Institutional theories attempt to explain how institutions add to the socialization process. When students are away from home and parental/community social controls, their bonds to their parents/community may be weakened or broken (Hirschi's social bonding theory). Their attachment and commitment to their parents/community may be weakened. Since students will probably not be as involved in their community any longer, they may begin to question their beliefs. With weakened ties to the social controls that have helped prevent inappropriate behavior in the past, students may turn to cheating without any special motivation to cheat.
If students begin to associate with groups of students that condone cheating, they are likely to learn how to cheat and learn the rationalizations they need to justify cheating (Sutherland's differential association theory). Once they have learned enough reasons to cheat, they may feel it more convenient to cheat. If cheaters are the first students that new students meet (priority), if they meet cheaters more often (frequency) and spend more time with them (duration), and if they closely associate with the cheaters (intensity), it then becomes easier and more convenient for the new students to cheat. From their differential associations, students may learn the definitions of cheating behavior and learn to cheat by imitating other cheaters. In addition, the differential reinforcements they experience may be favorable to cheating (Akers' social learning theory).
With a weakened outer containment (parents and community) and a weakened inner containment (feelings of guilt), students may feel like they are being pushed or pulled into cheating (Reckless' containment theory). The pushing may come from the inability to get good grades legitimately. Students may also feel they are being pulled into cheating by the delinquent subculture with which they are associating (Cohen's delinquent subculture). Like water running down a hill, students tend to take the most convenient path through all the pushing and pulling. Sometimes the most convenient path is the one toward cheating.