Akers’ social learning theory

In what specific ways does Akers’ social learning theory build upon Sutherland’s theory of differential association? Do you think that social learning theory is an improvement over differential association theory? Why? From your own understanding of the causes of crime that is based upon your personal experience, do you think that social learning theory can guide current research? In what way?

Sutherland’s theory of differential association is conditional upon conflict between opposed social groups, over who gets to control what behaviors are considered or not. Behavior is not necessarily deviant or moral in and of itself. The deviancy of behavior is relative to the definition used by the social group in power at that moment in time. As a theory Sutherland’s idea was interesting but there was no real way to measure and analyze it.

Akers’ theory of social learning states that people learn deviant behavior by observing and learning from the social factors in their day to day lives. Aker’s didn’t focus on defining specific behaviors as deviant. He was more interested in discussing how people learn those behaviors. Akers went beyond the theory and developed a theory that if put in place would yield measurable results that could be used by sociologists to combat crime. His theories could also be used to discourage and limit the types of social environments that encouraged anti-social and deviant behavior. Another way Akers built upon Sutherland’s theory was by introducing the idea that behaviors could be enforced or discouraged. All experiences were not equal in the formation of members of society. Though certain negative factors might be a reality in the life of the individual other factors if introduces and maintained in that individual’s life could counterbalance the negative factors.

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