What role does social learning play in criminality? How do social process theories explain criminal behaviour? Do you agree that crime is a learned behaviour? Why, or why not? Support your opinion with academic references.
Assuming that everyone in their life is capable of committing crime, but also that crime is not an innate human characteristic you have no other option but to accept that criminal behaviour is something that is learned through processes of social interactions with others. This process goes on indefinitely, it can happen at any time, someone could watch a crime program and just decide to go out and rob a bank.
Edwin Sutherland (1950) theorised that criminality was learned by associating with criminal elements through a process of differential association. He suggests that crime is not so different from other learned activities; it is learned in the same way.
This learning process of criminal behaviour occurs usually within intimate personal groups and usually entails learning techniques of committing the crime and why those crimes are committed, for what purpose and possibly some sort of rationale or justifications of said action to take away ownership and responsibility away from the crime.
A person becomes delinquent because they are fed various anti law beliefs from the people around them and those outweigh the pro law beliefs of society or school or religion that may also be prevalent.
Robert Burgess and Ronald Akers (1966) Added to this the concept of reinforcement to the theory of differential association, it basically outlines that humans learn to define behaviors that are rewarded as positive or draw attention as negative, so if a wrong actions rewarded or results in them receiving a lot of attention positive or otherwise the action then repeated. This same learning process produces both conformist and non-conformist behaviour
Akers goes on to say the person location in a social structure is pivotal in how that person is socialized thus effecting what that person will learn, so for example if a person is in a prison the only thing to be learned by their surroundings is more crime as they are more than likely surrounded by career criminals.
Daniel Glaser developed the Differential Identification Theory in which a person pursues a criminal behaviour to mimic a person real or fictional he identifies with/wants to be like. Dependant on who the person identifies, the resultant behaviour is transitory, so for instance if a person identifies with Al Capone he may want to start bootlegging alcohol or something along those lines. The main point is if a person identifies with someone whose perspective is that criminal behaviour is acceptable and possibly justifies the behaviour or receives rewards for said behaviour, the behaviour becomes something to be imitated.
Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminology today: An integrative introduction (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.