Criminal behaviour USA

DA theory specifies the process by which criminogenic traditions are transmitted, and takes the form of nine propositions: 1) Criminal behaviour is learned rather than inherited or invented by individuals, 2) it is learned in social interaction, and; 3) within intimate personal groups, rather than the media, 4) what is learned includes both crime techniques and criminal motives, drives, rationalisation and attitudes, 5) the specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal code as favourable or not, depending on support for the code (norms) within a sub-culture.

6) a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favourable to violations of law over definitions unfavourable, 7) differential associations vary in frequency, duration, historical priority, and intensity or emotional impact, 8) the process of learning by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves mechanisms entailed in any other learning, and not explained by general needs, 9) criminal behaviour is not explained by general needs, since the same needs and values underlie criminal and non-criminal behaviour. (Blackburn, R.) 

So crime is learned and this social theory develops the idea that upon observing others who commit crime, the observer will do one of two things: 1: Copying- Because of the expectations of the rewards for doing so. For example, the rewards for robbing a bank could be money, not needing to worry about being unemployed or being late in paying the bills.

2: Not-copying- Because of the expectations of punishment. For example, traditionally, robbing a bank is to take money from the UK's economy so punishment could be 15-25 years sentence in prison. (Brewer, K.) Further research: Bandura, Ross and Ross (1963) and Jeffery (1965).  There are many ways in which crime is learned. The social factors include family, (Patterson, 1982), (Bowlby, 1946), (Rutter, 1971), Economic factors, (Farrington and West, 1990), (Witt, Clarke and Fielding, 1999), Lone-parent families and social rules. 

Social Theories at a Glance Social Factors- Family

This theory looks at the family and how family can be a cause of criminality. There are a number of points that can influence the offset of a criminal career. Below are some points for consideration, as according to Kevin Brewer's book, Psychology and Crime, the family background can be broken down into size of family, interactions with the family, disruption of the family home and child rearing strategies. 

Size of family- Having a large family can sometimes mean less attention for the individual child or older siblings to observe as models of behaviour, sometimes called the 'contagion effect'. (Brewer, K.) Interactions within the family- studies have found links (or correlations) between families of delinquents and difficulties in interactions with the family. This may be seen as constant parental conflict, poor use of language and communications, and miss-trust of a family member. 

For the above point, Patterson (1982) observed interactions between family members with anti-social children. He was able to outline 14 things that produce 'coercive' (forceful, force someone to do something) exchanges. Such as 'nattering'- an extended scolding of the child with no particular focus, and no specific threats if the child does not comply. (Brewer, K.)

Disruption of Family Home- This deals with the issues of a broken home and delinquency. (Bowlby, 1946). A study in London and Isle of Wight, (Rutter, 1971), found that the amount of conflict and distress is important, not a broken home itself. The feud in the home is the cause of a broken home and a broken home is the cause of delinquency. (Brewer, K.)

Child Rearing Strategies- This looks at how a child is punished and rewarded by the parent for its behaviour. A technique, called 'power assertion' by Hoffman (1984) was linked most often to families of delinquents. 'Power assertion' involves physical punishment and criticism with little rewarding of praise. (Brewer, K.) Other strategies would include 'love withdrawal', which is withholding of affection as punishment, and induction, which tries to explain and reason with the child. (Brewer, K.)

It can be argued that using physical punishment encourages the child to see aggression as right because an authority figure use it. It could also be said that this form of punishment can only promote criminal behaviour. Further research can be found looking at studies by Cooper-smith (1968), Straus (1991), Gorman-smith et al. (1996), Loeber & Dishion (1983) 

School and Peers

It is noted by Brewer that many offenders show low academic achievement at school, nevertheless, he says, 'this is not the same as low intelligence'. (Brewer, K.) Brewer also stipulates that some offenders in their early years, may have suffered or suffer from a learning disability albeit that they have average intelligence. He argues that for such pupils there is an alternative. This alternative is the 'anti-social sub-culture', which may involve truancy and delinquency.

This culture is therefore based on a group and not the individual as the peer group becomes important in giving the rejected individual approval. This approval will boost the self-esteem of the individual as the approval is based on the individual being competent at something. This could be fire starting for example. 

However, peer pressure is only one factor that encourages crime according to Brewer.  From a school point of view, if schools have a high turnover of staff, low staff commitment, and social disadvantages, will tend to have the highest number of delinquent children. (Hargreaves, 1980).