Sutherland on the field of criminology and criminological theory
This chapter reviews Edwin H. Sutherland's principal contributions in relation to the field of criminology and criminological theory, with some special attention to the significance of these contributions as we work our way through the second decade of the twenty-first century. Sutherland was hardly the first person to suggest that learning in some form played an important role in an individual's engagement in delinquent or criminal conduct. Differential association is a developmental theory of crime that seeks to explain criminal behavior in terms of the life experience of a person. The principal criticisms of the theory of differential association have two core themes: deficiencies in the theoretical arguments and deficiencies in relation to testing. Most theories of crime have been developed in relation to conventional or street crime. Sutherland's theory of differential association was especially influential in shifting explanations of crime, from biogenetic and psychiatric explanations to sociological explanations.