Integrating Learning and Control: The Learning of Conformity

Lonnie M. Schaible, Washington State University

Theories of social control state that social bonds produce a stake in conformity, which deters individuals from engaging in delinquency. However, such theories take for granted the transmission of cultural norms, and fail to specify the fundamental processes through which conforming and deviant behaviors are socialized. Social learning theories, on the other hand, overly emphasize the cultural transmission and learning of deviant beliefs and behavior, at the expense of explaining the soialization of conformity. Drawing on Patterson and others, the present study provides a theoretical model integrating learning and control perspectives to explain how socialization plays a crucial role in the development of a stake in conformity, which ultimately dissuades individuals from developing delinquent beliefs and consequently engaging in delinquent behavior. Using cross-sectional data from a near complete census of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in Montana conducted in 1998, structural equation modeling is used to assess the overall fit of the proposed theoretical model. Empirical support for the model is provided, and implications for findings are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006