Social Control Theory vs. Self-Control Theory

Topics: Social control theory, Criminology, Sociology Pages: 5 (1628 words) Published: October 31, 2013

CRM 3603 01
30 September 2013
Social Control Theory vs. Self-Control Theory
According to the idea of control theories, an individual who has for some reason or another cut ties with the “conventional order” so that he or she is now free to commit any criminal or deviant acts (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P216). Travis Hirschi, in 1969, created the Social Bond Theory of crime, aka Social Control theory; two decades later he joined Michael Gottfredson to create the Self-Control Theory. It seems that, over time, Hirschi’s view on crime had changed, and “that his late[r] work was a marked departure from his earlier theorizing” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P202-203).

Hirschi’s theory of Social Control describes what he calls the “Elements of the Bond” that explain the “bond of the individual to society” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P217). The first element is attachment; the attachments that we as people form to others of society. Most people of society have “internalized the norms” of said society; meaning that these people (law-abiding citizens) have accepted the laws and norms of society and willingly conform (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P218). Those who don’t, however, those who are “insensitive to the opinion of others” are not bound by societal norms and therefore “free to deviate” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P218). Hirschi proposes that when an individual is alienated from others in society, it is usually due to “active interpersonal conflict” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P217). These conflicts with other people actively weaken social attachments to others, thus alienating the individual which can potentially lead to committing crime (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P217).

The next element of the bond is commitment. Commitment is the idea that people who are committed to things that hold value in their lives, such as an education, career, marriage, or family, then they are less likely to commit crime; “the person becomes committed to a conventional line of action, and he is therefore committed to conformity” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P218). To explain why an individual such as this would commit a criminal act, Hirschi states that “in the sociological control theory, it can be and is generally assumed that the decision to commit a criminal act may well be rationally determined” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P218-219). That is to say, because of the danger and risk associated with crime, a man who commits a criminal act may have acted out of a calculated and seemingly rational decision. Hirschi goes on to explain, “The concept of commitment assumes that the organization of society is such that the interests of most persons would be endangered if they were to engage in criminal acts” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P219). This presumably means that if someone commits a crime, they are knowingly and willingly endangering that which they have committed to, thus the criminal act itself must have included such a calculated risk that it be deemed worthy to commit.

The third element of the bond is involvement. This element simply suggests that those who are involved in activities that require a rather large time commitment do not possess the time it would take to actually commit a crime. Hirschi states, “A person may be simply too busy doing conventional things to find time to engage in deviant behavior” (Cullen & Agnew, 2011 P 219). If a person is too involved in any legal, legitimate activity, there will simply not be enough time for him or her to commit any crime.

The final element of the bond is belief. The concept of beliefs, as it relates to control theory, is that arguably most people have some sort of belief system that actively contradicts the notion that any person would commit crime because they genuinely believe it to be a good act, thus crime is good. On the contrary, it seems that most, if not all, believe that to break the law is inherently a bad action. Hirschi admits that, though strain theory was more or less created primarily to answer this question,...

Cited: Cullen, F. T., & Agnew, R. (2011). Criminological Theory: Past to Present. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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