apply theory to explain the cause of a deviance rev

Deviancecan be described as committing offensive and condemned actions thatare disvalued by the society. Deviance is functional in that it leadsto close ranks among group members, and assist to come up withimmediate organization in order to minimize future acts of deviant.Additionally, by stating out rules of violation, deviance plays arole in teaching the society about normal behavior. Deviance canoccur in various ways and for different reasons. This paper willanalyze terrorism as the chosen deviant behavior and its causes usingthe three main sociological theories, namely: social learning theory,differential association theory and conflict theory. Terrorism hasbecome a major threat globally and can be defined as a deviant andaggressive behavior committed on targeted individuals with a motiveof causing injuries.

Sociallearning theory

Thesocial learning theory assumes that the process of learning operatesin the same social structure, situations and interactions to producedeviant behavior. Social learning theory embraces variables used tomotivate and promote criminal behavior. Thus, the probability of anindividual committing a deviance involves the role of variables thatunderlie the social learning process (Krohn 108). The theory ofsocial learning focuses on four main concepts, namely differentialassociation, imitations, differential reinforcement and definition.In this case, the probability of an individual committing terrorismis increased when the four variables are on balance. Therefore, usingthis concept the first cause of terrorism is when individuals arelikely to involve in terrorism when they differentially associatewith other people who commit and support terrorism. Throughdifferential association, people get exposed to various people,values and attitudes. The mechanisms of learning terrorism are aprocess that involves differential associations either direct orindirect, verbal and nonverbal communications with others. As aresult, the intensity, frequency, duration and reinforcement increasethe probability of conforming to the deviant. The theory supposespeer influence as a key influence in both content and direction ofterrorism and its activities. As a result, some people will teachterrorism behaviors and communicate attitudes and values consistentwith such activities to others. Simply, when terrorism isdifferentially reinforced compared to other behaviors that are inconformity to the norms of the society, this may increase theoccurrence of this behavior (Andersen, Margaret and Howard 183).

Onthe other hand, through definitions a person will attach a meaning tosuch behavior that is whether it is justified or not, good or bad orright or wrong. Thus, definitions of can lead an individual to committhis crime. According toAkers,personal definitions of terrorist groups are so intense and heavilyingrained into their religious belief system. As a matter of facts,those definitions have a strong effect on the likelihood of a personcommitting this criminal act (Akers 54).

Thirdly,imitation can be defined as a causal factor of terrorism whereindividuals who get more exposed to terrorism and observe this typeof deviance are more likely to commit this crime (Akers 54).Differential mechanisms are the main learning mechanism where abehavior is a result of frequency, imitations rewards and punishment.Furthermore, deviant behavior is learned but differentialreinforcement such as rewards and punishment function as stimuli forthe behavior. For this reason, positive reinforcement such as awards,money increases the chances of an individual to engage and repeatthis criminal act. In fact greater rewards increase the chances ofoccurrence and repetition terrorism. On the other hand, negativereinforcement is also defined in order to allow individuals to avoidadverse consequences (Krohn 108). Finally, individuals learn owndefinitions that are favorable towards committing terrorism. Usingthis theory to explain terrorism it is clear that this deviant islearned and acquired through similar cognitive and behavioralmechanisms.

Differentialassociation theory

Generally,differential association theory is used to address criminality andhow deviance is learned. This theory holds that the environment playsa significant role in learning deviance. In short, this theoryhypothesis that criminality is learned through social interaction andobservation of law violations. From this approach, group pressure isthe main cause of deviance where deviants should be ready to faceconstraints put in place in order to conform. Scientists havemeasured the extent to which a group intends to directly communicatewith dissenters in order to change their opinions. Brinkerhoff statesthat using this theory, causes of terrorism can be explained usingsome of the basic principles that include terrorism is learned andnot inherited. Secondly, terrorism is learned through interactionwith other people through communication. Thirdly, terrorism islearned within intimate groups which play a significant part instarting criminal activities. The fourth principle is that learningterrorism includes knowledge of its techniques, motives,rationalizations, drives and attitudes. The motives and drives arespecified from definitions of their rules. As a result, an individualcan turn out to into a terrorist because of the excess definitionswhich favor violation of the law (Brinkerhoff 122).

Terrorismis a diverse phenomenon that may be caused by psychological factors.A group is used to best explain this factor rather than anindividual. Terrorist have lowered their individual identity into ashared identity so that a group is of main significance. As a result,their leaders provide a unifying message conveying religious,political or ideological objectives to the frustrated followers.Globally, terrorism has been associated with networks of grouporganized to radicalization. Religious beliefs have been associatedwith causing people to refrain or commit terrorism deviance. On theother hand, religious beliefs have been described as the mainmotivation of terrorist activities throughout history. Recently,religious terrorists have used terrorism to punish any behavior thatthey feel is “ungodly” and to revenge on what they perceive is anattack on their beliefs. Alternatively, ideological beliefs have leadto some group to use terrorism as a way to further their ideologies.However, the ideology may not be a political or religious(Brinkerhoff 122).

Additionally,belief is another element that can be used to explain the cause ofterrorism when those individuals who shares different values fromthose of the dominating society are more likely to engage interrorism. Terrorist’s personal belief systems clearly differ fromwhat is acceptable in the society. According to Akers terroristleader attract support from aggrieved and humiliated individualsmostly associated with a sense of injustice. The other cause ofterrorism is the lack of commitment or little confidence concerningthe future making them more likely to commit this crime (Akers 54).

Clearly,differential associations and social learning theories are similar.However, the theory of differential association has receivedcriticisms for failing to specify the process of learning that resultto changes in definitions. Alternatively, the social learning theoryaddresses this issue by integrating principles of psychologicallearning with the differential associations to highlight ondefinitions.


