Akers' Social Learning Theory Essay

2318 words - 10 pages

High crime rates are an ongoing issue through the United States, however the motivation and the cause of crime has yet to be entirely identified. Ronald Akers would say that criminality is a behavior that is learned based on what an individual sees and observes others doing. When an individual commits a crime, he or she is acting on impulse based on actions that they have seen others engage in. Initially during childhood, individuals learn actions and behavior by watching and listening to others, and out of impulse they mimic the behavior that is observed. Theorist Ronald Akers extended Sutherland’s differential association theory with a modern viewpoint known as the social learning theory. ...view middle of the document...

The fundamentals of the social learning theory significantly describe offenders and their criminal behavior which is learned based on observation and imitation. A researcher by the name of Albert Bandura along with coworkers tested the social learning theory with several experiments on children and their imitation of aggression based on what they saw and were exposed to. Bandura’s focus was to prove that human behavior such as aggression is learned through social imitations and copying the actions of others. Walters (1966) gives details about the Bobo doll experiment and explains its purpose related to learning a violent behavior based on observation. In the experiment, the tested subjects were children of both sexes, ranging from the ages of three to six years. Some of the children were exposed to a non-aggressive adult, while the other children were placed in a room with an aggressive adult who would both physically and verbally attack the Bobo doll. The control group in the experiment was not exposed to any adult. During the second phase of the experiment, the children were left in a room by themselves with the toys, and watched to see if they would demonstrate the aggressive behavior like that of which they observed adults doing earlier. Walter (1966) describes the results as “children who had been exposed to an aggressive model showed more imitative physical and verbal aggressive behavior than did children in the other two groups,” (Walters 1966:62). According to Bandura’s experiment with the adolescents and aggression, children are likely to copy the behavior that they see an adult do around them. This is connected to Akers theory because the adolescents being tested mimicked the behavior that they saw even though it was violent and in the social world this test would be the mimicking of criminal behavior which is learned through observation.
Another study was done testing the social learning theory on substance abuse and the non-medical use of prescription drugs. The purpose of the study was to find cause as to why the abuse of prescription drugs has been increasing over recent years. The social learning theory is important in explaining the non-medical use of these prescription drugs by young adults ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-five years old. Higgins, Mahoney, and Ricketts (2009) states that based on facts found in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost thirty million people aged twelve and over had used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes which are the same as drug abuse (2009:949). The authors state that theorist Akers “proposed a social learning theory that consists of four concepts: differential association, definitions, differential reinforcement/punishment, and imitation” (2009:951). In the study, the respondents were asked about how often they used prescription drugs for uses that were not medically related and the data collected was used from the Monitoring the Future survey. The purpose of...

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