Differential association theory is a theory that tries to explain various occurrences in the society setup. This theory argues that many criminal behaviors or the desire to commit a crime are greatly influenced by interaction between individuals. As they interact, they tend to learn the methods and develop attitudes towards negative behaviors. This theory mainly tries to explain how people become criminals but doesn’t point out clearly as to how they become such. The process of becoming a criminal can be blamed on the transformations in the society. Changing way of life causes many individuals in a given society setup to learn how crimes are committed, they become motivated, and then eventually they get the drive to commit the crime.
Sutherland in his theory found his idea on the way individuals develop in a societal setting. He argues that people constantly undergo a self-constructing process where they learn many things among them being criminal behaviors. He also points out that individuals’ lives are influenced by their life experiences. They then use these experiences as a basis to decide what they will become in the future. People tend to respond differently to the same situations, such as a child who has been abused by his parents may opt to be bad to everyone while another child in the same situation may opt to treat another person well and promise himself to never treat another person the way he was treated.
According to this theory, a person indulges in criminal behaviors after critical analysis of the benefits associated with doing what is legal and those associated with illegal activities. This is mostly influenced by the presence of the members of society who engage in crime. Sutherland doesn’t completely ignore the fact that there are other factors that lead an individual committing a crime. Things like hunger and poverty have also been found to be a cause of criminal activities. Basically, the greatest motivation to commit crime is the need for money and gain.
Sutherland’s theory has been criticized for being based on assumptions. It points out that when a person interacts with criminals, he would be tempted to indulge in such activities. This might not be true since in the society setup people interact with criminals in their day-to-day lives but very few, if any, resort to crime. Interaction can be a source of help to those committing criminal activities. It is not necessarily true that one becomes a criminal by having criminals as one’s friends.
The greatest part of the Sutherland’s theory appears to be based on social influences for one to become a criminal, but it is evident that there are other major factors that fuel criminal behaviors. These include use of drugs which is seen to be the greatest source of criminal behaviors. This means that social grounds are just a simple cause of the development of criminal behaviors. We have seen how youths interacting with criminals have positively impacted on their lives. By indicating that interaction is a cause of criminal activities, it means that criminals must be isolated from the society. However, if such a measure was to be adopted, it would send the whole world into clashes. At least the theory should try to expound on how interaction can be of positive influence, though it is not disputed that some may still turn to crime during that time.
Sutherland clearly points out that crime learning starts in the groups which one associates with closely. This is true because as one becomes too close to a certain group, one develops trust to them and feels what comes out of the group. This trust is usually misused and some group members may take advantage of it. On the other hand, groups are formed by friends and mostly those with the same interests. There is no way a group can be formed by a staunch Christian and a thief. Group members must always have something in common. Therefore, no one would learn criminal behavior from any group, unless they are interested and if one is interested in criminal behavior, they will do anything to indulge in the same.
The general strain theory has been in use for over ten years now. This theory, like any other theory, is used for explaining the cause and growth of crime rate. It has been borrowed from the social strain theory that tries to indentify various social structures leading to the development of criminals. This theory has practically been used by many criminologists since it provides a detailed view on why majority of youth’s resorts to criminal actions. This theory views the effect of the social relationships negatively. It also views crime as a way to satisfy the social strain.
This theory seems to be based on one side of the relationship, i.e. the negative side. According to Robert Agnew, this theory is not complete without the two parts that he included. These are the strain developed when somebody either takes or tries to take the only motivation that one values, and the strain that is developed when there is a presence of negative motivation or there is a threat of one developing.
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The first strain that is caused by a threat of failed motivation is all about developing a hindrance in achieving one’s goals. This might happen when one has very high goals to achieve but in the real sense he/she is achieving very little. According to Robert, this can be a clear motivation for such an individual to indulge in criminal activities in order to quench their desires. For example a student may have a desire to achieve good grades in school and in spite of how hard he/she works, he fails to get them. This may trigger him to use some other unacceptable ways in order to attain good grades. As per him, such strain occurs from failing to achieve a very highly valued target.
The second kind of strain is much worse compare to the first one due to the fact that it can’t be controlled as the person in question isn’t able to lower the priority of a desire. Unlike the differential theory this theory is clearer on the causes of crime. Due to being in a situation where personal motivations are threatened, people would try to react more defiantly compared to when they are doing so because of peer influence or a process that they have learnt.
Causes of Crime and Delinquency
Crime and delinquency are the problems that the world is trying to fight with. Crime rates among the youth are raising compared to those among the older people in the society. This leaves a question in the minds of the criminologists. Generally, crime rates can be linked to the level of poverty, use of drugs and bad peer influence.
Poverty, or just sheer lack of what one wants in life, causes one to think of a way that they can resolve their financial problems. This creates human strain. Many people today have very high aspirations that they would want to achieve but they are always frustrated by the fact that they are not able to achieve them with what they earn. This causes frustrations in the lives of such people and they develop reasoning that however hard they work, they will never fulfill their goals. This causes them to find another way of reaching their set goals, indulging into criminal behaviors being among them.
When facing a situation like this, other people, become angry and stop working hard. They then choose to indulge in criminal behaviors. The strain associated with poverty can be in two other directions. One instance is when one sees that they won’t at one time be able to satisfy their desires. In this case their drive/ motivation is lost and as a result they try another way of achieving their goals, such as illegal operations. For example, when a hard-working individual is retrenched from his work just because the company is in a bad financial situation, his/her dreams are shattered and he may indulge in something like drug trafficking. The gap between the rich and the poor in the society has also been seen as a major cause of increase in crime. Today, rich people across the world are becoming richer and poor people are continuing to be more miserable. This has created a great disparity in the society.
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Drug abuse is another major contributor to the rise criminal activities. The majority of people abusing drugs are youths aged 15-35; these are people who have the energy and vigor to change the world. Drug abuse is related to criminal behaviors in so many ways. In itself, it is a crime, and it causes people to commit crimes. The same applies to alcohol, a drug that causes many problems, and yet legally available in many countries.
Today, about 73% of crimes committed in the United States of America are directly linked to the use of alcohol. Most rapes recorded in America happen because of drugs. Alcohol is also associated with 72% of home deaths and 83% and 66% of child maltreatmeant,. This is only one drug that is legal. What about the effect of over 20 types of illegal drugs all over the world? This implies that the world at large is suffering on the effect of drugs. Also, as a way to reduce crime incidences caused by drug use, government should come up with clearer strategies of dealing with drug abuse and drug trafficking.
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Many countries have used various strategies in combating crime. One of these strategies is crime reporting. This is when members of a community are able to report crime occurrences by using toll free numbers, such as 999. The problem associated with these services is that they are only effective when they work. Community policing has also failed to curb criminal activities because the community is not willing to report its members after committing they commit crimes. Some of the state officials who are supposed to help eliminate crime have also been found committing these crimes, e.g. drug trafficking. Therefore, to curb the rising crime rates, everyone must accept the responsibility. Crime can not be curbed by the government alone, public should also participate in the fight against it. People should try to starting small business instead of depending on employment. They can earn extra income from such businesses and lift their standards of living, thus reducing their chances of becoming frustrated.