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Social Learning Theories And Juveniles

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Autor:  anton  25 March 2011
Tags:  Social,  Learning,  Theories,  Juveniles
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Running Head: Social Learning Theories and Juveniles

Social Learning Theories Relating to Juvenile delinquency

Abstract

This paper takes a closer look at the social learning’s of society’s subculture that displays delinquent behavior. Using differential association I explain the learned behavior through the social environment such as role models, peer influence, and poverty stricken families. Delinquency is not biologically nor psychologically but is learned just as a person learns to obey the law. The study design is to help further the notion that criminal behavior is learned and not inherited due to genetic structure.

Social Learning Theories Relating to Juvenile delinquency

In today’s society juvenile delinquency is the root of major issues that lead to adult delinquency which leads to prison overcrowding and 8.6 percent of the California’s general fund being consumed by the prison system in 2006-2007 fiscal year (Lawrence, 232). Learning theories contend that criminal behavior is learned from others and this learning process necessarily involves the internalization of values, norms, and behaviors that vary across areas and groups. Therefore, neither free will nor biological or psychological characteristics are associated with delinquent behavior, but rather the social environment effect on the maturation process (i.e. your product of your environment). Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory suggests criminal behavior is learnable and learned in interaction with other deviant persons, causing the behavior to be learned at a young age. Sutherland’s (1947) theory lays down the foundation for explaining deviant behavior in correlation to juveniles. In this paper, I hope to use social learning theories to further understand the relationship of juvenile deviance and the environment they try to prosper in, i.e. the influence it has played in their young lives. I believe that an individual is influenced through their personal trials and tribulations in life pertaining to negative outcomes that they must deal with, thus, causing the delinquent behavioral pattern to commence at a young age.

Review of Literature

By viewing crime as any other behavior that must be learned, the assumption is that by observing the habits of others the individual will mock the mannerisms and then facilitate them to their own needs and desires. People carbon copy what works in our subcultures if that is going to work through obtaining an education and seeking employment through legal means versus unconventional methods of attaining economic prosperity through illegal means such as property crimes. This is where the social environment plays a fundamental and vital role in molding the young juvenile’s learned traits pertaining to the approach they will take towards the law. The social environment consists of role models ranging from family, peer groups, and the larger community can encourage or dissuade delinquency (Bandura, 1962).

In Sutherland’s (1947) theory a juvenile who displays violent behavior might be linked from observing parents that used acts of aggression and violence to solve problems in life. So it does not go without saying that a child exposed to domestic violence, sex abuse, recurring conflict with the juvenile and criminal justice system, school failure, poverty, and poor role models are at a disadvantage and on the inevitable path to become a juvenile delinquent (Bandura, 1962). Daily observations of adults demonstrate acts of violence and illegal behavior come to acknowledge this as just normal behavior and not as deviant. Furthermore, acquiring material goods through scheming and stealing are in turn perceived as appropriate means in doing so.

Social learning may also occur because juveniles use the experiences of their peers to update their beliefs concerning the expected benefits or punishments (as humans are natural hedonists and seek pleasure that outweighs the pain) of committing particular crimes, making individuals more or less likely to commit these crimes. Alternatively, social learning may take the form of the acquisition of crime-specific skills and knowledge, such as how to steal a car, how to disconnect a burglary alarm, or how to avoid being caught by the police. Interactions with individuals who have experience committing a particular type of crime may allow an individual to acquire this knowledge more easily, thereby leading to increased activity in the parallel crime category. Access to individuals with experience in a given criminal activity might assist in the formation or expansion of an individual’s criminal network (Bayer, Pintoff, & Pozen, 2003). Just like having a network of friends, criminal networking is important in more complicated criminal activities such as those related to illegal drugs, which require a great deal of organization among manufacturers, distributors, sellers, and users (Bayer et al., 2003).

In an effort to figure out a path to take to deter crime a prison in Singapore has taken that step. Kaki Bukit Center (KBC) Prison School is the only prison school in Singapore and in South East Asia. KBC is an innovative proposal aimed at optimizing resources and spearheading rehabilitation programs in an institutional setting. KBC brings together, in a single centralized location, different categories of inmates from both penal and drug institutions who attend academic and vocational classes to enhance their educational qualifications. The school's efforts are supported by a multidisciplinary team (i.e., teachers, prison officers, and counselors) who work together to help students in their studies and in their journey of change to become responsible, reformed citizens (Oh, Goh, Tarn, & Heng, 2005). Through this method they are proving that anti-social behavior can be undone and the juvenile is demonstrating a higher success rate upon entering back into to society i.e. recidivating is not as likely. Many of the offenders in this prison reportedly gave into peer pressure of delinquent behavior causing their present stay in the Singapore prison.

