Sociological Explanations of Crime and Deviance

SociologicalExplanations of Crime and Deviance

Sincenorms are important for society, then why do individuals violatethese norms? Why do they commit a crime? Different explanations,biological, sociological, and psychological, expound on suchbehavior. Sociologists and socio-biologists explain on deviance byidentifying instances of such within individuals. These individuals,for example, socio-biologists, assume that different biologicalmake-up leads them to engage in deviance. For sociologists, they lookfor answers on outside factors surrounding the individual.

According to sociologists, deviance act is relative, which means thatwhat is deviant today may not be the same the following day. Thus,there is nothing constant in the society to explain for deviantbehavior, which is conforming to a particular society and in another,is deviant. The paper, therefore, focuses on neutralizationtechniques relationship with differential association theory,significant differences between rationalization and motives, rapists’excuses and justification, and how criminals view their actions.

How Techniquesof Neutralization relate to Differential Association Theory

Also known as Neutralization Theory, Techniques of Neutralization isan independent theory of deviance and crime, which attempt to clarifydifferential association theory. Techniques of Neutralization statethat when individuals engage in deviant behaviors, they will try tofind ways to justify and rationalize their acts or rather neutralizethe guilt associated with the acts (Cartwright, 2016). On the otherhand, Sutherland`s theory of differential association proposes thatthrough engagement with other people, different individuals learn theattitudes, values, motives, and techniques for criminal behaviors.

Here, Techniques of Neutralization are related to the theory ofdifferential association Piquero et al. (2005) noted that Sykes &ampMatza (1960) acknowledges that Sutherland`s &quotclassic statement&quotof the theory about criminal behavior or delinquency is &quotlearnedin the process of interactive socialization&quot (p. 664). Therelationship between the two theories revolves around &quotdrives,motives, attitudes, and rationalizations,&quot (Cartwright, 2011)which accompanies the idea of being a criminal. Ideas for &quotTechniquesof Neutralization&quot article are part of explanation or anelaboration on the different types of rationalizations or excuses,which the criminals acquit or learn during the process.

Piquero et al. (2005) noted that Sykes &amp Matza argue thatdelinquents tend to experience feelings of quit and shame. They knowthat what they are engaging in is wrong and that they will try tojustify this behavior by employing defense mechanism, whichoccasionally is employed in the criminal justice system, for example,self-defense, provocation, and insanity. While &quottechniques ofneutralization&quot employed by delinquents to attempt to justify orneutralize their criminal behavior to other delinquent peers, if notto themselves (Cartwright, 2011). The feelings of guilt and shamecome after the criminal act is committed, which in turn relate to thetheory of differential association, which according to Scully &ampMarolla (1984), focuses on past experiences that shape criminalbehavior and not on the immediate criminal opportunities.

The theory of differential association is more concerned about howindividuals engage in becoming criminals and not about why theyengage in this activity. On the other hand, Techniques ofNeutralization is an extension of it, the shame and guilt thatfollows the learning process (Sykes &amp Matza, 1960). Differentialassociation partly takes part in rationalizations, which makes iteasy for one to commit a criminal act. Piquero et al. (2005) notedthat Sutherland developed the &quotself&quot ideas as part of asocial construct, which is when a person`s image is reconstructedcontinuously borrowing from Sykes &amp Matza`s argument aboutrationalizations, especially when one interacts with others.

Motives,Rationalizations, Techniques of Neutralization, Rapists` Excuses andJustifications, and White Collar Criminals` Techniques ofNeutralization

There are significant differences between rationalizations andmotives, techniques of neutralization, rapists` excuses andjustifications, and the techniques of neutralization used by whitecollar criminals. For instance, Sykes and Matza`s theory focuses onthe way individuals are aware of their obligation, morally, to abideby the criminal law, and again have, within themselves, the moralobligation not to engage in illegal acts (Cartwright, 2016).Therefore, both theorists reasoned that when an individual did engagein unlawful acts, they will have to employ a kind of mechanism tocontrol the temptation to follow these obligations.

The significant difference between Sutherland`s motives andrationalizations and the above Techniques of Neutralization theorydiscussed by Sykes &amp Matza (1960) is that criminal groups havedesigned permanent code of morality that replaces moral obligationcompletely. Here, Sutherland`s motives and rationalizations differ byhow criminals drift away from committing a crime to taking controlrepeatedly while they retain the self-belief rather than wiping cleana wrong doing as suggested by other theories.

