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Term Papers On Findings Differential Association Theory

Other studies, which do not directly pertain to correctional education, test Differential Association, which is one of the stronger possible theoretical underpinnings of correctional education. Andrews (1980) 1973 study of inmates and community group interactions revealed that when inmates interacted with individuals from outside the correctional setting their attitudes toward criminal activities changed. In Orcutt's 1987 study of marijuana use and learning amongst undergraduates at the University of Minnesota and Florida State University; a positive relationship was found between the number of friends who use marijuana and an individual's "positive" opinion of use. Orcutt (1980) states, "in contrast to respondents with negative definitions of the drug, the patterning of use among those who are positively motivated is strongly related to number of friends who use". The results of Orcutt's (1980) study found that twenty-six percent of individuals who had zero friends also had positive definitions of marijuana use. However, when an individual had four friends who used marijuana, the individual's positive definition toward marijuana rose to ninety five percent. Akers (1998) Boys Town Study revealed much the same results as Orcutt's study. Akers (1998) focused on the attitudes of juveniles' alcohol and marijuana use. Through his research Akers discovered that 59% of juveniles were influenced to use alcohol as a result of peers and 61% of juveniles were influenced to use marijuana as a result of peers. Akers (1998) notes that: "Through these processes the individual learns attitudes, orientations, or evaluative knowledge that are favorable or unfavorable to using drugs definitions, as well as the behavior needed to acquire and ingest drugs in a way that produces effects. The more individuals define use as good, permissible, or excusable, rather than holding to general or negative attitudes toward drugs, the more likely they are to become users".

Orcutt (1980) also cites the results of Becker's 1963 study of marijuana and number of friends who used. In Becker's study individuals had to learn "the physical technique of smoking properly, the would-be user must also learn perceptual technique that make it possible to recognize and categorize ambiguous symptoms of intoxication as a marijuana 'high'". In Becker's study, learning plays the major role in how an individual smokes marijuana. Dull (1983) also found that adults learned how to use drugs within intimate personal groups. Of the 1,899 respondents in this study, fifty-three percent of the respondent indicated that they had four or more friends with whom they had smoked marijuana. Dull (1983) states, "we now have reason to believe that this variable learning is equally important in understanding adult drug behavior". From both studies it is possible to see the role that learning plays in acting out and taking part in criminal acts.

These studies on the whole lend evidence to the propositions of Differential Association Theory. In each of these studies the respective authors showed that the acts and attitudes of committing deviant behavior were learned within personal groups. As the number of deviant relationships increased, so did the degree of agreement with committing the acts. Therefore, the individual received more influence to commit the deviant act of smoking marijuana as a result of the number and the intensity the individual has with others who commit the deviant act.

Evaluation of Social Control Theory

In the course of Hirschi's research on adolescent and delinquency, using the Richmond Youth Project, the results of his study did not support his theory. Hirschi discovered two major flaws; (1) the involvement with delinquent companions and (2) an overestimation in the significance of involvement in conventional activities. In conjunction with his findings, Hirschi's theory takes delinquency for granted. Other authors have pointed out weaknesses concerning Hirschi's original work. Wiatrowski et al. (1981) argue that Hirschi's theory suffers from other shortcomings. Fist, Hirschi does not consider how all four elements might act simultaneously on the individual. Secondly, Wiatrowski et al. (1981) contend that the four elements in Hirschi's theory are not well delineated. Thirdly, the concept of bonds in Hirschi's theory only contains four elements. Hirschi does not include any other aspect of bonds that would broaden his overall theory. Lastly, Hirschi does not incorporate the constructs, i.e. family, socioeconomic level, and ability, that exert control upon the individual before that are weakened. While Hirschi's theory is broad in scope, it lacks the ability to define the particular mechanisms that cause crime.

As Matsueda (1982) points out "put positively control theory maintains that persons conform to legal codes because they are bonded to society." Therefore, delinquency is a given motivational factor and is not considered an explanatory variable. As a result, there is only one conventional moral order and motivation for committing criminal acts that are non-variant amongst all individuals. Matsueda and Heimer (1987) note that Hirschi's theory, unlike Sutherland's Differential Association, "denies the existence of normative conflicts and ignores the importance of motives for delinquency".

Evaluation of Differential Association Theory

Sutherland's Differential Association Theory has also met with criticism. Many authors argue that the theory is not empirically testable. Matsueda (1982) notes, "perhaps the most damaging criticism of differential association theory argues that a person's ratio of learned behavior patterns cannot be determined accurately". It is true that the number of definitions that an individual is exposed to is immeasurable since each individual perceives acts of criminality differently. More specifically, the perceptions and judgment that each individual makes regarding criminal acts cannot be reliably measured and reproduced every time the individual is exposed to the criminal act.

A second criticism of Differential Association is its explanatory power to several different criminal acts. Sutherland and Cressey (1966) note that "at least ten scholars have speculated that some kinds of criminal behavior are exceptional to the theory...the theory does not apply to 'naïve check forgers,' white collar criminals, irrational and impulsive criminals, and 'situational' offenders". Yet, Sutherland and Cressey (1966) observe that these criticisms are instead proposals for research between Differential Association and various types of criminal behavior.

Thirdly, there is always the possibility for a spurious relationship between a cause and effect relationship if a theory is untested. With regard to Differential Association there remains the possibility that the theory "does not take adequately take into account the 'personality traits,' 'personality factors,' or 'psychological variables' in criminal behavior" (Sutherland and Cressey 1966) of an individual. This possibility of spuriousness between individual perceptions and learning criminal acts is directly related to an individuals perceptions and the inability of researchers to measure Sutherland's key concept of "definitions." Even with these criticisms, Differential Association Theory provides a broad mechanism to explain that criminal and anti-criminal behaviors are learned. Sutherland and Cressey (1966) state:

"It also seems safe to conclude that differential association is not a precise statement of the process by which one becomes a criminal. However,The idea that criminality is a consequence of an excess of intimate association with criminal behavior patterns is valuable because, for example, it negates assertions that deviation from norms is simply a product of being emotionally insecure or living in a broken home, and then indicates in a general way why only some emotionally insecure persons and only some persons from broken homes commit crime. Also, it directs attention to the idea that an efficient explanation of individual conduct is consistent with explanations of epidemiologist". Therefore, Differential Association Theory's broad application allows it to be applied as an explanation for criminal or anti-criminal activities.

By: College Research Papers