Thistheory of deviance provides a powerful analysis on the causes ofcrime. It emphasizes on deviance resulting from competition and classconflict. For this reason, the unequal power and resourcesdistribution in the society are described as the main cause ofdeviance. Thus, according to Marxist criminologists, deviance resultsfrom exploitation of the ruling class. Conflict theory assumes thatthe dominant class controls the societal resources and uses thatposition to come up with systems of rules and belief. Therefore, theruling class uses the law as a weapon to maintain their political andeconomic status. The rich and powerful as a result see deviance as athreat to their interest. The main source of social conflict is anunequal distribution of resources such as power, class and status.Social inequality occurs in every society. Class analysis explainscertain differences of position within labor markets that results indifferent life chances, as well as the development of categories ofpositions in various range of different outcomes. Capitalism has beenconsidered as a social system in which social arrangements havefailed to accommodate the potentials for self-actualization. Theprocess of alienation continues because people have little controlover their work, work environment and over the goods they produce(Brinkerhoff 122).

Inthis case of terrorism occurs due to the unequal distribution ofpower where some people turn into terrorism as a way to tackle socialand political injustices. Terrorist believe their acts are based oninjustices where they feel deprived of certain rights, possession orland. In an unequal society, political violence is unavoidablecausing potential rebels to utilize deviant to overturn the politicaland economic systems already in existence in the society. For thisreason, individuals who are strained in such situations are morelikely to engage in these criminal activities. According to Clinardand Robert, people who don’t get what they desire feel frustratedthereby the condition known as strain. The theory of strain associatepeople who are both economically and socially deprived with the rightto deprive and humiliate others who belong to a high socio-economicclass. As a result, a sense of injustice is created and discontentcomes with relative deprivations. The result of this inequality iscatalyzed when the deprived population feels less competitive whilethe benefit of social and economic power continues to shift towardsthe rich (Clinard and Robert 12).

Thefirst stage in his type of deviance is the emergence of socialconflict where the involved parties start to separate themselves andcommunicate their group difference in this case religious belief,next, the aggrieved parties emerge with conditions that they wantsatisfied. The other source of social conflict according to Marx isa sense of deprivation causing class consciousness and leads toconflict and social change. In the case of terrorism, relativedeprivation may be a factor to consider where the group feelsunderprivileged compared to other groups or people. These groupspossess both emotional and material resources to involve in conflictand social change. Terrorism also has some political causes wheremost experts believe that this deviance is a strategy to demonstratepolitical discontent. Ideologies related with revolution, nationalismand defense of rights have been used to inspire this type ofdeviance. Globally, Terrorism is presented by the activeparticipation of a small group of individuals who do not necessarilyrepresent collective interests (Clinard and Robert 12).

Insummary, Marxism view that the history of human society has basicallyremained divided between classes that experience conflict in theirpursuit of class interests. Marx believes that economic forces arethe primary stratification element and a class structure isdetermined by optimizing the behavior of an individual. As capitalismdevelops, class struggle increases and the two classes end up to beincreasingly polarized. Capitalist benefit by exploiting workers andthus the workers continue to become dissatisfied and ultimately thisclass struggle would lead to a revolution. Afterward, workers wouldbecome owners of the means of production and eventually the worldturn into a communist where everything would be equally owned by allpeople (Tischler 144). Terrorism can be used to explain deviant inhuman history using the existing hostile economic classes’ rivalryin the society. Politically, this indicates competition of socialclasses essentially to control the state. Marxist argues that thedifferent classes in the society are responsible for controlling themode of production also have power over the state. Basically,according to this theory an individual’s relation to the means ofproduction determines their class. Therefore, Marx affirms that inessence the state exists as a tool of coercion or simply, nofundamental change can happen in the political spheres exclusive of asocial or economic revolution, thus the deviance (Clinard and Robert12).


Inconclusion, this analysis has demonstrated that deviant behavior ismore conducive in certain situations than in others. Deviant behaviorin a society is significant because it help in uniting a social groupin its response. This means that those opposed to deviant actionscreate cooperation opportunities necessary to the survival of anysocial group. According to Durkheim societies need to understanddeviance acts in order to know what constitutes normal behavior.Terrorism was analyzed as a deviant behavior in this paper usingtheories namely: social learning theory, control theory and conflicttheory. Using the social learning theory terrorism can be learnedthrough social structure, situations and interactions used to promotedeviant behavior. Differential reinforcement is also involved to actas stimuli for this deviant behavior. Group pressure was found as themain cause of deviance. On the other hand, differential associationtheory was seen to address the causes of criminality and how devianceis learned. The environment was analyzed as the main factordetermining learning of terrorism through social interaction andobservation of law violations. Finally, conflict theory examines theinequality and sense of deprivation a cause of class consciousnessand leads to conflict and social change.

Forthis reason, it is crucial to implement ways that can effectivelyprevent this deviant behavior which has brought many negativeconsequences globally. It requires structural changes to the existingsystem in order to address the underlying grievances. Povertyeradication, employment and improved governance can also be used asmeasures to prevent terrorism. Thus, to reduce terrorism, it iscrucial to address peer pressure groups, deal with antisocialattitudes and confront reinforcement balance in order to supportpro-social behavior.


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Brinkerhoff,David B. Essentialsof Sociology.Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008. Print.

Clinard,Marshall B, and Robert F. Meier. Sociologyof Deviant Behavior.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Krohn,Marvin D. Handbookon Crime and Deviance.Dordrecht: Springer, 2009. Print.

Tischler,H. L. (2014). Introductionto sociology.Belmont, CA, USA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.