CRIMINOLOGY: PART C: LECTURE 2
SOCIAL PROCESS THEORIES
Social process theories: criminality function of individual socialization
Key assumption: all people (regardless of “race,” gender, class) potential to become criminals
Focus: critical elements of socialization this is why people are nt involved in criminality
If these are good supports then they influence prosocial behavior (safeguard), if not then
they produce angst and crime. Eg. If you are in a single mother family it can predict your
future in crime. This is because living in this kind of household is accompanied by
feminization of poverty, lower standard of living and decreased parental supervision.
The disadvantage of growing up in a single parent family does not evaporate when this
parent remarries. Reconstituted families are more likely to be marred by child abuse,
especially for female children. There is an attempt to discover why there is much sexual
abuse in such families—Theory “The relative Stranger”: step parents who come in to
the lives of step children after the toddler years are more likely to perceive the nice
gestures of children with sexual behavior. The routine chores of changing and wiping
babies discourage parents from thinking of babies as sexual beings. The perception of
children as sexual and misconception of them lifting dress to show panties as an
invitation rather than a silly event, is most likely to happen to a step parent who did not
experience the stepchild in such a baby stage.
In homes where there is molestation, it may influence decision to engage in drinking and
drug activity. OR turn to prostitution as a seller of sexual acts.
feeling of one that does not feel safe or one who feels safe influences extra curricular
activities as well as response to people and interactions.
When something goes wrong who do you want to tell? Friends first and then Mother
traditionally used as involvement in church or religious institution
recent study shows that the most important role the religious institute plays is pull
children away from criminal activity. The importance is not about the quality of a
believer the person is, but rather the degree of participation. David Evans research shows
participation is likely to have most significant impact from persuading youth from crime.
Branches of Social Process Theory:
1. Social Learning theory
2. Control theory
3. Labeling theory
1 I. Social Learning Theory:
Stresses crime is a learned behavior just as becoming an athlete is.
-crime product of learning the norms, values and behaviors associated with criminal activity
-learning actual techniques
e.g., hot-wire car; roll a joint
All criminal acts require mastery of skills
e.g., how to deal with guilt/shame
Most prominent forms of social learning theory:
1. Differential Association Theory (Edwin Sutherland)
Challenges assertions that:
a. Crime a function of the inadequacy of people within the lower class
b. Crime stems from individual traits
Argues instead that: crime is a politically defined construct
Basic Principles: does not concentrate on offender deficit.
1.Criminal behavior is learned (not inherent)
2. ...in interaction with other persons in a process of communication
3. Principal part of learning criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups (v. media)
Emphasizes primary groups that model for us or repel us from crime
It does not matter if person play grand theft auto, these activities are unlikely to lead you into
crime, unless they are accompanied with procrime messages from intimate people.
4. Involves learning techniques and motives/rationalizations/attitudes: how to defend, rationalize
5. Culture conflict: reaction to social rules/laws not uniform across society
6. Person becomes criminal when he/she perceives more favorable than unfavorable
consequences for violating the law
7. Differential associations may vary in: frequency in which you interact with someone
(iv) intensity- not precisely defined. But age in which you begin to receive these messages.
8. Learning criminal behavior -
- Involves all the mechanisms involved in any other learning
9. Motives such as: desire to gain money, social status, low self-concept, personal frustration -
not the “cause of crime” since noncriminal behavior can also be the expression of the same
How is criminality and noncriminality linked? Watch saving grace.
2 *Rather: cause: learning of deviant norms through contact with an excess of definitions
favourable towards criminality
e.g., Saving Grace
2. Neutralization Theory (David Matza & Gresham Sykes)
“subterranean value” structure of society
Most criminals don’t have value structures distinctive than others in society. We can mask
guilt because of the “subterranean values”. Example, if asked what are the three primary things
looking for in a partner. Everyone would give standard values like respectful, trustworthy etc.
But qualities like silicone breasts, deviant etc are subterranean values. Even if we do not want to
acknowledge, these guide us in our motives.
those who engage in subterranean values can --- allow one to excuse behavior that the parts
from that which is most robustly endorsed by society. Eg. The offender rather than passively
accepting guilt, can simply deny involvement. Wasn’t my fault the money was just there, I didn’t
steal it. It was an accident, happy fate. So the concept of crime as an act that causes harm, the
person can claim that they are not violent and did not carry a weapon to harm anyone.
“Techniques of neutralization”:
1. Denial of responsibility
(“It’s not my fault”; “an accidents”
2. Denial of injury: (“no one got hurt”)
3. Denial of victim (“he had it coming to him”)
4. Condemnation of the condemners- eg. Cops more crooked than criminals (“stores are ripping
people off all the time.”)
5. Appeal to higher loyalties (“I didn’t do it for myself”)- protect my friend, disrespecting my
e.g., NAMBLA; Rene Guyon Society, P.I.E.—Neutralizing actions
allow person to act sexually towards child but think of themselves as good people.
Man boy love association
“witch hunt”- illegitimate reaction of people so we assume there are no witches and those
who hunt them are hysterics.
“mutual consensual”- as if it is a loving relationship between 6 year old and 36 year old.
forms link to other groups like feminist movement- saying they are a liberation group and not
a deviant one. The problem is they are subject to ageism and they have to rally and combat it,
because it is the cause of our prohibition.
announce they are against sexual abuse and coercion
denying the victim unless it is the offender themselves. Appeal to higher loyalties to give
freedom to boys to enjoy their bodies.
