The Social Learning Theory is one of the key theoretical models that explain how people become involved in committing crimes. To clearly state that this theory is useful for explaining persons’ involvement in crimes, it is necessary to refer to the theory evaluation with the help of the following criteria proposed by Akers, Sellers, and Jennings (2016): logical consistency, scope, parsimony, testability, empirical validity, usefulness, and policy implications. Thus, the evaluation of the Social Learning Theory with reference to these criteria indicates that it is useful to be applied in the field of criminology in order to explain how individuals become involved in criminal activities.
Firstly, the Social Learning Theory is characterized by logical consistency because its propositions are clearly connected, and key conclusions are made with reference to such concepts as differential association, definitions, differential reinforcement, and imitation without contradicting each other (Akers et al., 2016). Secondly, the theory is wide in its scope because it can explain any crime without depending on its type. The Social Learning Theory describes how any criminal behavior can develop in general (Vito & Maahs, 2017). While focusing on parsimony, it is possible to state that the theory is parsimonious because it operates a limited number of propositions associated with the development of criminal behavior to explain it with reference only to the differential association, definitions, differential reinforcement, and imitation.
Testability of the Social Learning Theory is proven by the absence of tautology in the used propositions. Moreover, this theory can be viewed as having high empirical validity as it is proven by the number of studies that support its propositions and statements. Findings presented in studies on criminal behavior and people’s motivation to be involved in criminal activities provide strong support and evidence to state that this theory is valid (Akers et al., 2016; Vito & Maahs, 2017). The reason is that many studies that prove the use of the Social Learning Theory in the field of criminology appear each year (Vito & Maahs, 2017). Studies demonstrate the relationship between social learning concepts and variables and the development of persons’ criminal behavior.
It is also important to note that the Social Learning Theory is characterized as highly useful and providing implications for practice and policy. Currently, the theory is used not only for explaining why individuals commit crimes but also for giving details on how to prevent the increase in the number of crimes and control associated rates (Akers et al., 2016; Vito & Maahs, 2017). Thus, referring to the theory, authorities work to reduce people’s exposure to crimes or deviant behaviors.
Criminological theories are important to help professionals understand the nature of a crime, as well as its causes with reference to criminals’ behaviors and intentions. In this context, the Social Learning Theory is one of the most effective theoretical models that can be applied to the field of criminology. The theory is based on logically connected and consistent propositions that are non-tautological in their nature. As a result, the theory can explain a wide range of issues and processes. Furthermore, conclusions based on this theory are viewed as valid and reliable as they are supported by many criminological studies. Therefore, these conclusions can be applied to practice in order to develop crime control and prevention programs.
Akers, R. L., Sellers, C. S., & Jennings, W. G. (2016). Criminological theories: Introduction, evaluation, and application (7th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Vito, G. F., & Maahs, J. R. (2017). Criminology: Theory, research, and policy (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.