Summary of the Article
Various variables contribute delinquent behaviour in juveniles. These variables include the youth’s peer relationships, self-image, as well as social and family environments available to the youth. An understanding of the factors that contribute to the occurrence of deviance behaviour can offer a beneficial intuition into the kind of interventions to be implemented to alleviate delinquency. The family provides the bedrock for the children where their behaviours are shaped or ruined depending on the environment created. Children who experience family strains in their homes during their formative years risk developing deviance behaviours (Church II, Wharton, & Taylor, 2009). Such family tensions create an avenue for the juveniles to choose to join deviant peer groups which provide significant training grounds for nurturing delinquent behaviour. As per Church II, Wharton and Taylor (2009), the presence of a stronger family cohesion could play significant role in keeping children away from the influence of deviant peer groups.
Differential association theory is of the view that deviant behaviour is mostly cultured through constant interaction with others. Social and cultural interactions among human beings lead to the acquisition of drives, motives, attitudes and rationalization which may push an individual start leaning towards deviant behaviours as opposed to acceptable practices (Church II, Wharton, & Taylor 2009). According to Moon, Hwang, & McCluskey (2008), youths who do not exhibit close attachment with their parents or other family members and adults have proven to be more inclined to delinquent behaviours. Differential association theory goes ahead to stamp the critical role a cohesive family plays in imparting better behaviours in children.
Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.
The research by Church II, Wharton and Taylor (2009) utilized 1,725 youths in the United States of America. This study included individuals who were aged between 11 and 17 years. This study moreover used six subscales as well as three demographic variables of age, gender and race. These demographic variables were used to provide an empirical or theoretical relation to delinquency. Each of the population variables was assigned a dummy variable where 1 indicated ‘male’ or ‘white’ and 0 meant ‘female’ or ‘non-white.' Other variables in the study comprised of family cohesion, family stressors, perceived self-image, significance of non-familial relationships, peers delinquent activity as well as one’s delinquent behaviours.
The research findings indicated various correlations between delinquent behaviours with the selected research variables. Being male was found to be the strongest predictor of one becoming a delinquent or involving oneself with delinquent behaviours (Church II, Wharton, & Taylor, 2009). According to Church II, Wharton and Taylor (2009), this finding is associated with the fact that most males have a lower perceived self-image compared to their female counterparts. Lower perceived self-image push men to join deviant peers who are likely to appreciate them. The race was, however, found not to be a contributing factor to delinquent behaviour as earlier indicated in other studies, therefore, presenting a null hypothesis. Furthermore, the research affirmed the fact that family stressors have an immense role in contributing to delinquencies. It is, therefore, important for families to provide their children with positive role models who will act as a reference of acceptable behaviours.
Empirical Support for the Theory
Findings clearly shows an empirical sustenance for the theory. Delinquent behaviour is essentially a group behaviour and cannot occur in isolation from a group. According to Moon, Hwang, & McCluskey (2008), there are some ways that groups use to enter into delinquent behaviours. Furthermore, delinquent behaviours can be said to be genetically directed learning function which is achieved through constant associations with delinquents who are within personal groups that are intimate. In addition, delinquent behaviour is said to occur after a successful induction into a criminal group or after a group is formed. Most delinquents tend to associate with other delinquents as well as participating in delinquent activities which are seen as a way of conforming to the group’s ideologies. Differential theory of association hypothesis seems to hold that duration; variation in frequency, priority as well as the intensity of direct association with delinquent patterns of behaviour tends to account for delinquent behaviours (Moon, Hwang, & McCluskey, 2008). However, the homophile hypothesis is of the view that one is most likely to select those whose behaviours and value are similar to them so as to form friendships.
Policy Implications of Differential Association Theory
The implications posed by differential association theory are cantered on the fact that an individual has to associate themselves so as to acquire delinquent behaviours. This theory further predicts the ability of a person to choose a criminal path where they will get more satisfaction from breaking the law rather than from abiding by the same law (Hall, 2011). Furthermore, this tendency is likely to be reinforced if this cultural association is deemed to provide active people in this person’s life (Hall, 2011). In addition, if these people are considered as belonging to a higher status, the probability of sticking with the group is further improved. Here the individual will acquire the training on techniques needed to commit crimes. The government need to emphasize the importance of parents spending more time with their children as well as putting children in undertakings with good children.
In conclusion, differential association theory is a very critical theory which explains the importance of unions in forming and propagating delinquent behaviours. The research by Church II, Wharton and Taylor (2009) openly proves that individuals tend to associate themselves with criminal elements if the atmosphere in their environment is not conducive enough to support acceptable behaviours. It is, therefore, important for these children to have positive role models who will exhibit acceptable behaviours to them. The models will help them achieve a positive self –image which will be vital in helping them resist the trappings of delinquent behaviours.
Church II, T. W., Wharton, T. & Taylor, J. K. (2009). An Examination of Differential Association and Social Control Theory: Family Systems and Delinquency. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 7 (1), 3-15.
Hall, E. (2011). Crimminological theory and implication on public policy. Criminology & Justice. Retrieved on 13 April 2017, from http://criminologyjust.blogspot.co.ke/2012/10/criminological-theory-and-implications.html.
Moon, B., Hwang, H. & McCluskey, J. D. (2008). Empirical Test of a General Theory of Crime, Differential Association Theory, and General Strain Theory. Crime and Delinquency, 57 (6), 827 – 855.