Individuals are more prone to copy the behaviours of their surroundings. We mimic our role models behaviour, and learn how to take action by copying the people we admire the most. Violent behaviour is not something we are born with; instead we are influenced by our natural environments which force us to react the way we do in particular situations (Schmideberg, 1947).
The concept of learning from observation and replicating this behaviour is referred to as the social learning theory (Miller & Vidmar, 1980). Children are known to try to be like their parents, and children have the tendency to abuse others if they grew up in a household where their parents were abusive towards one another (Ryan, 2007). If a child's parents are well-rounded and non-violent, then the child will most likely grow up to be the same. The Bandura experiments displayed the influence of social learning where a child observed a grown-up hitting a blown up doll. After seeing the grown-up screaming, and hitting the doll, the child was given permission to play, the child copied the grown up and began to hit the doll the same way (Miller & Vidmar, 1980). This illustrates how people apply social learning by watching and replicating the actions they see in others.
An individual’s social environment plays a massive role in how tough a youth is (Kaylen & Pridemore, 2011). This occurs when behaviour is reinforced either positively or negatively, negative punishment can deter positive reinforcement from happening. Positive reinforcement takes place when a youth observes a family member commit a crime and get away with it, as a result reinforcement modelling would occur because the youth member has seen this work to someone else’s advantage. A youth may continue to commit crimes as means of gaining status and popularity (Craig, 2002).
Negative reinforcement occurs when an individual avoids a negative experience to avoid the consequences associated with this. This can be seen when an individual is constantly being bullied at school, so to avoid being victimized the individual escapes this setting and begins to resort to drugs and alcohol as a way to ease the mind, and relax (Melde, 2011). It is important to note that the reason a youth is more likely to do this, is on the account that they are avoiding an act as well as attaining something positive at the same time.
Youth members with ineffective communication skills are more likely to accept the temptation of gang affiliation caused by peer pressure, the need for social acceptance, and or may have to do with a lack of emotional support and belongingness, which brings on aggressive behaviour and “youth gang members engage in more violent crimes” (Wood & Alleyne, 2010). Gang members usually connect with those who possess aggressive behaviour and antisocial skills because they are more likely to continue to uphold these values for engaging in criminal acts (Miller & Vidmar, 1980).