Sample Criminal Justice Term paper Summary on Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory on Gang Violence

The reason behind the upshot of gangs in recent times and the desire of youths to join gangs cannot be explained easily. Through contemplation however, it can be established that there are various reasons why people join gangs. Prevention of gang violence is dependent on the ability to identify causes of the same and subsequently react in response to those causes. Understanding how people can tolerate and inculcate negative morals in their lives is difficult. However, through the social learning theory, it can be possible to explain the reasons behind the gang violence.

Factors such as media pressure, drug abuse, the economy and theatre are linked to the social learning theory with regards to the causes of gang violence. In order to explain the social learning theory further, the Marxist theory is also referred to. The theory of Marx indicates that the main cause of the degeneration of moral principles is the possession of resources by capitalists which leads to the establishment of a delinquent society.

In the youth stage, peer influence is identified as the probable key cause of gang membership. This is based on the assertion that various media programs influence the actions of youths through the portrayal of gang life as cool. Although this portrayal may not be the intention of TV and radio programs that show gang life, the youths are often misled into thinking that gangs are good for them.  This is contrary to the perception of adults who view the movies and TV programs and subsequently get the intended message.

In addition to this, covetousness is also a cause of gang membership as explained by Allyne and Wood (2010). The violent behaviors observed on TV are taken to inspire gang violence among youths. This is because the observed actions bring thrill and adventure from their opinion making them desire to reproduce what they see on TV hence joining gangs (Bellair & McNulty, 2009).

Other factors that have been cited to contribute include coming from poor homes with many children. Youths from such settings usually join gangs out of boredom and due to the desire to be loved and considered equal to others. Apart from this, the lack of society among parents may also be a key concern towards the development of gangs. Once the youths join gangs, the desire to be the greatest among the other gang members drives individuals to commit bigger and bigger crimes in order to surpass the leaders in the gang.

As such, crime activity among gang members escalated on a daily basis. The gangs also feel the need to be the leading gang in the neighborhood. The competition between gangs seeking to be the most dreadful within the neighborhood leads to the escalation of gang violence in the locality. When there are wars between gangs, the violence escalates to include drive-by shootings and gang killings increase. Furthermore, sexual stereotyping and force also make youths join gangs.

While many arguments exist on the relevance of gangs to the formation of social circles, it is clear that some of the youths join gangs due to the misconception that gangs offer self defense. The images projected by gangs show the fact that gangs offer protection through retaliation in case some of their members are ill-treated in the society.

However, the negative impacts of joining gangs are never highlighted. In conclusion, the social learning theory shows that the environment creates human behaviors such as gang violence through interactions with people and the gangs themselves. Ethnicity and poverty also act as drivers for gang membership (Esbensen, 2010). As a recommendation, people should avoid over-dependence on the police for the ending of gangs. Instead, they should focus on fining creative ways through which gang enrollment can be prevented.


Alleyne, E., & Wood, J. L. (2010). Gang involvement: Psychological and behavioral characteristics of gang members, peripheral youth, and nongang youth. Aggressive behavior, 36(6), 423-436.

Bellair, P. E., & McNulty, T. L. (2009). Gang membership, drug selling, and violence in neighborhood context. Justice Quarterly, 26(4), 644-669.

Esbensen, F. A. (2010). Youth violence: Sex and race differences in offending, victimization, and gang membership. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press.

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