In a novel by Sanyika Shakur titled Monster: the Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member he is a product of his environment, he learned his criminal traits through older gang member he associated with and fed off of his intimate personal group of the Eight Tray Gangsters. Several times during the chronicle of Shakur’s life he justified his actions of murder particularly in a grocery store whereupon he gunned down a mortal enemy of his “set”, stating after the fact that “Fuck him, he was going to shoot me. I justified my shooting of him with self-defense” (Shakur, p.42). There was not a time where Shakur felt remorse during his “banging” days for his actions of violence and delinquent behavior. The most prevalent theory that this book exemplifies is the differential association theory. Shakur sought to receive a status achievement and a family that supported him in every fundamental aspect of gang life. He is an example of trying to prosper in a low-income impoverished neighborhood, where the social bonds took the individual to live a life of crime.

Methods

After researching my theory of why I feel delinquent gang activity is influenced by Sutherland’s (1947) differential association. This particular theory is important and should be looked at much more closely. Differential association was supported by a few methodologists who share similar feelings about causal effects of delinquent gang membership. Their findings helped me gain a better understanding of differential association as a key component in orchestrating delinquent attitudes towards peer pressure and what occurs when juveniles are exposed to juvenile friends who lead them in anti-social directions. To discover for myself that differential association is a promising theory in gang orientation, I designed a panel of questions on self-report questionnaires that will be distributed to juvenile offenders in order to figure out why it is they become involved in criminal activity with gangs.

Because I want to gain a full understanding into the reasoning behind why delinquents get involved in gang activity, I will be distributing self-report questionnaires to juvenile offenders in detention centers throughout the nation. Before distributing this questionnaire I would like to build rapport with the juvenile subjects in order to increase validity, internally or externally. In order to build rapport I would like to conduct open-ended question interview with the juveniles in the detention centers. To make the juveniles feel more comfortable during the interview process, I would dress in a casual urban-style reflective of the subjects own style. This would demonstrate more of a friendly persona and not viewed as a threat to the individual being interviewed.

I would conduct specialized interviewing techniques that are less structured and allows for the interview to go in any direction. Of course a checklist would be used to maintain some structure and to keep on topic for the extent of the interview. But conducting the interview in this manner keeps it less formal interview and more of a directed conversation; this in turn will keep the juvenile interested in the topic, as teenagers are notorious for attention spans of nano-seconds. Also, the interview should take no longer than 15-20 minutes with each participant to enable thought provoking and thorough answers for the questions asked.

I will select five detention centers in California, five in New York, state-wide, and another five in the state of Louisiana. I will be concentrating on these three states because I feel they have the most poverty-stricken areas in the country. In Southern California such as the city of Los Angeles, high crime rates exist due to large amounts of diversity in the area, as well in a couple Northern California cities such as Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, and East Oakland. In New York, I also feel that high crime rates exist, mostly in the South Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and East New York areas. In Louisiana, the same reasoning applies, but I am primarily selecting this state due to the fact that the city of New Orleans has a high poverty level. I will mostly be concentrating on areas where high levels of poverty are common because I believe that gang activity is prevalent where family support is not, and family support is usually not very strong in poverty-stricken areas, such as in these selected areas.

My reasoning behind distributing these questionnaires to detention centers is because I will be able to get some important answers from these juveniles. Being close to these low-income neighborhoods, each of these detention centers will provide me with juvenile offenders who have been involved, or are still involved with gang activity. I will be distributing these self-report questionnaires to juveniles by sending them through the mail or if possible, through e-mail for probation employees to distribute themselves. I feel that between the ages of eight and seventeen are the core ages involved with differential association because these are the ages when humans are most influenced in their behavior at this point in their lives. Because the theory of differential association does not target a specific race or ethnicity in its findings, I will distribute my questionnaires to all juveniles that apply to my research. These juveniles will all have only one thing in common and that is the idea that they were, or still are, involved in gang activity.

In making sure that I receive accurate results, I will need the help of the counselors and officer’s at the detention centers to set up an understandable block of time where I will be able to distribute these questionnaires in a “classroom-like” atmosphere. I will explain to the officers that I will only need the help of the juveniles who have been placed into their detention centers due to criminal activity associated with gangs. When it is time for me to distribute the questionnaires, I will benevolently ask these juveniles, in a positive and sensible manner, that I would greatly appreciate their help in assisting me in my research.

