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Social Process Essay

The social process theory draws the conclusion that criminals were raised in an environment that forms them to make unlawful decisions. People are influenced by what they are taught and their surroundings such as where they were raised, their guardians, and people they associated with. Individual’s actions and thought process will be based on what their first instinct is and their first instinct will be what they know best. For example, if a boy is raised in a home where their family shows his or her anger by reacting physically, that child will be more likely the one that is getting in fights at school than the child who grew up in a home were fighting was never present. No one is born with the mind be a criminal, they are in some way directed to perform the behavior or actions he or she have committed.

Gangs are groups of people usually with the same common demeanors. Members in a gang who commit crime have been exposed to previous malicious behavior. The containment theory emphasizes what pushes and pulls an alleged deviant criminal. The containment theory has two principles, external, and internal contributors pushing someone to commit crime. The external contributing factors of the containment theory represent some background abnormality, such as negative influence, possible biological or psychological defects. The internal principle is observed as wants and rewards, such as financial gain, sexual satisfaction, whatever personally motivates someone to commit crime Schmalleger, 2012, p. 181).

The social bond people developed in gangs are attachment through shared interests, committing to how much energy and devotion is put toward others, involved with members from the group, and sharing the same beliefs. Some possible issues of the containment theory relating to gangs would be the psychopathic behavior being passed on like a cold. For example, the Columbine shooting was committed by two young men who shared social bonds. On the 20th of April in 1999, two high school seniors walked onto their Colorado high school campus and started shooting everyone in sight. By the end of the siege both gunmen were dead along with other 13 people and 23 were wounded (Ehrlich, n.d.). These actions brought about many theories about why these two young men had committed such a heinous act. Some people blamed the violence on guns, others blamed bullying, and some even blamed the parents of the shooters. No matter what tragedy occurs people will always put the blame on whatever it is that they do not like.

However, there are a few social process theories that may explain the actions of these two young men. One such theory is the social control theory. This theory “Focuses on the strength of the bond people share with the individuals and institutions around them, especially as those relationships shape their behavior, and seeks to identify those features of the personality and of the environment that keep people from committing crimes” (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 181). This theory seems to lay more of the responsibility on the parents of the shooters because the parents are those that exposed their children (the shooters) to violent games as well as weapons. These parents may be partially too blamed for the actions that occurred that dreadful day simply because many of the weapons used were either built in the same house as the parents or were legally owned by them. Another theory that seems to tie into the social control theory is the social learning theory. The social learning theory states, “All behavior is learned in much the same way and that crime is also learned.

It places primary emphasis on the roles of “communication and socialization in the acquisition of learned patterns of criminal behavior and the values supporting that behavior” (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 186). These two theories go hand- in-hand with each other. Another theory that can be attributed to the actions of the shooters is the labeling theory. This theory “Points to the special significance of society’s response to the criminal and sees continued crime as a consequence of limited opportunities for acceptable behavior that follow from the negative responses of society to those defined as offenders” (Schmalleger, 2012, p.183). This theory helps fuel the idea that the shooters were bullied and were labeled as outcasts. Therefore, the shooters were probably upset about being bullied and reacted in the only way that they knew how. Unfortunately, the true reason behind the shootings will never be known and criminologists can only assume about what caused these two young men to snap.

According to Harold E. Pepinsky, and Richard Quinney the theorists who developed the concept for peacemaking criminology. Peacemaking criminology “holds that crime-control agencies and citizens must work together to alleviate social problems, including crime” (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 215). Radical Criminology is a social conflict theory governing 1960s – present, concept of social class. The peacemaking theory stands for the complete opposite of the radical theory. The peacemaking theory emphasizes parties working collaboratively to resolve social problems. The radical theory is the opposite of peacemaking, and capitalizes on “disenfranchising those less successful” (Schmalleger, 2012, p. 215). The radical theory the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the peacemaking theory states everyone must work together to fix social problems. It seems that however, American society has made much progress since its beginning and we still have much crime to deal with.

