquency rates drop as you move out towards the suburbs.

Criticism and Contemporary Views Many criticized Sutherland's differential association theory; supporters argued that criticism often resulted from misinterpretation of Sutherland's theory. Donald R. Cressey argued persuasively that many of the critiques were simply "literary errors" or misinterpretation on the part of the critics. For example, the theory was judged by critics to be invalid because not everyone who had come into contact with criminals became criminal as a result.

This misinterprets the theory's proposition that criminal behavior is learned through differential association (relative exposure to criminal and noncriminal patterns) not simply through any contact with persons who have violated the law. (Akers: 1996:229) However, Cressey also pointed out two major weaknesses of Sutherland's theory. the first problem was that the concept of "definitions" in the theory was not precisely defined, and the statement did not give good guidance on how to operationalize the ratio or "excess of definitions" favorable to criminal behavior over definitions unfavorable to criminal behavior.

The second real problem was that it left the learning process unspecified. There is virtually no clue in Sutherland's theory as to what in particular would be included in "all the mechanisms that are involved in any of other learning (Akers: 1996:229-230) Another important criticism argued that Sutherland's theory is a "cultural deviance" theory as a way of showing that it made wrong presumptions about human behavior and the role of culture in deviant behavior. Matsueda (1988) believed it "reduces his (Sutherland’s) theory to a caricature" and Bernard objected to the way in which the cultural deviance label has been applied to the original differential association and social learning revision"(Bernard and Snipes, 1995: Vold and Bernard, 1986: 227-229) But Akers denies this criticism as another misinterpretation of Sutherland's theory: According to this critique, differential association/social learning theory rests on the assumption that socialization is completely successful and that cultural variability is unlimited, cannot explain individual differences in deviance within the same group and applies only to group differences, has no way of explaining violation of norms to which the individual subscribes, and proposes culture as the single cause of crime. I conclude that the usual attribution of cultural deviance assumptions and explanation to differential association is based on misinterpretations. (Akers: 1996:229) Merton Theory

Like many sociological theories of crime, Robert Merton’s strain/anomie theory has advanced following the work of Emile Durkheim. In Merton’s theory anomie is very similar to the very meaning of the word strain, as he proposed anomie to be a situation in which societies inadvertently bring to bear pressure, or strain, on individuals that can lead to rule-breaking behavior. This pressure, or strain if you will, is caused by the discrepancy between culturally defined goals and the institutionalized means available to achieve these goals. To illustrate this Merton argues that the dominant cultural goal in the U. S is the acquisition of wealth, as a message was depicted that happiness often equated with material success which is often associated with wealth.

The socially accepted institutionalized manner of achieving these material goals was believed to be hard work and education, meaning it is widely believed that people who apply themselves to study and work will succeed financially and that those who do not succeed are labeled as either lazy or defective. According to Merton, the problem with this type of society is that the legitimate means for achieving material success are not uniformly distributed. In other words, those from wealthier backgrounds have considerably more access to legitimate means than do those who are economically disadvantaged. As a consequence, anomie, or strain, is generated and produces certain ‘modes of adaptation’, or (simply put) coping strategies, that the disadvantaged use to deal with the pressures that are brought to bear on them. Merton identifies five modes of adaptation: conformity, innovation, retreatism, ritualism, and rebellion.

According to Merton, the innovator is the most likely to engage in criminal behavior, as the innovator accepts the socially recognized goals of society, but reject the legitimate means to achieve these goals. Consequently, the innovator uses proceeds from crimes such as fraud, theft, and illegal drug dealing to access culturally defined goals. Critique of Strain/Anomie theory Although Merton’s Strain theory continues to play a role in the sociological theorization of crime today, there are limitations to this theory of crime that have been identified. The first critique of this theory, put forth by Albert Cohen, addressed the fact that there is an ample amount of crime/delinquent behavior that is “non-utilitarian, malicious, and negativistic” (O’Grady, 2011), which highlights that not all crimes are explicable using Merton’s theory.

Although Merton could explain crimes such as fraud and theft on the basis of innovation, he is unable to explain youth crimes that are often engaged in for social status rather than material acquisition. Furthermore, Strain/Anomie theory fails to adequately address issues such as race and gender. Additionally, Strain/Anomie theory is unable to explain the phenomena of white collar crime. [edit] Robert DubinRobert Dubin (1959) viewed deviance as a function of society, disputing the assumption that the deviant adaptations to situations of anomie are necessarily harmful to society. For example, an individual in the ritualistic adaptation is still playing by the rules and taking part in society. The only deviance lies in abandoning one or more of its culturally prescribed goals.

