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Social Learning Theories And Juveniles

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Running Head: Social Learning Theories and Juveniles

Social Learning Theories Relating to Juvenile delinquency


This paper takes a closer look at the social learning’s of society’s subculture that displays delinquent behavior. Using differential association I explain the learned behavior through the social environment such as role models, peer influence, and poverty stricken families. Delinquency is not biologically nor psychologically but is learned just as a person learns to obey the law. The study design is to help further the notion that criminal behavior is learned and not inherited due to genetic structure.

Social Learning Theories Relating to Juvenile delinquency

In today’s society juvenile delinquency is the root of major issues that lead to adult delinquency which leads to prison overcrowding and 8.6 percent of the California’s general fund being consumed by the prison system in 2006-2007 fiscal year (Lawrence, 232). Learning theories contend that criminal behavior is learned from others and this learning process necessarily involves the internalization of values, norms, and behaviors that vary across areas and groups. Therefore, neither free will nor biological or psychological characteristics are associated with delinquent behavior, but rather the social environment effect on the maturation process (i.e. your product of your environment). Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory suggests criminal behavior is learnable and learned in interaction with other deviant persons, causing the behavior to be learned at a young age. Sutherland’s (1947) theory lays down the foundation for explaining deviant behavior in correlation to juveniles. In this paper, I hope to use social learning theories to further understand the relationship of juvenile deviance and the environment they try to prosper in, i.e. the influence it has played in their young lives. I believe that an individual is influenced through their personal trials and tribulations in life pertaining to negative outcomes that they must deal with, thus, causing the delinquent behavioral pattern to commence at a young age.

Review of Literature

By viewing crime as any other behavior that must be learned, the assumption is that by observing the habits of others the individual will mock the mannerisms and then facilitate them to their own needs and desires. People carbon copy what works in our subcultures if that is going to work through obtaining an education and seeking employment through legal means versus unconventional methods of attaining economic prosperity through illegal means such as property crimes. This is where the social environment plays a fundamental and vital role in molding the young juvenile’s learned traits pertaining to the approach they will take towards the law. The social environment consists of role models ranging from family, peer groups, and the larger community can encourage or dissuade delinquency (Bandura, 1962).

In Sutherland’s (1947) theory a juvenile who displays violent behavior might be linked from observing parents that used acts of aggression and violence to solve problems in life. So it does not go without saying that a child exposed to domestic violence, sex abuse, recurring conflict with the juvenile and criminal justice system, school failure, poverty, and poor role models are at a disadvantage and on the inevitable path to become a juvenile delinquent (Bandura, 1962). Daily observations of adults demonstrate acts of violence and illegal behavior come to acknowledge this as just normal behavior and not as deviant. Furthermore, acquiring material goods through scheming and stealing are in turn perceived as appropriate means in doing so.

Social learning may also occur because juveniles use the experiences of their peers to update their beliefs concerning the expected benefits or punishments (as humans are natural hedonists and seek pleasure that outweighs the pain) of committing particular crimes, making individuals more or less likely to commit these crimes. Alternatively, social learning may take the form of the acquisition of crime-specific skills and knowledge, such as how to steal a car, how to disconnect a burglary alarm, or how to avoid being caught by the police. Interactions with individuals who have experience committing a particular type of crime may allow an individual to acquire this knowledge more easily, thereby leading to increased activity in the parallel crime category. Access to individuals with experience in a given criminal activity might assist in the formation or expansion of an individual’s criminal network (Bayer, Pintoff, & Pozen, 2003). Just like having a network of friends, criminal networking is important in more complicated criminal activities such as those related to illegal drugs, which require a great deal of organization among manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and users (Bayer et al., 2003).

In an effort to figure out a path to take to deter crime a prison in Singapore has taken that step. Kaki Bukit Center (KBC) Prison School is the only prison school in Singapore and in South East Asia. KBC is an innovative proposal aimed at optimizing resources and spearheading rehabilitation programs in an institutional setting. KBC brings together, in a single centralized location, different categories of inmates from both penal and drug institutions who attend academic and vocational classes to enhance their educational qualifications. The school's efforts are supported by a multidisciplinary team (i.e., teachers, prison officers, and counselors) who work together to help students in their studies and in their journey of change to become responsible, reformed citizens (Oh, Goh, Tarn, & Heng, 2005). Through this method they are proving that anti-social behavior can be undone and the juvenile is demonstrating a higher success rate upon entering back into to society i.e. recidivating is not as likely. Many of the offenders in this prison reportedly gave into peer pressure of delinquent behavior causing their present stay in the Singapore prison.

In a novel by Sanyika Shakur titled Monster: the Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member he is a product of his environment, he learned his criminal traits through older gang member he associated with and



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