The United States economy is based on capitalism and the reason for most of the nation’s crime, according to the conflict perspective theory. This theory maintains that though we have laws to keep order they themselves create dissension and crime. These laws are put into place by the ruling class in power to control those not in powers. This leads to dissention and ultimately to those out of power to commit crimes. This theory says that as long as we have a materialistic greedy society such as capitalism produces; crime will be a natural byproduct (Reid, 2012). The conflict perspective says that criminals are not much different from normal citizens but that society reacts differently to their behavior. Workers are demoralized in a capitalist society: caught in a vicious cycle of wanting consumer goods that they are taught are essential for life and not being able to acquire them without reverting to crime to do so.

Materialism leads to crime because the American dream can never be realized because they always need more (Sims, 1997). This theory has its roots in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Their work maintains criminal and antisocial behavior stem from social conflict. Private property ownership is one example of capitalism that leads those not able to own property into poverty. They believed capitalism to be the largest factor in why there is crime. Their work eventually produced communism where in theory everyone shared equally in all things so there is less desire to have more than the other person (Reid, 2012). There is an emphasis on social and economic conditions instead of the traditional belief that criminals commit crimes by rational choice or suffer from a biological/psychological deficiency. The crime conflict theory portrays individuals as somewhat faultless as the system is rigged against them. They are denied some of the finer things in life that they believe they deserve. Therefore, crime in a capitalist society will always be with us according to this belief (Sims, 1997).

The world is a dangerous place and some neighborhoods are a more dangerous than others. One reason behind the variations in crimes by neighborhoods could be associated to the social disorganization theory, which says that the prevention of crime is because of the direct supervision of law enforcement (Triplett & Gainey, 2007). This theory implies that each individual neighborhood has its own characteristics that form the level of social control that the neighborhood has on its occupants (Triplett & Gainey, 2007). An example of this would be a homeowners association. Many homeowner associations have strict rules and regulations for the residents that reside within their neighborhoods. Theses strict rules help the homeowners association establish a hierarchy that allows it to fine residents that break the law and to establish its dominance among the people.

Another example would in south central Los Angeles where homeowner associations do not run the neighborhoods, but gangs do. These gangs make it seem that the “thug life” is the best way to live and therefore many people end turning to it because that is considered the norm. This however, is not always the case. When this occurs it is known as the anomie. Anomie is “An environmental states where society fails to exercise adequate regulation or constraint over the goals and desires of its individual members” (Durkheim & Merton, n.d.). This basically means that a select number of people will go against what rules that the governing body of the neighborhood says are being violated. Due to the lack of constraint, many people who fall victim to this often end up taking their own lives.

In conclusion, criminals are not born with the intent becoming a criminal without help from outside forces. Everyone is born innocent however the person’s surroundings will influence how he or she think and act. An individual cannot control how he or she was raised and who you were surrounded by until you are old enough to make that choice, however, it might be too late. When an individual is able to make his or her own choices of who they spend time with, they are most likely going to follow a crowd most familiar to what he or she know, good or bad.

Without even being aware people are being directed and led to a certain path in life, and it is unfortunate for those born into a life where people around them are living the wrong way. Yes, people have a choice on how what they do, no one is forced to commit a crime, however, it is very hard to look outside of what you were taught and raised to be. All people can commit crime and most likely will if they were raised with that mentality. It is believed that many criminals today could have had a different fate if they were positively influenced by their environment and had better role models to look up to.

Durkheim, E. & Merton, R.K. (n.d.). Durkheim’s Classic Contribution. Retrieved from
Ehrlich, H.J. (n.d.). The Columbine High School Shootings: The Lessons Learned.
Retrieved from Reid, S. (2012). Crime and Criminology (13th Ed.). : Oxford University Press. Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction (6th ed).

Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database. Sims, B. (1997, February). Crime, Punishment and the American Dream. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 34(5), 5-24. Triplett, R.A. & Gainey, R.R. (2007). Understanding Neighborhoods and Crime. Retrieved from:

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