Sutherland's Differential Association
Born August 13, 1883 in Gibbon, Nebraska, Edwin H. Sutherland grew up and studied in Ottawa, Kansas, and Grand Island, Nebraska. After receiving his B.A degree from Grand Island College in 1904, he taught Latin, Greek, History, and shorthand for two years at Sioux Falls College in South Dakota. In 1906 he left Sioux Falls College and entered graduate school at the University of Chicago from which he received his doctorate. (Gaylord, 1988:7-12) While attending the University of Chicago he changed his major from history to sociology. Much of his study was influenced by the Chicago approach to the study of crime that emphasized human behavior as determined by social and physical environmental factors, rather than genetic or personal characteristics. (Gaylord, 1988:7-12) With his studies completed he began work at the University of Minnesota from 1926 to 1929 where his reputation as a leading criminologist was enhanced. At this time, his focus became sociology as a scientific enterprise whose goal was the understanding and control of social problems, including crime. (Gaylord, 1988:13) After his time at Minnesota he moved to Indiana University and founded the Bloomington School of Criminology at Indiana University. While at Indiana, he published 3 books, including Twenty Thousand Homeless Men (1936), The Professional Thief (1937), and the third edition of Principles of Criminology (1939). Finally in 1939 he was elected president of the American Sociological Society, and in 1940 was elected president of the Sociological Research Association.
Similar in importance to strain theory and social control theory, Differential Association theory was Sutherland's major sociological contribution to criminology; . These theories all explain deviance in terms of the individual's social relationships. By attributing the cause of crime to the social context of individuals, Differential Association departs from the pathological perspective and biological perspective. "He rejected biological determinism and the extreme individualism of psychiatry, as well as economic explanations of crime. His search for an alternative understanding of crime led to the development of Differential Association theory. In contrast to both classical and biological theories, Differential Association theory poses no obvious threats to the humane treatment of those identified as criminals."(Gaylord, 1988:1)
The principle of differential association asserts that criminal behavior emerges when one is exposed to more social message favoring conduct than pro-social messages. (Sutherland, 1947)
Sutherland argued that the concept of differential association and differential social organization could be applied to the individual level and to the group level respectively. While differential association theory explains why any individual gravitates toward criminal behavior, differential social organization explains why crime rates of different social entities differ from each other's. In his fourth edition of Principles of Criminology he presented his final theory of differential association. His theory has 9 basic postulates: 1. Criminal behavior is learned as opposed to inherited through genetics. 2. Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication. This communication is verbal in many cases but includes gestures. 3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. This suggests that television or newspapers are not important in committing criminal. 4. When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very simple; (b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes. 5. The specific direction of the motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable or unfavorable. 6. A person becomes delinquent because of an...
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