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Differential association:an effect of association with criminal

Sutherland advocated theory of differential association which describes the association with criminal how influences behavior of individual. It says that individual not only imitate it but understands and also develops it as any other social behavior. It also expounds that criminal behavior is determined by the ratio of definitions favorable to crime versus unfavorable to crime. He also stated that learning of criminal behavior depends on frequency, duration, priority and intensity to exposure to criminal behavior.

Introduction
Sutherland’s theory of differential association emphasizes importance of association or companion. It suggests cause of criminality as learning of criminal behavior. He says it is not because of inheritance criminality causes. The criminality causes because of differential association or association with criminals. He also says that trust also plays important role in learning criminal behavior, because of trust or intimate relation with criminal individual learns criminal behavior. He also hypothesized that criminal behavior is determined by the ratio of definitions favorable to crime versus unfavorable to crime.

Concept of Differential Association:

Human from childhood learns various things till his death. The child first start to imitate then in his life’s later stage he learns to understand and then develops it. This important characteristic of human being is reflected in theory of differential association.

It states that a person is likely to engage in crime when he or she has learned more attitudes that are favorable to the violation of the law, than attributes that are unfavorable to it. Learning takes place in course of social interaction and criminal is learned in the same manner any other social behavior.

Thus crime is resultant of the learning of more attitudes that are favorable to the violation of law.

The theory insists on the cognitive faculty of human being. It states that criminal behavior learned by communication with criminals like one learns to tie his or her shoelaces or to button his or her shirt.

Sutherland defines that criminal behavior is not learned by T.V., films or newspaper but person is influenced by intimate groups as family, peers and friends etc. Close relation with criminal who is present in family, peers and friends may influence the person for criminal activity. The close environment of child can make his tendency to crime if he learned criminal activities from such environment. He proposed that intimate members of particular group share relationship of trust and this plays a pivotal role in encouraging deviance. A person’s behavior is basically influenced by their family as it is the first social group he or she interacts with. Additionally he or she is more influenced their peer groups through direct and indirect interaction.

The crime is not only action but also include motive and rationale behind it which according Sutherland can also be learned. Thus it is not only imitation of action but it is rather considers understanding also. He or she learns motive and rationale behind crime through criminals.

Sutherland propose that individual has option to choose between pro-criminal and anti-criminal intentions that he develops on learned conceptions of law as either accepted or unaccepted notions. This develops opinion of law that either encourages or discourages a particular action. Criminals are not inherently deviant, they learned the deviance. It suggests that opportunity also plays important role in learning criminal activity.
Sutherland states that an individual becomes delinquent only when “definitions favorable to violation of law” exceed “definitions unfavorable to law”. For example, definitions favorable to income tax fraud include “Everyone cheats on their taxes” and “The government has no right to tax its citizens.” Definitions favorable to drunk driving include “I can drive fine after a few beers” and “I only have a couple of miles to drive home.” Definitions favorable to violence include “If your manhood is threatened, you have to fight back” and “To maintain respect, you can never back down from a fight.” These definitions favorable to crime help organize and justify a criminal line of action in a particular situation. They are offset by definitions unfavorable to crime, such as “Tax fraud deprives Americans of important programs that benefit the commonwealth,” “All fraud and theft is immoral,” “If insulted, turn the other cheek,” “Friends don't let friends drink and drive,” and “Any violation of the law is wrong.” These examples illustrate several points about definitions of crime. First, some definitions pertain to specific offenses only, such as “Friends don't let friends drink and drive,” whereas others refer to a class of offenses, such as “All fraud and theft is immoral,” and others refer to virtually all law violation, such as “Any violation of the law is wrong.” Second, each definition serves to justify or motivate either committing criminal acts or refraining from criminal acts. Third, these definitions are not merely ex-post facto rationalizations of crime but rather operate to cause criminal behavior.

Sutherland recognized that definitions favorable to crime can be offset by definitions unfavorable to crime and, therefore, hypothesized that criminal behavior is determined by the ratio of definitions favorable to crime versus unfavorable to crime. Furthermore, he recognized that definitions are not all equal. Definitions that are presented more frequently, for a longer duration, earlier in one's life, and in more intense relationships receive more weight in the process producing crime.

He further attributes learning of deviant behavior to four factors, “frequency, duration, priority and intensity” i.e. how often, for how long, how early in life and from whom individual exposed to criminal association. For example, a young child who is raised by a drug addicted parent will be exposed to stronger definition of deviant because he is much more often and far long and early in life exposed to deviant behavior. A person becomes a criminal when there is strong influence as to acceptability of unlawful behavior as compared to lawful behavior. This is the fundamental principle of differential Association theory. This means that a person who associates with more member of society favoring deviance have more chances of deviance than otherwise. This means that company or association of person affects the behavior of the person. That relates also to old religious sayings that always say to make friendship to good peoples rather than bad people because company or association affects also behavior.

Conclusion:
(1) Criminal behavior is learned as any other social behavior.
(2) More favorable attitudes to crime are learned with association with criminals.
(3) Trust plays important role in criminal behavior especially trust on criminal because of trust child starts to imitate criminal behavior of adult and later starts understanding delinquent behavior and learns rationale and motive behind it.
(4) Individual has option to choose between pro-criminal and anti-criminal intentions that he develops on learned conceptions of law as either accepted or unaccepted notions. This develops opinion of law that either encourages or discourages a particular action. An individual becomes delinquent only when “definitions favorable to violation of law” exceed “definitions unfavorable to law”.
(5) Criminal behavior affects individual only when frequency, duration, priority and intensity is much more.

References:
1. Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory, Sutherland Edwin H.: Differential Association Theory and Differential Social Organization: Francis T. Cullen & Pamela Wilcox, SAGE Publications, Inc., pg. no. 4.
2. Juvenile delinquency: Dr. Sheetal Kanwal, Amar law publications, pg. no. 34.

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