Despite the wide empirical support differential association theory has enjoyed over the years, the theory is not beyond reproach. First, Sutherland failed to adequately explain why budding outlaws turn to delinquent peers rather than to their parents or more conforming peers in deriving definitions of appropriate conduct. Second, Sutherland postulates a certain degree of specificity in crime based on the theory that criminals learn both the motivation and techniques of crime by way of their associations. Unfortunately for differential association theory, research has fairly conclusively demonstrated that crime specialization is largely a myth.
Thirdly, it is always possible that criminal associations are the result, rather than the cause, of criminal involvement. Finally, it has been argued that critical hypotheses and other features of Sutherland’s theory cannot be empirically proved, although many aspects of the theory have been successfully tested.