Dubin argued that Merton's focus on the relationship between society’s emphasized goals, and institutionalized prescribed means was inadequate. Dubin felt that a further distinction should be made between cultural goals, institutional means and institutional norms because individuals perceive norms subjectively, interpreting them and acting upon them differently. The personal educational experiences, values, and attitudes may predispose an individual to internalize a norm one way. Another individual with different experiences may legitimately internalize the same norm differently. Both may be acting rationally in their own terms, but the resulting behaviour is different.

Dubin also extended Merton’s typology to fourteen, with particular interest in Innovation and Ritualism. Merton proposed that the innovative response to strain was accepting the goal, but rejecting the institutionally prescribed means of achieving the goal. The implication seemed to be that that not only did the individual reject the means, he must actively innovate illegitimate means as a substitute which would not always be true. Dubin also thought that a distinction should be made between the actual behaviour of the actor and the values that drove the behaviour. Instead of Innovation, Dubin proposed Behavioural Innovation and Value Innovation.

Similarly, in Ritualism, he proposed Behavioural Ritualism and Value Ritualism (Dubin, 1959: 147-149). Merton (1959: 177-189) commented on Dubin’s revisions, claiming that although Dubin did make valid contributions, they took the focus off deviancy. [edit] Robert AgnewIn 1992, Robert Agnew asserted that strain theory could be central in explaining crime and deviance, but that it needed revision so that it was not tied to social class or cultural variables, but re-focused on norms. To this end, Agnew proposed a general strain theory that is neither structural nor interpersonal but rather individual and emotional, paying especial attention to an individual's immediate social environment.

He argued that an individual's actual or anticipated failure to achieve positively valued goals, actual or anticipated removal of positively valued stimuli, and actual or anticipated presentation of negative stimuli all result in strain. Anger and frustration confirm negative relationships. The resulting behavior patterns will often be characterized by more than their share of unilateral action because an individual will have a natural desire to avoid unpleasant rejections, and these unilateral actions (especially when antisocial) will further contribute to an individual's alienation from society. If particular rejections are generalized into feelings that the environment is unsupportive, more strongly negative emotions may motivate the individual to engage in crime.

This is most likely to be true for younger individuals, and Agnew suggested that research focus on the magnitude, recency, duration, and clustering of such strain-related events to determine whether a person copes with strain in a criminal or conforming manner. Temperament, intelligence, interpersonal skills, self-efficacy, the presence of conventional social support, and the absence of association with antisocial (e. g. , criminally inclined) age and status peers are chief among the factors Agnew identified as beneficial. [edit] Akers' operationalization of Agnew's theory: Sources of strainAkers (2000: 159) has operationalized Agnew's version of the Strain Theory, as follows: Failure to achieve positively valued goals: he gap between expectations and actual achievements will derive from short- and long-term personal goals, and some of those goals will never be realized because of unavoidable circumstances including both inherent weaknesses and opportunities blocked by others; and the difference between the view of what a person believes the outcome should be and what actually results increases personal disappointment. Frustration is not necessarily due to any outside interference with valued goals, but a direct effect on anger, and has indirect effects on serious crime and aggression. Agnew and White (1992) have produced empirical evidence suggesting that general strain theory was positively able to relate delinquents and drug users, and that the strongest effect on the delinquents studied was the delinquency of their peers.

They were interested in drug use because it did not appear to represent an attempt to direct anger or escape pain, but "is used primarily to manage the negative affect caused by strain. " Up to this point, strain theory had been concerned with types of strain rather than sources of strain whereas the stress of events can be shown to interfere with the achievement of natural expectations or just and fair outcomes. These may be significant events or minor "hassles" that accumulate and demoralize over time. Frustration leads to dissatisfaction, resentment, and anger — all the emotions customarily associated with strain in criminology. It is natural for individuals to feel distress when they are denied just rewards for their efforts when compared to the efforts and rewards given to similar others for similar outcomes.

Agnew (1992) treats anger as the most critical emotion since it is almost always directed outwards and is often related to breakdowns in relationships. Research shows that the stress/crime relationship appears to hold regardless of guilt feelings, age, and capacity to cope when events occur simultaneously or in close succession. [edit] Zhang JieThe strain theory of suicide postulates that suicide is usually preceded by psychological strains. A psychological strain is formed by at least two stresses or pressures, pushing the individual to different directions. A strain can be a consequence of any of the four conflicts: differential values, discrepancy between aspiration and reality, relative deprivation, and lack of coping skills for a crisis.

Psychological strains in the form of all the four sources have been tested and supported with a sample of suicide notes in the United States and in rural China through psychological autopsy studies. The strain theory of suicide forms a challenge to the psychiatric model popular among the suicidologists in the world. The strain theory of suicide is based on the theoretical frameworks established by previous sociologists, e. g. Durkheim (1951), Merton (1957), and Agnew (2006), and preliminary tests have been accomplished with some American (Zhang and Lester 2008) and Chinese data (Zhang 2010; Zhang, Dong, Delprino, and Zhou 2009; Zhang, Wieczorek, Conwell, and Tu 2011).

