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Differential Association Theory

Edwin Sutherland coined the term differential association to indicate that from the different groups we associate with, we learn to deviate from or conform to society's norms.

The different groups with which we associate give us messages about conformity and deviance. We may receive mixed messages, but we end up with more of one than the other.

The end result is an imbalance— attitudes that tilt another or us in one direction. Consequently, we learn to either conform or to deviate.