Differential Association Theory Criticisms. ‘Differential Association theory is a criminology theory that looks at the acts of the criminal as learned behaviors. Edwin H. Sutherland is credited with the development of the Differential Association theory in 1939. Sutherland, a sociologist, and professor for most of his life developed the Differential Association theory to explain how it was that criminals came to commit acts of deviant behavior. With the fourth edition of his book, Principles of criminology, in 1947 Sutherland finalizes his theory that deviant behavior is socialized through a lack of opposition to such behavior. In his theory, Sutherland assesses’ that criminal behavior is not to be explained away by deeming the criminal ‘simple.’ As do most social learning theories, Differential Association theory, believes that the behaviors of an individual are influenced and shaped by other individuals they associate with. The primary reference group is that of the nuclear family, which the individual lives and grows up with. It is believed that these interactions formulate the individual’s understanding of societal norms and values. It is then assumed that if the individual is capable of learning what is acceptable in society, they are also not capable of learning what is considered unacceptable.

Differential Association Theory Criticisms

  1. An Overreliance on Association
  2. Intimate Association May Not Always …….
  3. Lack of ,,,,,,,,

Differential Association Theory Criticisms

Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with others in a process of communication.

From the moment an individual is born, they are being conditioned to the norms of society. They learn gender roles through their interactions with their parents and observations of gender-specific characteristics. Interaction and observations are the same methods of communication through which criminals learn their deviance. Criminal behavior, Differential Association theory argues, is more prevalent in individuals who associate and interact with individuals who exhibit criminalized to act defiantly. Pfohl writes in his book, Images of deviance and social control, that the likelihood of deviant behavior could be determined by calculating the difference between favorable and unfavorable associations (1994).

Differential associations vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity.

Referring to the contact an individual must have with proponents of criminal behavior; this principle suggests that there is a varying, but direct, relationship that affects how often, for what length of time, how important, and how intense deviant behavior occurs.

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