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Differential Association Theory Essay

1. Differential Association theory would explain the burglar’s behavior by first looking at their social structure. Their social structure can affect everything; it can influence their close relationships, open them up to objective opportunities and could be seen as the main attribute that affects their learning process in behavior. A. Most of the people in these interviews are poor, young males with similar social structures. Growing up on the streets and in bad neighborhoods can influence the interactions that each of these people will have. These interactions can result in definitions favorable to crime because these people are beginning to surround themselves and interact with people who are already doing illegal actions. (Hagan, p.89). In the article it gave an example of how a group of friends may be doing coke and once it runs out someone in the group, that has developed their own belief in what’s right and what’s wrong, suggests doing burglary in order to get some money for more coke. A new person within the group may feel pressure in continuing in order to maintain their status and relationship with the members in the group. Here they are learning new attitudes and accepting new values that are favorable to crime (Hagan, p. 89).

The behavior being learned is that burglary can help with any immediate needs and together they rebel against the law. The new member may now start to change what they believe is right and wrong and could begin acting in more frequent illegal actions. These burglars have the belief that burglary is okay because it is a matter of “day to day survival”. This shows that they have their own interpretation on what they think is right and wrong which is a learned definition favorable to crime. In the interview Wild Will proved this theory by describing that when he is in need of money he thinks to himself, “How do I know how to get money quick and easy?” He at one point had to have learned that an immediate fix to a bump in the road, which is justified in his mind, is to perform a burglary. Larry Harris would agree when he says that it is just something you have to do to get by. Neither of these men views burglary as something wrong but as something you do in order to survive.

B. When it comes to the techniques that people learn in committing crime several burglars said that it is something that you just get better at over time. Wild Will stated that when he goes to rob a house he likes to stake out the house and call it in order to see if someone is home. This may have been a technique he had picked up from someone else that he went and did a burglary with. Several participants in the interview confessed that if they had a friend that had a burglary set up that they would be willing to do it with them if given the offer. This is an incident where you could say that a person may have the opportunity to learned new strategies and techniques that have worked for someone else in the past. Another technique that gets learned on the streets is the ability to maintain and develop status. One of the participants shared that it is mandatory to be perceived as “hip”. People on the streets learn through interactions with each other what it takes to be hip and be seen as someone with high status. 95% of the participants confessed that they spend the money that they steal on things that give them the image of “high-living”.

During the interview several things were revealed as things to do in order to gain that high status. These burglars can learn these techniques such as doing drugs, having sexual partners, the right styles and brands, and a car and car accessories, as things to pursue in order to gain that respected status in the street culture. C. It is already made clear that these burglars live in poor neighborhoods and are living on the streets which give them more objective opportunity than someone that is in a nicer well off neighborhood. Due to their neighborhood, it exposes these burglars to people that are promoters to committing crime (Hagan, p.90). Most of these men have also admitted that they are “too lazy” to maintain a real job so sources of income are limited within the household.

Because of this most of these participants say that they are acting on illegal action, like burglaries, in order to gain money for food and clothing for their family. As for subjective opportunities not everyone would look at something as an opportunity to commit a crime but Larry William says it best in his interview when he is describing what he does when he is in need for money, “There it is! There’s the house”. He automatically looks for a target and sees it as an opportunity to immediately fix his problem whereas another person wouldn’t think of that as an option. Another subjective opportunity that these burglars have is the fact that their social bonds are also partaking in these acts and so they have multiple opportunities in performing a burglary when they are present with more opportunities given by their friends.

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