Sociology Index


Social control theory attempts to explain why it is that all of us do not commit crime. Social control theory tries to explain why most people are law-abiding? Social control theory explains the many ways in which social control works in family, schools, work situations, and even in conscience. Social control theory derives from functionalist theories of crime. Conventional theories, unlike social control theory, try to explain why individuals commit crime. Early research on social control theory was based on self-reporting studies. social control theory emphasizes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces the inclination to indulge in antisocial behavior.

Proponents Social Control Theory

Travis Warner Hirschi in his social control theory stressed the rationality in the decision whether to engage in crime and argued that a person was less likely to choose crime if they had strong social bonds. The impact of Hirschi's Causes of Delinquency may have been due as much to its ideological appeal as to the strength of the evidence that it presented in support of social control theory.

Edward A. Ross defined social control as "the more that the smooth running of social machinery implies the frequent breaking off or turning aside of individual activities, the more perfect is the social order."

Albert J. Reiss defined delinquency as, "behavior consequent to the failure of personal and social controls." He defined personal control as, "the ability of the individual to refrain from meeting needs in ways which conflict with the norms and rules of the community," while social control was the ability of social groups or institutions to make norms or rules effective.

Jackson Toby argued that "the uncommitted adolescent is a candidate for gang socialization." The notion of stakes in conformity fits very well with concepts invoked in later versions of social control theory. Jackson Toby acknowledged "gang socialization" as part of the causal, motivational dynamic leading to delinquency, but introduced the concept of stakes in conformity to explain "candidacy" for such learning experiences. The young who had few stakes or investments in conformity were more likely to be drawn into gang activity.

F. Ivan Nye elaborated a social control theory of delinquency, but specified ways of "operationalization" or to measure control mechanisms and related them to self-reported delinquency. Like Reiss, he focused on the family as a source of control. Moreover, Nye specified three different types of control: direct control which is punishment and reward; indirect control by affectionate identification with non-criminals; and internal control through conscience or sense of guilt.

Gresham Sykes and David Matza asserted that most delinquents eventually opt out of the delinquent lifestyle as they grow older. The young are able to deviate by using techniques of neutralization. They can temporarily suspend the applicability of norms by developing attitudes "favorable to deviant behavior". Matza's notion of drift proposed that people used neutralization to drift in and out of conventional behaviour, taking a temporary break from moral restraints.

Abstracts On Social Control

A Longitudinal Test of Social Control Theory and Delinquency - Robert Agnew. Recent longitudinal research suggests that cross-sectional studies have exaggerated the importance of Hirschi's social control theory. This longitudinal research, however, suffers from one or more problems. Most of these problems reduce the likelihood of finding a causal effect from social control to delinquency, and so make the findings of the longitudinal studies suspect.

Social Control Theory and Delinquency
Michael D. Wiatrowski, David B. Griswold and Mary K. Roberts. Abstract: Travis Warner Hirschi's social control theory proposes that delinquents fail to form or maintain a social bond to society consisting of attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. The present report develops and tests multivariate models of social control theory which simultaneously consider how the four bond elements operate in relation to delinquency. Background factors-measures of social class and ability-are added to the model, and a revised formulation of social control is suggested.

The Interethnic Generalizability of Social Control Theory: An Empirical Test - MARIANNE JUNGER, INEKE HAEN MARSHALL.
Social control theory is used to model the self-reported delinquency in a sample of 788 Surinamese, Moroccan, Turkish, and Dutch boys (all living in the Netherlands). Four hypotheses are tested:

(a) social bonding variables predict variations in general delinquent involvement;

(b) social bonding variables predict variations in a variety of types of delinquency involvement and deviance;

(c) delinquent friends play the same role in the causation of general delinquency; and

(d) the dimensions of the social bond are interrelated in the same way among all four ethnic groups. The multivariate analyses support the key propositions.

The Weak Strength of Social Control Theory - David F. Greenberg. A reanalysis of self-reported delinquency data from the Richmond Youth Survey indicates that social control theory has only limited explanatory power. The analysis confirms a prediction of strain theory, although strain theory, too, has limited explanatory power.

Self-Control and Social Bonds: A Combined Control Perspective on Deviance 
Douglas Longshore, Eunice Chang, Shih-chao Hsieh, Nena Messina. With longitudinal data from a sample of adult male drug offenders, this study tested 4 aspects of social bonding (attachment, involvement, religious commitment, and moral belief) and association with substance-using peers as outcomes of low self-control and as mediators of the relationship between low self-control and drug use. The relationship between low self-control and drug use was fully mediated by moral belief and association with substance-using peers.

