According to a sociologist societal rules enforced on deviant people referred to as ‘outsiders’ are often rejected and deviants revert to the mind-set that they are being judged which they refuse to accept from society (Becker, 2008). This could explain anti-social behaviour, especially when looking at deviants in social housing which are viewed by the rest of society as ‘outsiders’ and why they choose to commit crimes and behave in a deviant manner. However, deviant behaviour is a social construct because it can be perceived differently in different cultures and by different people, therefore should we really be able to define ‘outsiders’ as criminals or deviants. Another sociologist explains anti-social behaviour as a product of labelling; delinquent subcultures and anti-social behaviour is described as being a result of society labelling sub-cultures as deviant which in turn means they react to the labels with frustration (Cohen, 2002). The most prone to being labelled is white working class young men, they are considered to be turned into folk devils by the public and the media which creates a moral panic about the particular sub-culture. Often once labelled as something by the media and the public members of the sub-culture conform to their label and commit crimes, an example of this are mods and rockers who were for all intents and purposes generally peaceful until the media said otherwise and amplified the crime; riots created by the two sub-cultures ensued. In addition to this the same sociologist discusses crime as a produce of status frustration, going on to say that working class youths’ realise that they are unable to achieve societal set goals so they resort to crime in order to gain status and resources. Therefore sociology would explain anti-social behaviour as a result of labelling and status frustration.
On the other hand social psychology offers more insight into why individuals may commit anti-social behaviour, psychologists believe that behaviour is a direct result of genetics or learned behaviour, otherwise known as the nature vs nurture debate. On the biological side of the argument anti-social behaviour specifically in males is noted as being down to factors such as high testosterone levels and research suggests there is possibly an aggressive gene that people can inherit from parents (Craig & Halton, 2009). People with these genes or high levels of testosterone could be inherently more likely to commit crimes and commit aggressive or anti-social behaviour. Opposing the nature argument psychologist studies have shown that environment can have a significant effect on behaviour. Research has shown that children that have issues with peers and levels of aggression have been shown to have insecure attachments which supports the theory that anti-social behaviour is a cause of environment and parenting (Lyons-Ruth, 1996). The Attachment theory is one that had been studied multiple times by many different psychologists, the most famous prominent study was called the strange situation which proved three different types of attachment existed including secure attachment, insecure avoidant attachment and insecure resistant attachment, this particular study has been the basis for much more studies into attachment including a study about monkeys which makes significant links to attachment and aggression (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970). The study of infant monkeys in isolation showed results that resounded in orphaned, semi-orphaned children and generally children that for whatever reason have suffered some sort of neglect early in life. Infant monkeys that were given total maternal deprivation went on to be very aggressive and have no emotional or affectionate ties with their peers; this supports the theory that anti-social behaviour is a product of environment (Harlow, Dodsworth, & Harlow, 1965).
Following on the nature vs nurture debate, social learning theory also offers considerable evidence that anti-social behaviour is learnt from children’s environments, one of the most important studies into social learning theory is the bobo doll experiment, this involved 3 different groups of children, 1 control group of 24 children that was split into a two groups of twelve children that were not shown an adult model, one group of 24 children that was split into two groups of twelve children shown a male or female adult playing nicely with a bobo doll, and one group of 24 children that was split into two groups of twelve children that were shown a male and female adult playing aggressively with a bobo doll, the results showed that children that had observed the adult model being aggressive towards the toys also displayed significantly more aggressive behaviour than both of the other groups, this shows a lot of support for the social learning theory as an explanation for anti-social behaviour (Bandura, 1973). Despite the fact there is an exceptional amount of evidence to support the nurture side of the debate, it is difficult to brush aside the nature argument since there has not been enough research development into genetics however, it is clear that genetics does play a part in behaviour. It is extremely difficult to define whether anti-social behaviour is a product of biological factors, environmental factors or societal factors; however, it is most likely a combination of all three and more that causes anti-social behaviour since the human mind and behaviour is so complex it would be impossible to pin point down to one specific cause.
To provide additional support from a psychological context to explain anti-social behaviour is a very high profile real life case study called the Bulger case (A+E Networks , 2014). This case was particularly horrific because it was the brutal torture and murder of a 3 year old named James Bulger committed by two 10 year old boys. The two boys Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were known trouble makers which indicates anti-social behaviour. The media reported that the two boys had supposedly played violent video games and watched the film child’s play 3 in which there are scenes that correspond with the torture and murder of James Bulger which included throwing blue paint on the victim (Kirby, 1993). Although there was no real evidence that linked the events that had occurred with violent video games or films a moral panic about “video nasties” was a direct result of the case, in addition to this it was clear that both children had a difficult upbringing and social care was poor at the time which could easily have resulted in an environment that created two boys with extreme anti-social behavioural problems. This shows evidence of learned behaviour in a cultural context which allows psychologists to understand anti-social behaviour.
In conclusion, Sociology and Social psychology provide explanations that are only moderately different, sociology helps to explain and understand anti-social behaviour by looking at how society reacts to individuals and how groups relate to anti-social behaviour for example working class young men are a particular focus of sociologists in relation to understanding anti-social behaviour, while psychology focuses on how individuals react and what causes individual people to commit anti-social behaviour which is predominately a focus on nature vs nurture, how environments can shape young people to do certain things which can be positive or negative depending on their upbringing and the social situation as well as having a biological factor which may be over looked by sociologists.
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