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Theories of Deviance

Main Theories of Deviance

Biographies of Deviant Theorists

Edwin H. Sutherland, Differential Association
Donald Cressey, Differential Association
Ronald Akers, Social Learning Theory
Gresham Sykes, Techniques of Neutralization
David Matza, Techniques of Neutralization
Michael Gottfredson, Low Self Control Theory
Travis Hirschi, Control Theories


Sociological Theories of Deviance

Learning Theories:
Differential Association Theory: Sutherland and Cressey The main purpose of this theory is that people learn criminal attitudes and behaviors from close and trusted personal friends. A criminal career then develops if anti-social values or behaviors are not matched or exceeded by conventional attitudes or behaviors. It also evaluates how values are formed through social interactions. Having more delinquent friends makes you more likely to become delinquent because you are exposed to more definitions or attitudes towards law and social rules. Some problems come into play with this theory such that the origin of the delinquent values are not explained, it assumes that people are highly influenced by people around them, and whether or not a person or their delinquent friends came first, (chicken vs. the egg question.)
Social Learning Theory: Ronald Akers This is a more updated version of Sutherland and Cressey's more simplistic theory. Once a person has started to commit a crime, continued participation depends on the behaviors that are "reinforced." This can occur through interactions with people or other forms of media such as music or television.
Techniques of Neutralization: Sykes and Matza This critiques the social learning theory in saying that delinquent behavior does not arise from deviant values and norms. They ask why people sometimes violate the laws in which they believe and that norms are qualified guides for action. These techniques of neutralization include denial of responsibility (I couldn't help the accident and it was not my fault), denial of injury (He could afford it because he had insurance), denial of victim (he got what he deserved), condemnation of condemners (judges have bias)and appeal to higher loyalties (I did it for my children.)
Control Theories:
Delinquent Control Theory: Hirschi This theory says that people commit crime because they have not developed strong social bonds in society, and when these bonds weaken, a person is more likely to commit crime. These bonds are:
Attachment: Being sensitive to the opinions of others(close friends and family)
Commitment: Investing time in certain activities, such as school, work and sports. The more time you invest in these activities, the less likely you are to commit crime.
Involvement: To how much extent a person is involved in conventional activities, such as having no time to coomit a crime because they are swamped with schoolwork and two jobs
Belief: The extent to which people believe they should adhere to the laws of society. When the bond of belief is weakened, people will be less likely to abide by social rules.
Theory of Low Self Control: Gottfredson & Hirschi This says that people who commit crime have personality characteristics of low self control, having characteristics of being overly physical, insensitivity, impulsivity, and having high risk-taking abilities. Low self control is in effect in all activities that the person commits, even non-criminal acts such as accidents. There also is a low predictability on when people with low self control will commit these acts. Having low self control also begins at a fairly young age in childhood, and progressively gets stronger as a person ages. Also, among people with low self control, there is not one criminal act that is done more often than another.

Summary of More Deviant Theories |

Created for Sociology 305 by Lauren Dannunzio, Rachel Rosenblatt & Mandy Seibel