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Testing Control Theory and Differential Association: A Causal Modeling Approach

Ross L. Matsueda
American Sociological Review
Vol. 47, No. 4 (Aug., 1982), pp. 489-504
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095194
Page Count: 16
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Testing Control Theory and Differential Association: A Causal Modeling Approach
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Abstract

A number of strong theoretical statements have been based on analyses of delinquency data from the Richmond Youth Project. Hirschi (1969) and Jensen (1972), in particular, found that Hirschi's control theory was empirically supported over Sutherland's theory of differential association. This paper reanalyzes these data and reassesses this negative evidence pertaining to differential association theory. It is shown that the ratio of learned behavior patterns favorable and unfavorable to violation of legal codes, the critical variable in Sutherland's theory, can be operationalized by explicitly modeling its measurement error structure. In turn, this allows the testing of specific hypotheses derived from the theory. The analysis based on this strategy finds differential association theory supported over control theory. Specifically, the unobservable construct representing the ratio of learned behavior patterns successfully mediates the effects on delinquency of the model's other variables.

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