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The Social Learning Theory of Crime and Deviance

Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

Social learning theory is a general theory of criminal and deviant behaviors that has found consistent and robust empirical support for more than four decades (see Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Hirschi, 1969). The generality and validity of the theory has through those years become increasingly recognized. In a recent major compilation on the status of criminological theory, social learning theory along with control theories (Akers & Jensen, 2006; Akers & Sellers, 2009) and strain theories (Agnew, 1992, 2006) were placed as the “core” theories in the field (Cullen, Wright, & Blevins, 2006). Moreover, according to the latest survey of criminologists, social learning theory is the most frequently endorsed explanation of both minor delinquent and serious criminal behavior (Ellis, Johnathon, & Walsh et al., 2008).

Keywords

  • Social Learning
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Delinquent Behavior
  • Deviant Behavior
  • Restorative Justice

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This version of social learning theory is an integration of Sutherland’s (1947) sociological theory of differential association and behavioral principles of conditioning and reinforcement from psychology originally formulated by Robert Burgess and Ronald L. Akers (1966) as “differential association-reinforcement” theory and as it has been developed since then by Akers and others (see Akers, 1973, 1985, 1998; Akers, Krohn, Lanza-Kaduce, & Radosevich, 1979; Akers & Sellers, 2004; Jensen & Akers, 2003). It is this social learning theory of crime and deviance that is typically referred to in criminology and sociology of deviance. However, it should be noted that social learning principles have been used to explain criminal and delinquent behavior as well as applied to treatment and prevention by other social behaviorists working with explanatory models that are compatible with and similar to social learning theory as reviewed here (see Andrews & Bonta, 2003; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992).

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Akers, R.L., Jennings, W.G. (2009). The Social Learning Theory of Crime and Deviance. In: Krohn, M., Lizotte, A., Hall, G. (eds) Handbook on Crime and Deviance. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0245-0_6

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