Key Concepts of Social Control Theory

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 674 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

Words: 674|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

To prevent crime, we must first understand the causes of crime being committed. This is where criminological theories come into play. These theories share a common focus of studying why a person commits a crime. One of the many theories, social control theory focuses on why a person, particularly a young person, does not engage in such acts instead. This theory believes that the type of bonds made between an individual and the society plays a part in the probability of one engaging in unlawful acts. For example, delinquent acts are more likely to happen when an individual’s bond with society is weak or broken.

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Social control theory is further explained with the use of the four elements of the social bond. The four elements comprise of attachment, commitment, involvement and lastly belief.

Firstly, attachment refers to the relationship an individual has with others and institutions, such as family, peers, teachers, colleagues and schools, workplaces respectively. More importance is given to the parents and school attachments. For instance, when the attachment with the parents and teachers from school is strong, the youth in this context will refrain from engaging in delinquent acts. Parents and teachers will teach the youth socially acceptable behaviours which will, in turn, shape the youth. Hence, the youth will look up to them as a good example and would not want to upset those who they care about and love with their actions.

Secondly, commitment refers to an individual putting in the time and effort to accomplish one’s goals such as academic and career goals. To give an example, a student who aspires to enter University or wants a desired career, would not risk it to cause hindrances to the process of achieving the goals by getting involved in any unlawful act. Hence, making sure that one is well committed to the goals.

Thirdly, involvement in prosocial activities will allow a person to form bonds with others and also occupy one’s time productively. When a youth engages in sports, co-curricular activities, studying or any other prosocial activities, one will be too busy to spend time on antisocial activities.

The last element, belief, refers to the belief in social norms and values such as laws are meant to be followed and not broken. An individual will not engage in any delinquent acts if one holds a strong belief in such values and norms as doing otherwise would be going against their belief. For instance, youth will not engage in theft acts if he/she believes that stealing is an offence.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Just like every other theory, social control theory has its strengths and weaknesses. Some of the strengths of this theory are, the acquirement of significant data support which this theory has received, such as the Richmond (California) Youth Project. For instance, Hirschi’s research on parent attachment indicates that youths who have less close communication bonds with their dads have a higher probability of reporting delinquency compared to those who have close communication bonds. Therefore, it can be agreed that social control theory does state the fact that if any of the social bonds between an individual and the society is weak, there is a high chance of delinquency.

Also, this theory explains why an individual adheres to social norms and rules rather than the opposite. If delinquent behaviours are innate to humans, it is then more relevant to explain why one does not engage in antisocial activities. So to speak, that only adhering to social norms can curb such behaviours. This can be attained through one’s interaction with the society which is explained using the four elements of the theory. Such as, a boy who has a very strong attachment to his parents will less likely get involved in any unlawful activities as his parents are there to guide him.

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The theory of social control provides an opportunity to understand why people commit crimes, how to prevent it or how to react quickly, knowing the theoretical motive of criminal acts. Social control theory is a useful tool in today's world that helps maintain control and law and order.

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Key Concepts of Social Control Theory. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Key Concepts of Social Control Theory.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022,
Key Concepts of Social Control Theory. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Key Concepts of Social Control Theory [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 30 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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