Social Learning and Crime

Emily J. Salisbury

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Social Learning and Crime

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This article explores the link between social learning and crime by focusing on social learning theories developed by clinical psychologists based on correctional rehabilitation and developmental behavioral psychology. After providing an overview of Edwin Sutherland's differential association theory and its sociological extension to social learning theory by Ronald Akers, the article examines the contributions of Don Andrews and James Bonta—Canadian psychologists who use a social psychological framework to explain criminal behavior and provide a treatment model of correctional intervention on the basis of psychological principles. It also considers a second psychological perspective on the development and maintenance of childhood aggression, focusing on the work of Gerald Patterson and his colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Finally, the article argues that given the wide empirical support for psychologically-focused social learning perspectives, social learning theory offers a more plausible explanation for criminal behavior than currently assumed.

Keywords: social learning; crime; criminal behavior; social learning theory; correctional rehabilitation; developmental behavioral psychology; Ronald Akers; Edwin Sutherland; differential association theory; childhood aggression

Article.  6752 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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