Social Theory Examination Paper
March 17, 2014
Carl M. Miedich
Social Theory Examination Paper
The way individuals learn to interact with society as children tends to predict how they will interact with society and respond to its environments as adults. There are social theories that help the understanding of why individuals choose deviant behaviors and how they progress through life. Social process theories view criminal and deviant criminal behaviors as evolving mechanisms learned through societal interaction. Social development theories view deviant and criminal behaviors as part of a maturation process. Social theories are conclusions that have come about based on the response of individuals to their environments, what they have been taught, what they have learned through their experiences, and how they react to those experiences in society. Social process theories views criminality as s function of people’s interactions with various groups and institutions in society. A person’s behavior is greatly influenced by the positive and negative reinforcements of their behavior. This influence can be referred to as the differential reinforcement theory. The differential theory states that the process of learning deviant behavior and the process of learning conventional behavior is the exact same process. The idea is that criminals are not taught to be completely bad and typical members of society are not taught to be completely good. No criminal breaks all of the rules and no member of society obeys all of the rules. Instead, some sense of balance is created and as time goes on a social group is adopted. The individual makes a choice to be a deviant or normal member of society based on what is reinforced. Negative reinforcement discourages a particular behavior. Positive reinforcement encourages a particular behavior. The rewards for a particular behavior often dictates which behavior the individual chooses to continue based on the results of the reward. As a child, if rewards are given for good behavior, doing chores, making good grades in school, being respectful and things of that nature, the child is likely to continue the behavior which in turn produces a continuation of good responsible behavior that is accepted by society. This behavior is conducive of a law abiding, productive member of society. On the other hand, if the child commits a deviant act or exhibits deviant behavior and is rewarded for them, or is not punished or reprimanded for such behavior, they will likely continue those types of behaviors as well. For example, if a young girl has an older sister who steals from stores and does not get caught, but continues to have all the nice things she has stolen, the younger sibling will want those things as well and will likely use stealing as a method of obtaining those things because that is the behavior that has been seen and learned by her. She is in a way encouraged by this deviant act. According to Akers (2006), “Deviant behavior can be expected to the extent that it has been differentially reinforced over alternative behavior…..and is desirable or justified.” (p. 206). Criminal behavior is committed when the bonds to society are weakened. The person loses touch with what is right versus what is wrong or they never learn the difference. All individuals have the capability to commit crime, but often times the fear of what people will think of them tends to keep them from committing crimes if they are attached to society through friends, organizations, peers, or family. The four elements that govern this type of choice are attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief.
The video on Pelican Bay is a great example of these social process theories. Most of the inmates that were locked up continued their behavior inside of the prison as if they were still on the streets. They learned that fighting and killing were a way of life no matter what type of environment they...
References: Akers, R. (2006). Parental and peer influences on adolescent drug use in Korea. Asian Journal of Criminology.
Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminolgy today: An interactive introduction. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
“Pelican Bay State Prison: War Zone”
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