Control Theory in Today's Society

Topics: Crime, Criminology, Sociology Pages: 4 (1404 words) Published: April 25, 2010
While many theories have been established through the years, the Control Theory established and researched by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi in 1990 has inspired a large amount of research and proposed the most likely reason that people commit crimes. In addition to their initial theory, Harold Grasmick also presented another facet, the Self- Control Theory, claiming that people commit crimes simply because they lack the capacity to use self- control. These theories are both considered psychological theories, involving the way the human mind works in relevance to crime and the choice to commit crime. It is apparent in several past criminal cases that lack of self- control has been the leading factor in the criminal act. (Hay & Forrest, 2009)

Gottfredson and Hirschi asked the question, “What is Crime?” and thus began to research the theories associated with crime and what drives people to commit criminal acts. Nearly all crimes, they concluded, are mundane, simple, trivial, easy acts aimed at satisfying desires of the moment. (Schmalleger, 2009) For example, a young child steals a candy bar from the local convenience store, simply because he wants the candy bar; this is not a violent or large- scale criminal act, but is still a violation of the law. The general theory of crime asserts that the operation of a single mechanism low self- control, accounts for “all crime, at all times”; including acts ranging from vandalism to homicide, from rape to white- collar crime. A person’s likelihood to engage in criminal activity or not can supposedly be explained through low self-control, the same way high self-control explains an individual's tendencies of conforming to social norms and laws. (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) Thus, some people have a lasting tendency to ignore the long term consequences of their behavior. These people tend to be impulsive, reckless, and self- centered. Crime is the end result of their tendencies.(Schmalleger, 2009)

The Control...

References: Adams, C. 2009-07-27 “Crime 101: What is the link between self- control theory, serial killing, and Aileen Wuornos?” Retrieved from
Gottfredson, M. and Hirschi, T. (1990). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford University Press.
Hay, C. and Forrest, W. "The Development of Self Control: Examining Self Control Theory 's Stability Thesis" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) . 2010-04-03 from
Hirschi, T. (1969). Causes of Delinquency. Berkeley: Univ. of Ca Press.
Longshore, D., Turner, S., and Stein, J. (1998). "Reliability and Validity of Self-Control Measure: Rejoinder." Criminology 34:175-182.
Sampson R. J. and Laub, J. (1993). Crime in the Making Pathways and Turning Points Through Life. Harvard University Press.
Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminology Today: An Integrative Introduction Fifth Edition. Prentice Hall.
Snedker, K. A. and Herting, J. R., 2004-08-14 “Revisiting Hirschi’s Social Control Theory: Examining Changes in Self- reported Delinquent Behavior among Youth” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association 2010- 04-17 from
Wenk, D., Hardesty, C., Morgan, C. and Sampson, L.B. (1994). "The Influence of Parental Involvement on the Well-Being of Sons and Daughters." Journal of Marriage and the Family 56:229-234.
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