The Theory of Differential Association and Gangs.
Theory is a systematic explanation of a phenomenon; it organizes known facts and allows us to predict new facts, and permits us to exercise a degree of control over the phenomenon. One important theory was first offered nearly three-quarters of a century ago by Edwin Sutherland, the theory of differential association. Edwin H. Sutherland was born August 13, 1883 in Gibbon, Nebraska and died in 1950. He studied in Ottawa, Kansas and Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1904 he received the B.A. degree from Grand Island College and in 1906 he entered graduate school at the University of Chicago from which he received his doctorate (FSU). There he changed his major from history to sociology. The University of Chicago's approach to the study of crime emphasized that human behavior was determined by social and physical environmental factors, rather than genetic or personal characteristics. (FSU). .
Differential Association theory was Sutherland's major sociological contribution to criminology. Sutherland argued that people become criminal if they are exposed to statements, which express approval of crime more often than disapproval. Statements approving crime will vary in their power to influence depending on the status and the importance of the person who spoke them, and the age of the listener. This approach explains deviant behavior as a result of family and friendship influences.
The theory of Differential Association states that deviant behavior is largely the result of associating with other persons whose behavior is deviant. According to this theory, the greater the degree of association, the greater the likelihood that the behavior will be deviant. In this theory, Sutherland sought to show that deviance was a function of such factors as the frequency and intensity of associations, how long they lasted, and how early they occurred in a person's life.