Exploring the Utility of Social Control Theory for Youth Development 
Issues of Attachment, Involvement, and Gender. ANGELA J. HUEBNER, SHERRY C. BETTS.
The purpose of this study was to examine the utility of social control theory's "attachment" and "involvement" bonds as protective factors to examine gender differences in reports of delinquency and academic achievement in a sample of 7th to 12th graders. The findings suggest that although several of the involvement bond variables of social control theory are predictive of both delinquency and academic achievement for both genders, only the attachment bond variables provide such an overall protective function for females.

Testing informal social control theory: examining lewd behavior during mardi gras - Redmon D. Abstract: This exploratory study extends Forsyth's research on lewd behavior during Mardi Gras by testing Sampson and Laub's (1993) theory of informal social control. The overall findings do not support Sampson and Laub's theory of informal social control.

The Integrated Social Control Model and Ethnicity 
The Case of Puerto Rican American Delinquency. ORLANDO RODRIGUEZ, DAVID WEISBURD. Delinquency research has not generally addressed the question raised by ethnographic research studies concerning the extent to which the delinquency of specific ethnic groups can be modeled with a general theory. This study uses data from a survey of inner-city Puerto Rican American male adolescents to replicate Elliott, Huizinga, and Ageton's analytical model of delinquency based on an integration of social control, social learning, and strain theory.

Causes of Conformity: An Application of Social Control Theory to Adult Misdemeanant Probationers 
Charles A. Lindquist, Terry Daniels Smusz, William Doerner. The present study represents an attempt to expand Hirschi's social control theory of delinquency causation to include adult misdemeanant offenders on probation; in addition, the study proposed to see if social control theory can provide a theoretical framework for probation prediction studies. Results indicated qualified support for several of the hypotheses with education and time on present job emerging as salient variables. Analysis of the data directed attention to several methodological problems and suggestions for future research.

Juvenile Delinquency in The Republic of China: A Chinese Empirical Study of Social Control Theory. C J Sheu. Abstract: This paper seeks to explain this phenomenon by invoking Hirschi's Social Control Theory. However, such an explanation can be offered only when there is empirical evidence to verify the applicability of Social Control Theory to Chinese society. The study described here intends to test Social Control Theory by using self-reported data collected from Chinese junior and senior high school students of northern Taiwan. Apparently, Social Control Theory received much support from the Chinese data, while both strain theory and subculture deviance theory were not verified. Social Control Theory is said to be the most appropriate theory to explain the origin as well as the increase of juvenile delinquency in Chinese society.

Longitudinal Analysis of Social Control Theory - M D Smith .

Social control theory is possibly more successful than most theories of delinquency because its premises allow for interpretations of variations in delinquent behavior. Abstract: The social control theory as stated in its contemporary form by Hirschi in 'Causes of Delinquency', is empirically examined.

Social control theory states that variations in delinquent behavior can be related to the possession of four basic elements that bond an individual to society. Social control theory was tested with data from the Youth in Transition project, a longitudinal research study of a national random sample of male adolescents. Social control theory was subjected to three tests not reported in the literature. Results generally demonstrated the validity of the social control theory as an explanation of delinquent behavior.

TESTING SOCIAL CONTROL THEORY AND DIFFERENTIAL ASSOCIATION: A REANALYSIS OF THE RICHMOND YOUTH PROJECT DATA - BARBARA J. COSTELLO, PAUL R. VOWELL. In what has become a classic work in the field, Matsueda (1982) tested social control theory against differential association theory using Hirschi's (1969) Richmond Youth Project data. Matsueda found that measures of "definitions favorable to law violation" entirely mediated the effect of his social control measures and friends' delinquency, and concluded that differential association theory was supported over social control theory. Our results are more supportive of social control theory than differential association theory.

A Path Analytic Examination of Differential Social Control Theory. 
Ried, L. Douglas. Abstract: Used path analytic techniques to analyze differential social control theory as predictor of drug use among fifth-eighth grade students. Found that peer non-use expectations had largest effect on drug use and were directly influenced by parental, peer, and school attachments.

Social Control Theory and Delinquency: A Multivariate Test. 
Authors: Wiatrowski, Michael D.; Swatko, Mary K. Abstract: Hirschi's social control theory of delinquency status that delinquency involvement is the function of the failure of an adolescent to form or maintain a bond to society comprised of attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. Multivariate models of social control theory which simultaneously consider how all of the bond elements operate in relation to delinquency were investigated. Measures of social class and ability as background factors were also added to the model to explicate the effects of those variables on the educational and occupational aspirational parts of social control theory.

Religion and Social Control: An Application of a Modified Social Bond on Violence - Michael A. Cretacci. The central question explored in this article is whether the elements of a revised social bond, which includes religion, will have an impact on violence across developmental stages. Tests of social control theory are numerous, but criticism centers on the fact that the theory has limited explanatory power. Although social control theory is a popular theory, it was created without addressing a control whose importance was suggested by several of the authors from whom Hirschi borrowed - religion. The results indicate that social control theory is a poor explanation of violence.