Rapists` excuses and justification are described by Sykes &amp Matza(1960) as culpability towards a criminal act after it is committed.The difference with Sutherland`s motives is that the excuses aregiven admitting an act are considered inappropriate and bad, butthere is a full denial of taking responsibility and is blamed for abiological drive or urge, accidents, and scapegoating. In contrast toSutherland`s justifications of crime committed, rapists may assume ordeny responsibility, but completely deny it was wrong (Cartwright,2011). Additionally, rapists` justification differs from othertheories in that there is a behavioral denial of engaging in thecrime, according to Piquero et al. (2005), by presenting the rapevictim in the kind of light that views her to appear more culpableregardless of the rapist`s act. The justification is based on thevictim`s seductiveness, eventual of the victim`s enjoyment of theact, and confusion of denying.

White Collar Criminals` Techniques of Neutralization, as discussed byPiquero et al. (2005), not only are an important part ofunderstanding how white collar criminals see their action but aredifferentiated from other theories in the sense that they are focusedonly on corporate crime. The difference here is built upon threeways first, these techniques utilize and circumvent some of theproblems raised through temporal ordering. Temporal ordering,according to Scully &amp Marolla (1984), studies the techniques ofneutralizing and rationalizing a criminal act. Secondly, thedifference from other theories is that white collar techniques ofneutralization are only for corporate crimes. Thirdly, the differenceis about age and how neutralization moderation relates to offendersdecisions.

New Insightsinto Criminal`s Justification of their Actions

Scully &amp Marolla (1984) research offer new insights into themanner in which criminals justify their actions based on theirvocabulary of motive. For example, convicted provide new insightsabout some of the reasons or excuses they normally use to justifyrape. One of these new insights is about how the victims, while rape,begin to relax and enjoy the act. Of importance in this researchstudy is knowing what goes on once the victims begin to &quotacceptthe image&quot created by their attacker to warrant their relaxationand enjoyment.

Here, the research is important in that it explains further what thecriminals would use one they are cornered. Again, another new insightfrom Scully &amp Marolla (1984) research is about excusing rape.Here, admitters of rape regard their wanton behavior as wrong andthat it is beyond justification. Of importance is the fact that theyblame themselves rather than blaming the victim, which in turn referto the insight above.

Piquero et al.`s (2005) research offer new insights into howcriminal`s justification of their actions revolve around therelationship between age and techniques of neutralization, betterknown as &quotage-neutralization&quot engagement on the intentionsto take part in corporate crime. For example, the research studyfocused on a group sample of different ages. The result showed thatindividuals over the age of 35 years were influenced by thetechniques of neutralization more those below that age to commit acorporate crime. Here, the insights touched on the influences, whichinclude the government exaggeration of dangers to varied consumersand profits in the corporate world.


The paper touched on sociologists and how they explain reasons fordeviance with individuals. Different explanations revolve around theinterrelationship between deviance and crime in today`s society.There are particular theories identified about crime and how itresonates within individuals in the society, for example, theTechniques of Neutralization and Differential Association theory. Forinstance, Neutralization theory was explained as individuals engagingin deviant behaviors will most likely find ways to justify theiractions through neutralizing their quilts. Differential associationtheory is more about engaging in the actual act of crime and notnecessarily worrying about reasons for taking part in the crime.

The paper also focused on the differences among these theories, inwhich it disregard the approach for understanding the manner in whichcriminals regard their actions. Here, some of the differences touchedon the victims and how they elicit the act, for example, rape.Finally, new insights are studied based on the two research studiesby Scully and Marolla and Piquero et al. about &quotage-neutralization&quotand the actual intentions about corporate crime.


Cartwright, B. (2011). Techniques of neutralization. In B. Cartwright(Ed.),(pp. 169-172). Boston:Pearson Learning Solutions.

Cartwright, B. (2011). Differential Association Theory-SocialLearning Theory.Retrieved from http://media,,February 23, 2016.

Cartwright, B. (2016). Criminology 104 lecture on “DifferentialAssociationTheory and Social Learning Theory,” deliveredat Simon Fraser Universityon February 22, 2016.

Piquero, N. L., Tibbetts, S. G. &amp Blankenship, M. B. (2005)Examining the Role of Differential Association and Techniques ofNeutralization in Explaining Corporate Crime, Deviant Behavior,26:2, 159-188, DOI: 10.1080/01639620590881930

Scully, D. &amp Marolla, J. (1984). Convicted Rapists’Vocabulary of Motive: Excuses and Justification. Social Problems,Vol. 31 (5), 530-542

Sykes, G. M., &amp Matza, D. (1960). Techniques ofneutralization: A theory of delinquency. Indianapolis, Ind:Bobbs-Merrill, College Division. p. 169-177