Sociological association theory and Merton’s theory of anomie

Sociological theories that apply to criminology are aimed to explain how the individual’s perception and attitude were shaped, and due to what factors their behavioral patterns turned toward delinquency. This paper researches Sutherland’s differential association theory and Merton’s theory of anomie in regard to juvenile delinquency, along with differences and similarities between them. Sutherland’s differential association theory explains how people adopt behavioral patterns by interacting with individuals who are prone to deviant activity. The process of adoption of such patterns starts at a young age in the primary groups such as family, other children, close friends and people who are somehow engaged in the individual’s everyday social environment (Bosiakoh, Andoh 200.)  Merton’s theory of anomie, on the other hand, deals with formation of material goals and attitudes to approaching those goals, and how differentiation between these approaches in various social groups leads to crime. Merton noted that conformity to conventional cultural values produced high rates of crime and deviance (Zembrowski 245.) He considered the crime as a phenomenon that occurs not only in the lower-class, but in all stratas of the society. Both Sutherland and Merton try to explain delinquency as a product of socialization. Sutherland built his theory abstracting from scientific, biological explanations, the same as Merton. The point of their theories is to set a correlation of delinquency with sociological factors that affected the formation of tendency to deviant behavior among representatives of different social groups. However, in spite of the common aspects of these theories, there is a difference between the types of crime they explain. Merton’s theory explains tendencies to committing utilitarian crimes, in other words, those that are connected with material possessions and money, while Sutherland’s theory can be also applied to non utilitarian delinquency. Nevertheless, these theories complement each other. To conclude, both Sutherland’s differential association theory and Merton’s theory of anomie in regard to juvenile delinquency explain how the environment children grow in affects their attitude towards common social values and law, and how the behavioral patterns they adopt may lead them to committing both utilitarian and non utilitarian crimes. The theories abstract from the scientific factors that were believed to be defining in the formation of attitudes, and make those irrelevant.


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