Social Learning and Deviant Behavior: A Specific Test of a General Theory

  • Ronald L. Akers
  • Marvin D. Krohn
  • Lonn Lanza-Kaduce
  • Marcia Radosevich
Part of the The Plenum Series in Crime and Justice book series (PSIC)


In the last decade we have seen a dramatic shift away from sociological explanations of deviant behavior toward developing theoretical perspectives on societal reactions to and definitions of deviance and crime. Labeling and conflict formulations have become major foci of sociological theorizing as well as the sounding boards for most of the controversy and discourse in the field of deviance. This shift in focus was deemed necessary to redress the previous imbalance of attention to the deviant behavior itself (Akers, 1968), and it clearly has had that effect. Unfortunately, it also has led to the neglect of theoretical developments in the etiology of deviant behavior. Neither labeling nor conflict perspectives has offered a general explanation of deviant behavior, although some conflict theorists have offered preliminary but incomplete efforts in that direction (Taylor, et al., 1973; Spitzer, 1975). There have been other efforts directed toward explaining deviant behavior, but these have been fairly narrow in scope; they have usually been limited either to a specific type of deviant behavior or to a restricted range of substantive variables. For example, a good deal of attention has been paid to the modern resurrection of deterrence theory (Gibbs, 1975; 1977; Waldo and Chiricos, 1972, Tittle, 1975; Silberman, 1976; Erickson et al., 1977; Meier and Johnson, 1977; Geerken and Gove, 1977). The scope of deterrence theory has been changed little, however, since its statement by the classical criminologists two centuries ago and is limited to the actual or perceived certainty, severity, and celerity of formally administered legal sanctions for violations of the criminal law. Another example is Travis Hirschi’ s (1969) control (social bonding) theory which is a more general explanation of deviance than deterrence theory, but which is, in turn, primarily restricted to informal social control which comes from individuals being bonded to groups and institutions.


Social Learning Drinking Behavior Deviant Behavior American Sociological Review Differential Reinforcement 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald L. Akers
  • Marvin D. Krohn
  • Lonn Lanza-Kaduce
  • Marcia Radosevich

There are no affiliations available

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