As we have seen throughout this chapter, most criminological theories posit a cause of crime.
90 Some theories, however, focus less on causes than on constraints?Those forces that keep people from committing a crime. These theories are called restraint theories. However, since they focus primarily on why people do not break the law, restraint theories provide only half of the causal picture. They are especially weak in Identifying the social-structural sources of motivations to commit crimes.1 Also, the ways In which bonds with different Lenstallions Interact with one another and with arsenal attributes, as well as the variety of bonds that operate throughout the life cycle, have yet to be clarified. However, differential association theory falls to explain why people have the associations they do and why some associations affect certain Individuals more than others. Why, for example, are most prison guards unaffected by their constant association with offenders, while a few take advantage of their position to smuggle contraband?The theory has also been critic- lazed for being so general and Imprecise as to allow for little testing.
8 complete testing of the theory would require that all of the associations a person has ever had be recorded and analyzed from the standpoint of the individual?a clearly impossible task. Other theorists continue to build on Sutherland early work.Robert Burgess and Ronald Akers, for example, have constructed a differential association-reinforcement theory that seeks to integrate Sutherland original propositions with the work of American psychologygist B. F. Skinner’s work on conditioning. 9 Burgess and Akers suggest that although values and behavior patterns are learned in association with others, the primary mechanism through which such learning occurs is operant conditioning.Reinforcement is the key, they say, to understanding any social learning as it takes place.
The name social learning theory has been widely applied to the work of Burgess and Akers. It is somewhat of a misnomer, however, since the term can easily encompass a wide range of approaches and should not be limited to one specific combination of the ideas found in differential association and reenforcement theory