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differential associationa theory of CRIME developed by Edwin H. Sutherland, in which criminal behaviour is viewed as learned behaviour resulting from contact with situations in which criminality is defined favourably He argued that this theory could also account for the type of crime engaged in. Thus, in the appropriate contexts, favourable attitudes to tax evasion or ‘fiddles’ at work may be learned by people who are otherwise eminently law-abiding and respectable.
Working in the tradition of the CHICAGO SCHOOL, Sutherland was especially interested in street gangs and DELINQUENT SUBCULTURE. However, he intended his theory as a general theory of criminal behaviour, its significance lying in the argument that individuals learn to be criminal in precisely the same way that they learn to be law-abiding. He thus rejects those accounts of crime which explain it in terms of individual psychopathology However, there is no acceptance in sociology that ‘differential association’ explains all aspects or all forms of crime. See also CRIMINOLOGY.