As an incentive for each and every one of them to fill out these questionnaires accurately, I will offer them each an incentive to participate in my research, with the Center’s approval. I would award them with a gift that is adequately met by the detention centers protocol, or possibly seeking officers approval for a reward. An incentive for finishing the survey could be having the juveniles write a reasonable compensation for their time and efforts upon completion. In order to keep the study cheap, traveling to these various places throughout the country is out of question. Instead relying on the officers to follow through with distributing them, and further discussing the possibility of a minor contribution to the juveniles for participating and not

On the basis of constructing my questionnaire, I will include four sections. Section One will include socio-demographic questions such as information regarding the juveniles’ gender, ethnicity, amount of siblings in their family, if any. Section Two will cover some questions regarding their home life and background. The last section of questions is based on my dependant variable. This is the idea that differential association plays an important role in the origin of becoming a gang member and juvenile offender.

Measurements of Variables

In Section One, I used simple questions like “what is your gender?” to gain basic information about the participant. This simple question also gives me important information so that I will be able to develop a ratio and possibly explain a pattern in this theory due to differences in gender. Another question from this section that I asked was “what is your ethnicity?” Much like the gender question, asking them what their race may give me a central idea regarding what their friends may be like and will also give me some more important ratio information. Another question that I feel is important is “what kind of music do you most enjoy?” The answers to this question will give me clear and insightful information regarding what type of content is being instilled into their vocabulary. The difference between Hip-Hip and Country music is significant and will give me some good information about the participants along with the other questions that I will issue.

In Section Two, the focus of my questioning technique is to expose some information regarding the home lives and backgrounds of the participants. An example of a question that I feel is essential is “what is the majority race in your neighborhood?” This question is important because it will give me an idea about the surrounding culture of these participants. For example, if a child’s family is the only African American family in a predominately White neighborhood than this may prove to be significant, and will further my questioning into why that child would become delinquent. Another question that I will ask in this section is “do you feel you are learning anything by attending school?” I feel this question is very important and will help me “profile” these different juveniles and characterize a pattern. If a juvenile enjoys attending school then why would he cut class and vandalize the block nearby? Or was he peer-pressured into delinquent behavior? This question may seek to delineate my curiosities of peer pressure that goes hand-in-hand with differential association.

For the third section, I will completely focus on my dependant variable. For these questions I will re-word and re-phrase questions that will give me the definitive answers that I am looking for. An important but standard question that is in this section is the one that asks, “You tried drugs because your friend told you to.” This question rests aside the concept of gang activity and mentions the idea of drugs. Nonetheless, the main focus of this question is to figure out how much of an influence their friends have on them. Another question that I feel is significant in this questionnaire is the question involving whether or not “being involved in gang activity is common in your community. This question will give me critical information regarding the status quo and type of norm that is present in their communities.

For my last section, I wish to determine if drugs and alcohol are influencing these juveniles in any way. By determining the amount that these juveniles are using drugs and alcohol may help in assessing the causes of delinquent behavior. These questions would be asked after rapport has been built with the juveniles to increase the validity of the answers. Thus, decreasing the possibility of the juveniles lying, because they believe it will be self-incriminating to their situation. This section will aide in associating drugs with what type of delinquent behavior the juvenile does, i.e. a violent juvenile uses PCP quite often, might be a correlation between the two.

Conclusion

In developing these questions, I attempted to place myself in the position of these offenders. By making the questionnaire fairly nonchalant, I hope to make the participants feel more comfortable about filling out the survey. Progressively moving towards my dependant variable through the three sections also makes the questionnaire more accurate, in an assembling sense. I feel that these questions will ultimately give me a critical insight and better understanding into the reasons for engaging in delinquent behavior. I also believe that the theory of differential association will ultimately support my reasoning in why exactly juvenile become involved with gangs and criminal activity. The null-hypothesis for my theory behind differential association is that neighborhood conditions and delinquent friends have no affect on delinquent behavior. When collecting results from the questionnaires, I hope to find evidence that supports my theory that juveniles develop into delinquents due to being associated with them. Much like Charles Horton Cooley’s theory of the “Looking-Glass Self,” people change their behavior because of the way people view them. I believe that his theory goes hand in hand with differential association, as well. From these questionnaires I hope to find many common answers regarding neighborhood conditions, race, and family support. In order to inch closer in proving my theory correct, I will need to find many similar attributes from the questionnaire. By looking closely at these key questions along with the rest of the answers from the questionnaire, I may be able to verify that my theory is indeed, a strong reasoning behind delinquent behavior. I strongly feel that my null-hypothesis will be disproved and that I will find a causal relationship between delinquent friends and differential association.

PLEASE SPEND YOUR TIME WITH THIS SURVEY AND SELECT THE ANSWER(S) THAT BEST APPLY TO YOU. WHEN FINISHED, PLEASE STAY SEATED AND RESPECT THOSE AROUND YOU WHO ARE STILL WORKING ON THE SURVERY. THANK YOU.

