Differntial Association Theory Of Devience

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate March 2001

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"Differential Association Theory of Deviance" People either voluntarily or involuntarily deviate from social order and cultural patterns for an assortment of reasons and in several different ways. This demonstration of non-conformity can be regarded as deviant or eccentric depending on the severity of non-traditional behavior. When we speak of deviance we refer to departure from the rules of conformity and behavioral acts in which others disapprove or that exceed tolerance levels which result in negative reactions from the community. "Whether an act is regarded as deviant often depends upon the time, the place, the individual, and the audience. For this reason sociologists stress that deviance is relative." There are several theories concerning deviant behavior which have been categorized in three different theoretical groups: structural-functional theories, symbolic interaction theories, and conflict theories. I will be focusing on validating the differential association theory of deviance which falls within the category of symbolic interaction theories.

The differential association theory defines the causes of deviant behavior as the following: people learn from their fellow companions who favor deviance rather than complying with the normal or accepted rules of society. In other words, people are deviant because they acquire this behavior from associating with other people who are deviant. Parents are often extremely concerned about this possibility. They worry about the particular type of children their children play with or socialize with as older adolescents. An environment where deviant learning is prevalent is the prison systems where unfortunately, criminals learn from other criminals.

Differential association bolsters deviance and there are two fundamental schools of thought validating this theory. First, if our interactions are mostly with deviants, we may develop a biased image of the generalized other. One illustration implies we may learn that it is quite normal for us to steal for food or...