Social Learning Theory: an Attempt to Explain Crime

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Social Learning Theory: An Attempt To Explain Crime
Katie Brown
Criminology
Dr. Tamborra
12/04/12

Many theories exist that try to explain why people commit crimes. One theory in particular pertains to the associations people have and how they influence the individual’s behavior. After looking at the data from the Uniform Crime Report of robbery, one of the four violent crimes, this theory will be expanded upon. In addition, a study of the theory will be summarized along with its findings and conclusions. Considering all the data, the components of the theory, and the test of the theory, new policies will be suggested.

Robbery, as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011), is “the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.” According to the Uniform Crime Report, published by the FBI, there were about 354,396 robbery offenses in the United States in 2011. This translates to 113.7 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants, a decrease of four percent from the previous year (FBI, 2011). 3,677 of these robberies occurred in the state of Connecticut; for every 100,000 inhabitants of Connecticut, there were about 102.7 robberies. The majority of these offenses (3,581) happened in the metropolitan areas of the state (FBI, 2011). In 43.8% of the national total of robberies in 2011, the offense took place on a street or highway. The next most common place was a residence; people were robbed at their house 17% of the time. On average, the total value seized during a robbery added up to $1,153. The FBI also stated that, if a weapon or force is used, it is usually a gun or physical violence. In 130,839 robberies in the United States, physical violence was used against the victim. A firearm was utilized in 128,793 instances (FBI, 2011). The National Crime Victimization Survey shows that there are many trends involving the victims of violent crimes. These help us to begin to understand relationships between crimes and offenders, and offenders and their victims. As for violent crimes across the United States, males are victimized more than females. The rate of victimization, per 1,000 people over the age of twelve, of males is 25.7, 5.2 more than that of females (Criminal, 2011). The two races that have the highest rates of victimization are American Indians/Alaskan Natives and African Americans. For every 1,000 people over twelve that identify with these racial groups, 45.4 American Indians and 26.4 African Americans were victims of violent crimes in 2011. The age group that was the most victimized in 2011 was 24 and under: particularly 18-24. This age group had a rate of 49 victimizations and 12-17 had a rate of 37.8 per 1.000 inhabitants over the age of twelve, while the victimization rates of all other age groups were significantly less (Criminal, 2011). The two regions of the United States with the highest victimization rates were the West and Midwest (27.1 and 26.3, respectively), with the south and northeast not far behind. Urban areas also had higher victimization rates than suburban or rural areas, with a rate of 27.4 (Criminal, 2011).

Upon looking at data from the Uniform Crime Report and the National Crime Victimization Survey, the question of why people are criminal arises. Deviance and criminality is still largely a mystery in the social science fields, but many theories attempting to explain them exist. One theory in particular, Social Learning Theory, developed by Ronald Akers, makes the most sense when explaining why people become deviant. Social Learning Theory states that regardless of whether an individual is conforming or deviant, they become this way by learning from and imitating others. The balance of certain influences play a large part in what an individual chooses to do. The influences in particular that Akers refers to are: differential association,...
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