ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Applying Criminological Theory to Crime Trends

Updated on October 3, 2015

Learning Theory

Learning theory is based upon the principles of behavioral psychology. Behavioral psychology posits that a person's behavior is learned and maintained by its consequences, or reward value. Some theories in criminology believe that criminality is a function of individual socialization, how individuals have been influenced by their experiences or relationships with family relationships, peer groups, teachers, church, authority figures, and other agents of socialization. These are called learning theories, and specifically social learning theories, because criminology never really embraced the psychological determinism inherent in most learning psychologies.

Sutherland (1883-1950) is called the father of American criminology. In 1924, he wrote a book called Criminology, the first fully sociological textbook in the field. He first put forth his theory in the second edition of 1934. Sutherland states that criminal behavior is learned behavior and learned via social interaction with others. This theory mostly talked about of the Interactionist theory of deviance. This theory focuses on how individuals learn how to become criminals, but does not concern itself with why they become criminals. They learn how to commit criminal acts; they learn motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes. It grows socially easier for the individuals to commit a crime. (Trevor Millington and Mark Sutherland Williams 2007)

In the late 1960s, new social learning theories were developed which dropped Sutherland's point that learning criminal behavior takes place in primary groups (Burgess & Akers 1968). According to Akers (1985), people are first indoctrinated into deviant behavior by differential association with deviant peers. Then, through differential reinforcement, they learn how to reap rewards and avoid punishment by reference to the actual or anticipated consequences of given behaviors. These consequences are the social and nonsocial reinforcements that provide a support system for those with criminal careers or persistent criminality. Structural conditions affect a person's differential reinforcements. Criminal knowledge is gained through reflection over past experience. Potential offenders consider the outcomes of their past experiences, anticipate future rewards and punishments, and then decide which acts will be profitable and which ones will be dangerous. This theory has been tested fairly successfully on teenage deviance such as tobacco, drug, and alcohol use (Akers et al. 1979). It tends to explain 50-60% of the differences between users and abstainers using measurement items like: perceptions of actual or anticipated praise or absence of praise; and the total good things felt from deviance minus the total bad things felt. Differential reinforcement theory tends to fit well with rational choice theory because they both explain the decision making process involved in developing the motivation, attitudes, and techniques necessary to commit crime. It can explain solitary offending (since learning is sometimes solitary). Like all learning theories, it claims to be a general theory of crime.


Control Theory

Social-control theory, developed by American criminologist Travis Hirschi in the late 1960s, is a variant of subcultural theories because it emphasizes the acquisition of values. However, social-control theory stands the principal question of criminology on its head. While most theories attempt to explain why certain people or classes of people become criminals, social-control theory asks why most people do not commit crimes. (Travis Hirschi 1990)

Social-control theory assumes that everyone has a predisposition toward criminal behavior. Whether or not a person acts on those predispositions depends on whether he or she has ties to groups that impart values opposing crime, such as the family, school, the community, and volunteer organizations. People with such attachments initially hold certain values because they fear sanction from these groups. Gradually, however, the values are internalized and followed because of a belief that to do otherwise would be morally wrong. People without these attachments are not deterred by threat of group sanction nor do they ultimately internalize legitimate norms, and thus they are more likely to engage in criminal activity. (Travis Hirschi 1990)

Substantial empirical evidence supports social-control theory. Numerous studies have shown that known delinquents and non delinquents differ with respect to their attachments to legitimate groups as well as their commitment to legitimate values.


Conflict Theory

Conflict theory holds that society is based on conflict between competing interest groups; for example, rich against poor, management against labor, whites against minorities, men against women, adults against children, etc. These kind of dog-eat-dog theories also have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s, and are characterized by the study of power and powerlessness.

Karl Marx’s conflict theory claims that crime is inevitable in capitalist societies, as invariably certain groups will become marginalised and unequal. In seeking equality, members of these groups may often turn to crime in order to gain the material wealth that apparently brings equality in capitalist economic states. Marx, in his conflict theory, gives priority to economic inequalities (Karl Marx 2000). In his view, all societies are marked by the conflict of social classes, sometime overt, sometimes hidden, but always the major source of stability and change in society. Those who control the productive property of any society (land, factories, and equipment) use their economic power to dominate other spheres culture, religion, education, politics, and certainly the criminal justice system. There may be laws that benefit everybody, but mostly "the gneral interest" is a fiction that covers up class interest. "Justice" and "fair play" are public relations for a system that actually protects private property and treats transgressions against the upper classes much more seriously than transgressions against the lower classes.

There are many interpretations about what Marx said or meant. The two-class model of social stratification, while still popular as an explanation of fiscal crisis, is today seen as a form of vulgar Marxism. Similarly, only instrumental Marxism views law as a tool of the ruling class. Structural Marxism denies deliberate intention to the ruling class and believes it rules by ideas or conspiracies. The FrankfurtSchool incorporated Freudian psychoanalysis into Marxism. In addition, neo-Marxism makes use of the fact that Marx implied most criminals were lumpenproletariat who could not be counted on for revolutionary purposes. Radical criminology or critical criminology is a branch of conflict theory, drawing its ideas from a basic Marxist perspective. For Karl Marx (1818-1883), modern capitalist societies were controlled by a wealthy few (bourgeoisie) who controlled the means of production (factories, raw materials, equipment, technology, etc.) while everyone else (the proletariat) was reduced to the lot of being wage laborers. While Marx himself never really addressed in detail the criminal justice system’s specific role in keeping such a system in place, from his writings a radical tradition has emerged. From this perspective, certain types of crime take on a different character. Stealing can be seen as an attempt to take away from the rich. Sellin referred to the like as “social banditry.” Protest-related violence may actually be the start of proto-revolutionary movements, ultimately leading to a workers’ revolt and the establishment of a just society.


Reference

The Proceeds of Crime: Law and Practice of Restraint, Confiscation, Condemnation, and Forfeiture by Trevor Millington and Mark Sutherland Williams; Oxford University Press, USA; 2 edition (April 27, 2007), 18-78.


A General Theory of Crime by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi; Stanford University Press; 1 edition (March 1, 1990), 23-28.



Theories of Surplus Value by Karl Marx; Prometheus Books (July 2000), 9-11.


Theory of Crime

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)