Social Process Theory

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SOCIAL PROCESS THEORY: LEARNING CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR JA 305-50 31 OCTOBER 2008 Social Process Theory: Learning Criminal Behavior Social process theory is most commonly an attempt to explain how individuals become law violators. Considered a micro-theory, its main focus is on that of social interactions and processes that individuals occur. An interesting aspect of social process theory is that it typically does not approach crime and delinquency as mostly a lower-class problem, but relates crime to all social classes. The learning perspective of the social process theory is formed on the basis that criminal behavior is learned in a social context and that norm-violating behavior is acquired through interaction with others (Brown 320). Edwin H. Sutherland, a renowned criminologist, developed the theory of differential association, where deviance is explained in terms of the individual’s social relationships. This theory differed drastically from the typical justification of crime relating to biological and psychological issues. Differential association states that an individual’s delinquency can be attributed to an excess of definitions favorable to the violation of laws versus definitions unfavorable to the violations of laws. Sutherland based his differential association theory on the basis of three lines of consideration: symbolic interactionism, cultural transmission and culture conflict (Brown 321, “Edward Sutherland”). Symbolic interactionism is a belief that as individuals and groups interact, peoples’ selves are formed as social products. There are three major proponents to symbolic interaction, which are: people behave according to the meaning that things have to them, the meaning of those things are developed through the social interaction that the individual has with others and society and these meanings are construed
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