What Is the Interactionist View on Crime?

The interactionist view of crime is that deviance is learned from the groups that a person associates with. The basis of Edwin Sutherland’s theory of differential association states that deviant behavior is not due to personality or biological influence, but rather it is caused by association with others who behave deviantly.

According to Sutherland, deviant people learn their values from others who commit deviance; thus, if members of the groups that someone associates with are deviant, the person learns the deviance and it seems normal to them, despite what people in the dominant culture believe.

An example is when gang members teach their new members that carrying a gun, using drugs and stealing are acceptable, even though these behaviors are in opposition to the behaviors of the dominant culture. When the gang members joins the gang, they learn new values and norms and accept them as their own, regardless of the opinions of right and wrong they may have held before.

Sutherland’s theory of interaction also states that people learn deviance from others whom they believe are important, and the more important that the person is to the individual, the more likely they are to be influenced by them. For example, teenagers wanting to fit in with their peers at school may try smoking marijuana to fit in, even though they know it is not socially acceptable.