Social Control Theory

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Social control theory represents the work of Travis Hirschi, and it fits into the positivist school, which has attempted to find scientific objectivity for the measurement and qualification of criminal behavior, and the Neo-classical school which continues the traditions of the classical school in criminology within the frame work of the new-classical school, but it later changed to right realism. The theory proposes that exploiting the process of socialization and social learning builds self-control and this reduces the chances to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial.

The theory was developed from structure and working of society theories of crime and proposes the four main types of control; direct whereby punishment is threatened or applied for wrongful behavior and compliance is rewarded for example by parents, family and authority figures; internal, that is by identifying with those who influence the behavior because their delinquent act might cause pain and disappointment to parents, seniors and others; indirect, by which a youth refrains from delinquency through the conscience or super ego and lastly the control through needs satisfaction, that is to say that if all individuals needs are met, then there is no point in criminal activity Hirschi & Gottfredson 1993: pp. 47-54). The theory which was later called social bonding theory, it proposes that people’s relationships, commitments, values, norms and beliefs encourages people not to break the law.

Therefore if moral codes are internalized and at the same time individuals are tied into and have a stake in their wider community, then they will voluntarily limit their propensity to commit deviant acts. This theory seeks to understand the ways or possibilities of reducing the likelihood of developing criminality in individuals (Akers 1991:pp. 201-211). It however does not consider motivational issues by simply stating that human beings may choose to engage in a wide range of activities unless the range is limited by socialization and social learning processes. Derived from a Hobbesian view of human nature, and represented in Leviathan, it says that all choices are constrained by implicitly social contracts agreements and arrangements amongst the people.

As a result morality is created in the construction of social order, assigning costs and consequences to certain choices and at the same time defining others as evil, immoral and illegal (Evans et al. 1997: pp. 475-504). The theory starts with the premise that human behavior is by nature antisocial and delinquent; Travis Hirschi states “we are all animals and thus all naturally capable of committing criminal acts,” and “people commit crimes because it is in their nature to so. ” But the question that really needs an answer is why do most people do not commit crimes”. However, the theory views delinquents as acting out of their most primal inclinations by social control theorists (Wilson & Herrnstein 1985: pp. 234-246).

The perspective state that members in a society form bonds with others members of the society or institutions like parents, pro-social friends, churches, schools, teachers, and sports, etc. The social bonds that Hirschi identifies are: the ties and affection that develop between children and the key people in their lives, like parents, teachers or any authority; commitment to social norms of behaviors and to success in regard to such values like getting good education, a good job, and being successful; involvemenneti in activities because, if a person is involved in more and more activities, he or she will find more less time to get into trouble; and lastly is the fact that most people are brought up to believe in and respect the law (Hirschi & Gottfredson 1993: pp. 47-54).

And by creating these bonds, an individual creates higher levels of social capital and as a result he or she internalizes the norms of society like one being a law abiding citizen. This perspective of the theory would therefore address juvenile delinquency since the juvenile is failing to form the same bond and is at the same time creating the same levels of social capital as a law a binding citizen. But because of this deficiency in individuals’ socialization, the juvenile is far more prone to engage in criminal activity. Right Realism is also known as new right realism is the ideological polar opposite of left realism (Akers 1990: pp. 653-676).

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