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Book Beat: August 2001

Recent publications from CLAS faculty.

Social Learning and Social Structure:  A General Theory of Crime and Deviance

Social Learning and Social Structure:  A General Theory of Crime and DevianceRonald L. Akers (Criminology)
(Northeastern University Press, 1998)
Available through JSTOR  

This is a landmark book from Ronald L. Akers, the leading authority on social learning theories of crime and deviance. It is the culmination of over thirty years of rigorous theory construction, careful data analysis, and subsequent revisions of social learning theory. The book opens with a lively personal history of the development of social learning theory as a revision of Sutherland's differential association theory. It then reiterates the important point that what is often labeled 'cultural deviance theory' is merely a caricature of learning theories. The book then reviews Akers' extensive empirical research on social learning, and concludes with an important presentation of a theory of social structure and social learning. This is the definitive statement of the social learning theory of deviance, and is must reading for serious students of crime and deviance.

Excerpt

...one can assume that there will be some motivation for many [juvenile] respondents to conceal or under-report smoking out of fear of disclosure, even as others may be motivated by a desire to be different or to show willingness to flout paternal and societal rules to report themselves falsely as smokers or to over-report how much they smoke. The widespread use of self-reported behavior in studies of deviance has been accompanied by a keen awareness of both of these types of response-validity problems and attempts to get the truth about behavior that is socially defined as undesirable. Hence, a number of techniques of gauging response validity were developed long ago for self-reports of drug use, such as including a bogus drug in the list of substances and comparisons of self-reports with clinical records (Whitehead and Smart, 1972), and for other forms of self-reports of delinquent behavior, such as comparing questionnaire responses with polygraph findings and with official records (Hardt and Peterson-Hardt, 1977; Hindelang et al., 1981). On balance, the research findings from these checks on truthfulness of responses give us some confidence in the validity of self-report measures of deviance in samples of adolescents (Radosevich et al., 1979).

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