Chapter 8 of “Criminology Today” by F. Schmalleger

How does the process of social interaction contribute to criminal behavior?

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The first part of Chapter 8 “Theories of Social Process and Social Development” is dedicated to social process theories, which assume that social interactions can contribute to criminal behavior. From this perspective, criminal behavior is not something that people are born with, not “an innate human characteristic” (Schmalleger, 2015, p. 180). It can be learned during the life through communication and interactions with others, in other words, through the socialization. Our family, friends, and peers have the biggest impact since they are close to us. Besides, people are also influenced by social norms and values that are established in different communities. According to social process theories, criminal behavior that an individual acquires in such a way remains lifelong because it is strengthened by the same social issues that have caused it.

What are the various social process perspectives discussed in this chapter?

The author tells about four different social process perspectives; those are social learning theory, social control theory, labeling theory and dramaturgical perspective. The first one states that the criminal behavior can be learned through communication and socialization. In other words, people literally learn how to commit crime from each other just as they can learn any other thing. Social control theory addresses just the opposite. It assumes that the norms and values established by communities and organizations and bonds between people and institutions around them can retain individuals from committing crimes. According to labeling theory, people impose both positive and negative labels on each other, and those affect the individuals’ behavior. For example, if a person has committed a crime, society will not forgive that, which is why this person will commit crimes again. Finally, the last perspective is dramaturgical, which states that people perform particular roles during their lives (a son, a parent, a friend, a lawyer, etc.), and the explanation of their behavior can be found in those roles.

What kinds of social policy initiatives might be based on social process theories of crime causation?

After discussing all of the process theories, the author tells about several crime-prevention programs aimed to retain people from committing crimes by enhancing their self-control and strengthening the bonds, which the social control theory talks about. For example, Montreal Preventive Treatment Program tries to retain children from gang involvement, Preparing for the Drug Free Years addresses the drug use, and so on. And what is really surprising, the statistics shows that those methods actually work (Schmalleger, 2015, p. 196). Apart from these programs, there are also many other social policy initiatives that might be based on the theories described above. A prime example is mass media: various reality shows, TV-programs, films, articles in newspapers and journals, and so forth.

What are the shortcomings of the social process perspective?

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From my point of view, learning and labeling theories seem to be the most right ones. However, even they have received a lot of criticism. Indeed, many aspects are not taken into consideration. For example, if people learn to commit crimes from each other, and family has a significant influence, why the children of criminals do not always become criminals as well? As for the labeling theory, its main drawback is that it does not explain why people commit crimes from the very beginning. However, I think that the main shortcoming of all social process theories is that all of them are based only on social factors, while social development perspectives consider them in conjunction with others, biological, psychological, interpersonal, cultural, etc.

What are a few examples of the everyday imposition of positive (rather than negative) labels? Why is it so difficult to impose positive labels on individuals who were previously labelled negatively?

When it comes to imposing the labels, people immediately begin to think about the negative ones. That happens because we usually do not focus our attention on positive labels, even though we impose those daily. We say he is loyal, she is pretty, Lily cooks good, Marshal is a great lawyer, and so on and so forth. Negative labels attract much more attention, especially if those are fundamental ones, like ‘a criminal’. After an individual is labeled with this, it is extremely hard to impose positive labels since people simply do not believe in those. “Society seems to never forget”, as Schmalleger (2015) states (p. 191).


Schmalleger, F. (2015). Criminology Today (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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"Chapter 8 of "Criminology Today" by F. Schmalleger." StudyCorgi, 20 Jan. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Chapter 8 of "Criminology Today" by F. Schmalleger." January 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Chapter 8 of "Criminology Today" by F. Schmalleger." January 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Chapter 8 of "Criminology Today" by F. Schmalleger." January 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Chapter 8 of "Criminology Today" by F. Schmalleger'. 20 January.

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