As Wolfensberger (2003, p. 21) notes, an individual can be considered as a deviant if the person is recognized as being considerably “different from others” in several characteristics that are deemed “of relative importance,” and if such “difference is negatively valued. ” Hence, it can be seen that Akers, through the SLT, attempts to scrutinize the existing differences through an understanding of the behaviors considered as ‘normal’ from not by putting together the aspects that promote and discourage delinquency among individuals.
In SLT, it is argued that the process of social learning transpires through five primary stages of replication: close contact, replication of those who are superior, comprehension of the concepts involved, specific behaviors according to role models, and insertion. Akers and Burgess modified the first two stages proposed earlier by Edwin Sutherland by adding the idea of reinforcement and applying the precepts of Operant Psychology.
While the former relatively intensifies or weakens the potency of a certain behavior, the latter maintains that behavior is a function of its effects (Pfohl, 1994). In essence, SLT purports to support the employment of punishment which corresponds into extended sentences for criminals convicted as it also facilitates to elucidate on the population of prisons that commenced back in the early years of the 1970s (Livingston, 1996).
In the context of the case of Kistler, the SLT of Akers will be primarily used in bringing into light the causality behind the case not only the immediate causes one can easily perceive but the causes that will be arrived at after a careful analysis of the case. The SLT will also be used in predicting the likelihood of a similar case from occurring and the corresponding prevention that may possibly be employed as well as in arriving at a suitable suggestion in addressing Kistler’s case in terms of the existing criminal justice system. Etiology
It is a fact that Kistler pleaded guilty to the accusation of child pornography held against him after pretending to be a male teenager suffering from a terminal case of leukemia through the internet so as to advance his efforts of coercing teenage girls into sending him pictures of the teenage girls that are sexually explicit. Although Kistler admits that he was not conscious of inflicting any harm albeit admitting that he understood what he was practicing was wrong, seeking the causality behind his actuations simply does not end there nor do the causes cease to be analyzed.
Quite on the contrary, it should all the more fan the analysis into wildfire, unto something deeper than what meets the eye. The mere statement that Kistler “knew what he was doing was wrong (Associated Press, 2007)” even though claiming that he was not aware he was causing any harm should all the more incite a rigorous analysis of the case. One way of approaching this problem is through Akers’ Social Learning Theory.
As Akers argues that people learn ‘aggressive acts’ by means of direct conditioning and modeling the actions of other individuals amplified by positive rewards and the evasion of punishment, Kistler might have acquired his pretentious act through what Akers is obviously suggesting. More specifically, Kistler might have resorted to his pedophilic actions after being directly conditioned into the performance of such actions which is reinforced by the existence of positive rewards and the absence of or, at least, the avoidance from an immediate punishment which both prompted him to further commit and sustain his actions.