The Social Process Theory

The Social Process Theory The social process theory suggests that criminals are 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. Individuals actions and thought process is going to be based off of what their first instinct is and their first instinct is going to be what they know best.

For example, if a boy is raised in a home where their family shows their anger by reacting physically, then that child will be more likely the one that is getting in fights at school than the child who grew up in a home where 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 action they have committed. The social process theory is based off of three other theories that influence criminal behavior. Some criminal’s behavior is influenced by the people they have close relationships with. Peoples contacts with their most intimate social companions have the greatest influence on their learning of deviant behavior and attitudes” (Siegal, 1992, p. 226). This is known as Social learning theory. If an individual’s criminal behavior is being supported by the people they look up to or know the most they are less likely to make the right choices. From an early age children are taught what behavior is and is not acceptable and learn how to act by what they observe and see. If a child is not disciplined when they do something wrong then they will never know any better.

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When you’re young you do what is expected of you by your guardians and people around you. Children normally do not pay attention or even know about what is right in the eyes of the law, all they know is that they do not want to make mom or dad mad. Unfortunately, some people that kids look up to are not the best role models and they are technically being trained to become future criminals. On the other hand there are criminals who grew up in a well disciplined home but later get mixed up in the wrong crowd.

If someone gets involved with bad people for an extended period of time and is with them quite frequently, anything that group does starts to eventually seem “okay. ” A person mainly associating with people that are constantly committing illegal acts as a way of everyday life will ultimately absorb the same mind set. “According to Sutherland’s theory, individuals become law violators when they are in contact with persons, groups, or events that produce an excess of definitions favorable toward criminality and are isolated from counteraction forces” (Siegal, 1992, p. 227).

Other criminal acts are due to how much will power and individual has to obey the law which is known as the Social control theory. Social theorists claim that a person’s actions and feelings of strong emotions are influenced by internal and external forces. People who do not have well valued morals and lack self control are more likely to commit a crime. Individuals that are poor, do not have a good job, and or do not have a close and respectable support system of friends and family, do not have much to lose. Everyone needs to obtain some sort of social tie or bond in their life otherwise the person has no boundaries for themselves.

Travis Hirschi states, “Lawbreaking is often the most immediate source of gratification or conflict resolution, and no special motivation is required to explain such behavior” (Hirschi, 1969). If a person has nothing else going for them to bring happiness in their life they may commit some criminal act that gives them a rush of feeling ecstasy such as vandalizing or stealing. An individual who is trying to solve a conflict may not give much thought at all when it comes robbing someone if they feel they are in desperate need of an item and are not willing to work for it or if they need money.

There is clear relationship between individuals that are impulsive and lacking social bonds to committing a crime. Everyone has a label or a title that represents them based on what other people think about the person. Their first impression by others is hard to live down. An individual that has had interactions with police, courts, and correctional agencies are doomed to think that their only possible identity is a criminal (Jenson, 2003) When a person is looked at by society as being a criminal they acknowledge it and are more likely to continue disobeying the law (Becker, 1963).

It is human nature to adapt to whatever role people treat you like. If you get treated like a criminal enough you may act out like one. One mistake could damage yourself image for the rest of your life. For example, an underage college girl getting caught drinking on campus and is expelled from school will be recognized as a troublemaker or irresponsible. Many students make drink underage but if this particular person was caught and has this on her record she will be treated differently and be limited to options that would benefit her future. 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 they think and act. You can’t control how you were 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 their own choices of who they spend time with they are most likely going to follow a crowd that is most familiar to what they know, good or bad. Without even being aware of it all people are being directed and led to a certain path in life and it’s unfortunate for the ones who are 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 are able to commit crime and most likely will if they were raised with that mentality (Siegel, 2006, p. 211). I believe 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.

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The Social Process Theory. (2017, Jan 06). Retrieved from