The Relationship between Attitudes toward Deviance and Deviant Behavior: The Influence of Science, Individualism, Social Bonds and Deviant Peers

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Virginia Tech

Various sociological theories of deviance have demonstrated the importance of an individual's attitudes toward deviance in determining whether or not that individual will engage in deviant behavior. This research contributes to the theoretical and empirical literature on deviant behavior by examining the strength of two cultural factors, the scientific worldview and individualism, in predicting an individual's attitudes toward deviance when tested alongside the tenets of other predominate individual level theories of deviance, namely Hirschi's (1969) social control theory and Sutherland's (1939) differential association theory. The sample for this analysis is 202 students from a large research university in Southwest Virginia. The findings of this research lend support to Sutherland's (1939) differential association theory and to the scientific worldview as significant predictors of tolerant attitudes toward deviance. Several of the bonds of Hirschi's (1969) social control theory were also supported in this research; however, some failed to predict deviant behavior, leading to the conclusion that future research should focus on clearly elucidating the conceptualization of the social bonds forwarded in the original theory. Finally, the cultural ideology of individualism was not a significant predictor of tolerant attitudes toward deviance in this study. Future empirical studies should work to more clearly operationalize this variable as Hawdon (2005) described it and investigate the variables significance as a predictor of tolerant attitudes toward deviance.

Differential associations, Social control, Individualism, Scientific worldview, Delinquency