There could be four types of strain that precede a suicide, and each can be derived from specific sources. A source of strain must consist of two, and at least two, conflicting social facts. If the two social facts are non-contradictory, there would be no strain. Strain Source 1: Differential Values When two conflicting social values or beliefs are competing in an individual’s daily life, the person experiences value strain. The two conflicting social facts are competing personal beliefs internalized in the person’s value system. A cult member may experience strain if the mainstream culture and the cult religion are both considered important in the cult member’s daily life.

Other examples include the second generation of immigrants in the United States who have to abide by the ethnic culture rules enforced in the family while simultaneously adapting to the American culture with peers and school. In China, rural young women appreciate gender egalitarianism advocated by the communist government, but at the same time, they are trapped in cultural sexual discrimination as traditionally cultivated by Confucianism. Another example that might be found in developing countries is the differential values of traditional collectivism and modern individualism. When the two conflicting values are taken as equally important in a person’s daily life, the person experiences great strain. When one value is more important than the other, there is then little or no strain. Strain Source 2: Reality vs. Aspiration

If there is a discrepancy between an individual’s aspiration or a high goal and the reality the person has to live with, the person experiences aspiration strain. The two conflicting social facts are one’s splendid ideal or goal and the reality that may prevent one from achieving it. An individual living in the United States expects to be very rich or at least moderately successful as other Americans do, but in reality the means to achieve the goal is not equally available to the person because of his/her social status or any other reasons. Aspirations or goals can be a college a person aims to get in, an ideal girl a boy wants to marry, and a political cause a person strives for, etc. If the reality is far from the aspiration, the person experiences strain. Another example might be from rural China.

A young woman aspiring to equal opportunity and equal treatment may have to live within the traditional and Confucian reality, exemplified by her family and village, which interferes with that goal. The larger the discrepancy between aspiration and reality, the greater the strain will be. Strain Source 3: Relative Deprivation In the situation where an extremely economically poor individual realizes some other people of the same or similar background are leading a much better life, the person experiences deprivation strain. The two conflicting social facts are one’s own miserable life and the perceived richness of comparative others. A person living in absolute poverty, where there is no comparison with others, does not necessarily feel bad, miserable, or deprived.

On the other hand, if the same poor person understands that other people like him/her live a better life, he or she may feel deprived because of these circumstances. In an economically polarized society where the rich and poor live geographically close to each other, people are more likely to feel this discrepancy. In today’s rural China, television, newspaper, magazines, and radio have brought home to rural youths how relatively affluent urban life is. Additionally, those young people who went to work in the cities (dagong) and returned to the village during holidays with luxury materials and exciting stories make the relative deprivation even more realistically perceived. Increased perception of deprivation indicates relatively greater strain for individuals. Strain Source 4: Deficient Coping

Facing a life crisis, some individuals are not able to cope with it, and then they experience coping strain. The two conflicting social facts are life crisis and the appropriate coping capacity. All people who have experienced crises do not experience strain. A crisis may be a pressure or stress in daily life, and those individuals who are not able to cope with the crisis have strain. Such crises as loss of money, loss of status, loss of face, divorce, death of a loved one, etc. may lead to serious strain in the person who does not know how to cope with these negative life events. A high school boy who is constantly bullied and ridiculed by peers may experience great strain if he does not know how to deal with the situation.

Likewise, a Chinese rural young woman who is frequently wronged by her mother-in-law may have strain if she is not psychologically ready to cope with a different situation by seeking support from other family members and the village. The less capable the coping skills, the stronger the strain when a crisis takes place. [edit] ReferencesO'Grady W. (2011). "Crime in Canadian Context. " Strain/anomie theory 92-94 Agnew, R. (1992). "Foundation for a General Strain Theory. " Criminology 30(1), 47-87 Agnew, R. & White, H. (1992). "An Empirical Test of General Strain Theory. " Criminology 30(4): 475-99. Agnew, R. (1997). "The Nature and Determinants of Strain: Another Look at Durkheim and Merton. " Pp. 7-51 in The Future of Anomie Theory, edited by R. Agnew and N. Passas. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Agnew, R. (2009). "Revitalizing Merton: General Strain Theory. " Advances in Criminological Theory: The Origins of American Criminology, Volume 16, edited by F. T. Cullen, F. Adler, C. L. Johnson, and A. J. Meyer. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Akers, R. (2000). Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and Application. Los Angeles: Roxbury. Cloward, R. (1959). "Illegitimate Means, Anomie and Deviant Behavior. " American Sociological Review 24(2): 164- 76. Cloward, R. & Ohlin, L. (1960). Delinquency and Opportunity. NY: Free Press. Cohen, A. (1955). Delinquent Boys.

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