II. Social Control Theories
e.g., family structure
3 e.g., Judith Herman “relative stranger” theory
e.g., White and Smith: men who are physically punished/sexually abused or are witnesses of
e.g., educational achievement
e.g., Project Canada Survey: perceived sources of influences among teens
e.g., T.David Evans et al.: religion and criminal behaviour
“Demystifying” Crime and Labelling/ “Social Reaction” Theories:
(1) the social-historical development of deviant/criminal labels
(2) the application of labels to certain types of people in specific times and places
(3) the symbolic and practical consequences of the labeling process
George Herbert Mead (1918)
criminal labeling - “the angel with the fiery sword at the gate who can cut one off from the world
to which he belongs”
Kai Erickson: “Deviance is not a property inherent in certain forms of behaviour, it is a property
conferred upon those forms by the audience which directly or indirectly witnesses them.”
Edwin Schur: “Human behaviour is deviant to the extent that it comes to be viewed as involving
a personally discreditable departure from a group’s normative expectations, and it elicits
interpersonal and collective reactions that serve to isolate, treat, correct or punish individuals
engaged in such behaviour”
1. Not act is intrinsically criminal.
2. Criminal definitions are enforced in the interest of the powerful.
3. A person does not become a criminal by violation of the law but only by his/her designation
by authorities as such
4. People should not be dichotomized into criminal/noncriminal categories.
5. The act of getting caught starts the labeling process.
6. Getting caught and decision-making in the criminal justice system are a function of offender
as opposed to offense characteristics
7. Age, socioeconomic status, and race are the major offender characteristics that establish
patterns of differential criminal justice decision- making
8. Labeling is a process that eventually produces identification with a deviant image and
resulting rejection of the rejectors.
“primary deviance” v. “secondary deviance”
Primary: ya I stole a care, so what- little to do with who they are. Secondary: I am a care
thief- define themselves by this label.
Howard Becker: model of deviant behaviour
4 Obedient Behaviour Rule-breaking behaviour
Falsely Accused Pure Deviant
Conforming Secret Deviant
Conforming- has faith in criminal system and do not engage in crime
if labeled sex offender or robber and deserves label, then they are Pure deviant.
Falsely- never engaged but perceived as such and subject to sanctions
Secret- engages in crime but escapes sanction
young woman handed in term paper that included long quote written in the first person which
did not include a resource citation but it was included in the bibliography. It talked about
sexually abuse of child. Prof took it as a confession. Student was encouraged to drop out of
school. Prof contacted child services but did not confront the student. She was placed on a
sexually abuser list in her province. When interviewed she showed the book the quote came
from. It went to supreme court because they subjected her to labeling and failed to show any
common sense. She was compensated
Roscoe Pound, “Law in the books” vs. “Law in action”
judged for deeds based on social class membership
1) characteristics of those who are chosen for labeling
maintains: offenders should be relatively powerless people who are unable to defend themselves
against negative labelling
e.g., Carl Pope and William Feyerherm, *review of 30 years of research on minorities in the
juvenile justice system in the U.S. and
*victim’s characteristics and likelihood of:
suspect being taken into custody:
victims: deferential; “not involved”; other than friend/relative/neighbour
victims: middle-aged/elderly, white, employed. high status, women, heterosexual, not abusing
drugs/alcohol, non-criminal, didn’t “provoke”, not “private matter”
victims: high status, young, reputable, white, didn’t “provoke”
Stiffer sentences: more likely to be on…
victim: high status, stranger, white, female, injured
e.g., prostitutes and victimization -1811 R. v. Hallett - Justice Coleridge:
“the charge of rape will lie notwithstanding that the woman concerned was a prostitute”
5 “It is well worthy of your consideration whether, although she at first objected, she might not
afterwards on finding that the prisoners were determined have yielded to them, and in some
degree, consented, and this question is the more deserving of your attention when you come to
consider what sort of a person she was and what sort of house she lodged in”
e.g., 1980s - had “not suffered any long-lasting psychological injury”
prostitute was raped and judge said the statement above. Said the poor guy suffered enough.
Reason he thought this was anchored in the thought was because this woman used to be a
prostitute and resumed to it after abuse. Therefore she was not traumatized.
e.g., Yorkshire Ripper: Sir Michael Havers, “some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part
of this case is that some were not”
Illustration of subterranean values can be consequential
*goal displacement and the processing of stereotypes
e.g., Jerome Skolnick, “symbolic assailants”: persons who use gestures, language and attire that
police recognize as a prelude to violence
All agencies have informal and informal codes, which explains the difference between
the law in books and law in action.
Informal codes include desires to make ones workday predictable and so we apply mental
short cuts to navigate social life. In this process we can override formal goals of the
Judges are bound by precedence and appealed if it is out of sync, but in contrast a police
officer is not subject to that oversight or appeal of decisions.
Therefore, if we assume that sullenly dressed teenagers are up to something and we
follow them, then we most likely will find something. Therefore he will be labeled as an
offender- symbolic assailants to refer to these mental images of police officer of who to
pull over etc.
Law Reform Commission of Canada - police discretion and its inconsistent application
Davis: 5 features warranting concern:
(1) doubtful legality- if justifying why he pulled one person rather than the other and the
decisions was not based on anything objective, does it constitute for racial profiling, sexism,
(2) street level creation- created on the spot. Not that they learn this formally but its learned from
officer to officer
(3) clandestine nature- deployment of discretion does not happen in public and so we do not
know why officer acted the way in which they did.
(4) basis in guesswork and intuition