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What is Delinquent Behavior?

This fact minimizes the importance of either individual traits or the social environment. Sutherland stated that this learning takes place by means of interaction with other persons in a process of communication, and this means that the individual is active and not passive in the process. This places responsibility on the young person, who is not depicted as a simple receptacle for some outside force. The learning of criminal behavior takes place primarily within intimate personal groups, meaning family, friends, and peers rather than strangers, the media, or some other more distant source, and among these groups, peer pressure remains the strongest force acting on young people of a certain age. Such an influence exerts even more force when it deliberately counters what might be called established or parental values so as to overcome social controls.

This learning further includes techniques of committing the crime, whether complicated or simple. For shoplifting, the peer group easily demonstrates the techniques for performing the deed and for getting away with it. Through interaction with different members of the peer group, the young person comes into contact with people with different ideas of how useful it is to obey the rules. This enables him or her to learn the specific direction of motives and drives from both favorable and unfavorable definitions of the legal codes. The individual becomes delinquent if definitions favorable to violation of the law exceed definitions favorable to obeying the law. These differential associations which shape behavior vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity, but they contribute to the way the young offender learns the behavior. A final element cited by Sutherland holds that while criminal behavior can be seen as an explanation of general needs and values, it is not explained in the same way that noncriminal behavior is explained by the same needs and values:

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What is Delinquent Behavior?. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:28, July 20, 2017, from
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