Sample Essay

The concept of differential association may be seen as arising out of the opposition, on the individual level, to notions of crime as a product of personal pathology, and on the social level, to crime as a product of social disorganization. Differential association theory maintains that a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law. Further, that such definition is learnt in a normal learning process. Crime is not a product of a lack of social training – rather it is acquired in an identical fashion to non-criminal behavior. This learning includes: techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometime very simple; Secondly, “the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes”[1].

This learning process occurs because of association with other persons – the principal part of which is in intimate personal groups. Negatively, this means the impersonal agencies of communication, such as movies and newspapers, play a relatively unimportant part in the genesis of criminal behavior[2]. The efficacy of such a learning process is a function of the frequency, duration, priority, and intensity of differential association. The theory does not say that persons become criminals because of associations with criminal behavior patterns; it says that they become criminals because of an overabundance of such associations, in comparison with associations with anti-criminal behavior pattern.

 [1] Sutherland and Cressey, (1966) Principles of Criminology,Philadelphia: J.

P. Lippincott. P: 56.

[2] Walters W. (1992) Foundations of Criminal Science: The Development of Knowledge.New York: Praeger Publishers. p.126.

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