Friday, September 14, 2012

Juvenile Delinquency

Social Learning Theory and Juvenile Crime: A Criminology Perspective

One immeasurable issue that continues to affect our justice system seems to be inevitable among our society; juvenile crime is a dynamic factor in our community in which affects our everyday lifestyle. By engaging ourselves in this issue, we can familiarize what causes deviant behavior, and can put into perspective the elements of the social learning theory. This concern is highly important because if we are able to understand why juveniles decide to commit crimes, we can prevent juveniles from committing future crimes. Their act of deviance may lead to severe or heinous crimes as adults, if it is not addressed in the early stages of adolescence. One may ask, what is identified as “deviant” behavior? A term commonly defined with several interpretations by society. The principles of criminology defines “deviance” as a violation of societies norms, an intended non-judgmental, neutral concept encompassing behavior and characteristics of people that are subject to condemnation or stigmatization within a social system (Jenson, 2011). This is not a simple issue and may not be resolved immediately, but the effort of every agency and authorized individual should part take in this matter in order to assert a less violent society.  The ideology of recidivism should encourage the focus of juvenile crime in our society, instead of predicting deviant behavior we should propose deterrent methodologies.
The Social Learning Theory derives from the perspective that criminal behavior is learned (Wesly G. & Ronald L., 2011).  A form of social association influenced by environmental reinforcement. What is the correlation that connects social learning theory and juvenile delinquency together? Richard A. Cloward and Llyod E. Ohlin, authors of Delinquency and Opportunity, reflected on the theories of Edwin H. Sutherland a criminologist that proclaimed,  “… that opportunity consists at least in part, of learning structures. Thus ‘criminal behavior is learned’ and, furthermore it is leaned ‘in interaction with other persons in a process of communication’ ” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004). The act of deviance is influenced and learned by imitating or modeling deviant behavior, which in most cases are negative reinforcements. This causes corruption in our communities. An incident that occurred on September 5th, 2012 in Placer County which involved two adults and three juveniles; the juvenile’s ages were between fourteen to fifteen years old; according to my understanding, a little too young to be involved with the justice system. They were arrested for suspicion of robbery and conspiracy ("Officers arrest two," 2012).
Sutherland also presents the idea of “illegitimate opportunity” which draws attention to, “…conditions favorable to the learning of such a role (differential associations). These conditions, we suggest, depend upon certain features of the social structure of the community in which delinquency arises.” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004).  How can we identify this explanation of delinquency in our community?  In the Sacramento Bee newspaper that was featured on September 14th, 2012 discussed the incident of an 11-year old child that was taken into custody for physically abusing his elderly mother, medical records indicated that his mother was suffering from a disability (Hubret, 2012). He is facing charges of elderly abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. The juvenile had an illegitimate opportunity to commit a crime and with the condition of a learning role, which in fact lead him to proceed with his crime.  Juvenile crime is committed under the influence of a learning system; a juvenile is more influenced by the community and the social criterias of delinquency. An article called Social Learning Theory, which was featured in The Handbook of Deviant Behavior by Wesley G. Jennings and Ronald L. Akers, reflecting upon the theoretical origins and framework of the social learning theory presented by Sutherland, claiming that the principle part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups and a process of communication (Wesly G. & Ronald L., 2011).
 One assumption that can be made is that the majority of juveniles live in broken homes and neighborhoods where crime is a common norm to society. In some instances the criminal role or behavior is accepted and reinforced. Of course this is not the issue in all cases, but Cloward and Ohlin propose that, “Only those neighborhoods in which crime flourishes as a stable, indigenous institution are fertile criminal learning environments for the young” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004). There is no solid element which enforces the product of learning criminal behaviors, although several factors effect the progress of a potential criminal and its learning environment, the social learning theory is one of the many explanations why juveniles become delinquents. 


Cloward , R. A., & Ohlin , L. E. (2004). Delinquency and
            opportunity . (3rd ed., p. 285). Long Grove, Illinois:
            Waveland Press, Inc.

Hubert, C. (2012, September 14). Lawyer appointed for elk
            grove boy accused of abusing disabled mom. Sacramento
            Bee . Retrieved from

Jenson , G. (2011). Deviance and social control. New York, New
            York: Routledge Retrieved from
            fOkVShSrJKIC&oi=fnd&pg=PT71&dq=definition of
            deviance in criminology&ots=sZTOe-

Officers arrest two adults, three juveniles following armed
            robberies in placer county . (2012, September 06).
            Sacramento Bee . Retrieved from

Wesly G., J., & Ronald L., A. (2011). Social learning theory.
            New York, New York: Routledge Retrieved from
            VJisQx8Fxa8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA106&dq=theories of
            sutherland and deviant


  1. As you pointed out,this learned behavior is something that juveniles learn from their surroundings, whether it be their parents and peers, ecnomic status or school enviornment. Because this is all that they know they may not see it as being wrong. Often, their mantality is focused on their wants. From a juveniles point of view it is a nessisity. An example, a pair of shoes he/she stole was something that they needed, not wanted. In other words the not only are juveniles learning what behavior gets them what they want, but they are creating wrong ideas of what is important in life. You very clearly explain Social Learning Theory. There are so many factors, and you did a good job on toucing on them. There are so many theories that can be used to look at Juvenile Delinquency!

  2. Sometimes juveniles do not understand "deviance" and deviance to them may be a way of life or a way of survival. Definitely family and social influence is one of the causes of juvenile delinquency. I also strongly believe that the learning theory explains why juveniles commit the crime that they do. Sometimes it is hard to believe that this theory may explain most of the reasons why juvenile crime occurs, there are other factors that may pertain to juvenile delinquency but it is proven that juveniles learn through their social groups and their immediate surroundings. Especially when a juvenile has conformed to their environment and to their way of life.