Ronald L. Akers, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
1998 AwardeeVirtually every criminology graduate student in the United States and Europe will read Ronald Akers’ text, Deviant Behavior: A Social Learning Approach. Every criminology textbook discusses his theoretical and empirical work on social learning theory. His book Drugs, Alcohol and Society has become the mainstay for social science understanding of the interplay between alcohol and drug usage and broader societal issues, and his Criminological Theories: Introduction and Evaluation represents the most complete overview of major criminological theories available today. Widely recognized as one of the top criminologists in the world today, Akers is also a dedicated teacher on both the undergraduate and graduate levels and a consummate scholar dedicated to original research and development of intellectual content that is at the leading edge of his field.
Over the past three decades, he has proposed, developed, revised and tested his social learning theory of crime and deviance in several different research settings. Social learning has become one of the principal explanations of criminal and deviant behavior in the literature, and in recent years has been the first or second most frequently tested theory by criminological researchers and scholars. The major recent product of his work on the theory is the 1998 publication of Social Learning and Social Structure, which reviews the development of social learning theory, critiques of it, and its empirical validity, and also offers a new integrated theoretical model of social structure and social process in crime and deviance. This 420-page treatise has been described as “a capstone book” for his career. His research focus for the next few years will be to refine and test this new integrated theoretical model in both juvenile and adult samples.