SECTION I

1. What is your gender?

A. Male

B. Female

C. Other

2. What grade are you in?

A. 4 D. 7

B. 5 E. 8

C. 6 F. 9

3. What is your Ethnicity?

A. Caucasian non-Hispanic or Latino

B. Black

C. Hispanic

D. Asian

4. Are you a ward of the court? If so, at what age?

A. 1-5

B. 6-10

C.11-15

D. Not a ward of the court

5. How old were you when you committed your first crime?

A. 7-8

B. 9-10

C. 11-12

D. 13-14

E. 15-16

F. Over 17

6. What genre of music do you most enjoy?

A. Rock

B. Hip-Hop

C. Country

D. R&B

E. Other, please specify ___________

7. Do you receive Birthday and Christmas presents from your parents every year.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

8. How many siblings do you have?

A. 0

B. 1

C. 2

D. 3 or more

9. Does your family’s main source of income come from the Welfare System?

A. Yes

B. No

C. Unsure

SECTION II

1. What is ethnicity is the majority in your neighborhood?

A. Caucasian C. Hispanic

B. Black D. Asian

2. What is the ethnic majority at your school?

A. Caucasian non-Hispanic or Latino

B. Black

C. Hispanic

D. Asian

E. Other, plea

3. Where you live, are boarded up windows are common.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

4. Of what race are your closest friends?

A. Caucasian

B. Black

C. Hispanic

D. Other

5. Do you play any sports? If so, what sport(s)? Circle all that apply.

A. Basketball F. Volleyball

B. Football G. Soccer

C. Baseball H. Other, please specify ________

D. Track and Field/Cross Country I. Do Not Play Sports

E. Golf

6. Do you feel that you are learning anything by attending school?

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

7. You go to church on Sundays.

A. Always, every Sunday

B. Sometimes, 1-2 times a month

C. Never

8. Your parent(s) work(s).

A. 0-15 hours a week

B. 16-30 hours a week

C. 30-40 hours a week

D. 40-60 hours a week

E. 60+ hours a week

9. Your Parent(s) swear

A. Always

B. Occasionally

C. Sometimes

D. Rarely

C. Never

SECTION III

1. Being involved in gang activity is common in your community.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

2. When was the first time you heard about gang activity? (Choose the one that best applies)

A. Approximately 5 years ago

B. Approximately 2 years ago

C. Fairly Recently

3. What attracted you to gang membership? (Circle all that apply)

A. Money

B. Sense of Security (family

C. Attention (ghetto superstar)

D. Drugs

E. Peer-Pressure

4. Being friends with individuals that are involved in a gang causes you to break the laws.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

5. Your parents ask you to check-in with them…

A. Always

B. Occasionally

C. Sometimes

D. Rarely

C. Never

6. It is O.K. to break the law if your gang says that it is alright.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

7. You get along with your teachers pretty well.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

8. Education is heavily stressed by your parent(s)/guardian(s).

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

9. What your friends think of you is more important than what your family thinks of you.

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

10. You do drugs (marijuana, cocaine, PCP, etc)

A. Always

B. Occasionally

C. Sometimes

D. Rarely

C. Never

11. Your friends do drugs

A. Always

B. Occasionally

C. Sometimes

D. Rarely

C. Never

12. You tried drugs for the first time because your friend(s) told you to. (Only answer if it applies to you)

A. Strongly Agree

B. Agree

C. Disagree

D. Strongly Disagree

Section IV.

1. How many DAYS of the month do you smoke Marijuana a month?

A. 25+

B. 20-25

C. 15-20

D. 10-15

E. 5-10

F. 1-5

G. 0

2. How many days of the month do you use Cocaine a month?

A. 25+

B. 20-25

C. 15-20

D. 10-15

E. 5-10

F. 1-5

G. 0

3. How many DAYS of the month do you use PCP a month?

A. 25+

B. 20-25

C. 15-20

D. 10-15

E. 5-10

F. 1-5

G. 0

4. How many DAYS of the month do you Drink Alcohol?

A. 25+

B. 20-25

C. 15-20

D. 10-15

E. 5-10

F. 1-5

G. 0

References

Bandura, A. (1962). Social Learning through interaction.

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press

Bayer, P., Pintoff, R., Pozen, D.E. (2003). Building Criminal Capital Behind Bars:

Social Learning in Juvenile Corrections. Yale University: Economic Growth Center

Lawrence, D. (2007). California: The Politics of Diversity. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher

Education

Oh, E., Goh, T., Tarn, B. K. Y., & Heng, M. A. (2005). The captains of lives: Kaki Bukit Centre

Prison School in Singapore. Journal of Correctional Education, 56, 308-325.

Shakur, Sanyika “Monster”. (1993). Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member

New York, NY: Grove Press



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