The Status of Criminological Theory

SLT has been seen to have a relevant connection with criminal behaviors in much the same way that criminal behaviors are patterned according to what the SLT suggests. In general, the theory suggests that the presence of rewards and the avoidance of punishment allows for the continued or repeated manifestation of the individual’s behavior. In criminal cases such as sexual coercion through internet child pornography, the theory pinpoints the ‘sexual’ rewards an individual may obtain as well as the persistence of the avoidance from punishment as two of the crucial factors that further the continuance of the individual’s act.

The theory nevertheless suggests the idea that the forms of ‘deviancy’ manifested through the individual’s behavior are not essentially hindered nor promoted by the absence or presence of the sense of right or wrong within the individual. Rather, it is the sense of being able to obtain specific rewards and being able to escape sanctions that promote the persistence of the behavior. This interesting idea, when juxtaposed to the case of Kistler, seeks to analyze the basis for the continuance of Kistler’s behavior, the prediction and prevention of similar cases in the future, and the recommendations for the criminal justice procedure.

Joshua Kistler’s case is perhaps one of the many cases that revolve around the incidence of sexual coercion through internet child pornography. By pretending as a teenage boy dying of leukemia, Kistler used the internet in order to coerce teenage girls into sending him pictures that are explicitly sexual in nature. The mere fact that Kistler admitted to not having known the harm he was causing and, hence, granting him the ‘unaware’ capacity to avoid the corresponding legal punishment to his acts led to the continuance of his actions.

As the SLT clearly suggests, the presence of the sexual satisfaction as a sort of a reward to his ‘pornographic’ exploits also contributed in large part to Kistler’s persistence as a “collector”. Not having been able to know that he was causing harm—at least as far as Kistler admits—is no reason to suspect that Kistler might have altered his behavior over the internet at least in the context of the SLT since such knowledge may not at all be the penultimate reason behind either the inhibition or sustainment of Kistler’s behavior.

Further, the SLT also sees that the prediction and prevention of similar cases to that of Kistler can be achieved largely through the understanding of the nature of such a behavior in terms of the rewards and the avoidance of punishment that nurture the behavior. In order to predict and prevent such cases, one is suggested to comprehend the things that inhibit and prompt the individual from committing and sustaining the behavior—which essentially reverts to the rewards and sanctions involved. The theory also emphasizes at least two recommendations on how Kistler is to be processed in terms of the criminal justice system.

These two can be roughly stated as, first, the implementation of the punishment and, second, the psychological or psychiatric treatment of the behavior. Both recommendations lead to the idea of cutting off the criminal behavior from the individual by dissolving the ‘direct conditioning’ of the individual.


Akers, R. (1998). Social Learning and Social Structure: A General Theory of Crime and Deviance (p. 59). Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. Akers, R. , & Burgess, R. (1966). A Differential Association-Reinforcement Theory of Criminal Behavior. Social Problems, 14(2), 128-147. Akers, R., & Jensen, G. (2006).

The Empirical Status of Social Learning Theory of Crime and Deviance: The Past, Present, and Future. In F. Cullen, J. P. Wright & K. R. Blevins (Eds. ), Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory. Advances in Criminological Theory (Vol. 15). New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. Associated Press. (2007). Man Gets 24 Years in Prison for Posing as Dying Boy to Sexually Coerce Girls. Retrieved August 26, 2007, from http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,274574,00. html? sPage=fnc. national/crime Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.