Social Learning Theory

Ronald L. Akers and Christine S. Sellers

in The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385106
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Social Learning Theory

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
  • Theories of Crime


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Social learning theory refers to any behavioristic approach in social science that has a cognitive or behavioral focus. Social learning theory combines the differential association theory of criminal behavior with general behavioral learning principles and proposes that criminal and delinquent behavior is acquired, repeated, and changed by the same process as conforming behavior. This article presents a discussion of the concepts and propositions of the original social learning model as well as its later expansion, which includes the social structural context within which social learning occurs. It reviews empirical research on social learning theory to underscore its validity as an explanation of crime and delinquency. It also analyzes several criticisms of social learning theory and concludes with a description of a variety of programs based on principles of social learning theory.

Keywords: social learning theory; differential association theory; criminal; behavioral learning; delinquent; crime; delinquency

Article.  13725 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice ; Theories of Crime

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