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Control Theory

Social Bonding Control theories focus on another aspect of why some people do not engage in deviant behavior. According to the sociologist Walter Reckless (1967). society produces pushes and pulls that move people toward criminal behavior: however. some people "insulate" themselves from such pressures by having positive self esteem and good group cohesion. Reckless suggests that many people do not resort to deviance because of inner containment-such as self-control. a sense of responsibility. and resistance to diversions-and fouler containment-such as supportive family and friends. reasonable social expectations. and supervision by others. Those with the strongest containment mechanisms are able to withstand external pressures that might cause them to participate in deviant behavior. Extending Reckless's containment theory. sociologist Travis Hirschi's (1969) social control theory is based on the assumption that deviant behavior is minimized when people have strong bonds that bind them to families. schools, peers. churches. and other social institutions. Social bond theory holds that the probability of deviant behavior increases when a person's ties to society are weakened or broken. Ac carding to Hirschi. social bonding consists of (I) attachment to other people. (2) commitment to conform, (3) involvement in conventional activities. and (4) belief in the legitimacy of conventional values and norms. Although Hirschi did not include females in his study.

others who have replicated that study with both females and males have found that the theory appears to apply to each (see Naffine, 1987).
What does control theory have to say about delinquency and crime? Control theories suggest that the probability of delinquency increases when a person's social bonds are weak and when peers promote antisocial values and violent behavior. However. some critics assert that Hirsute was mistaken in his assumption that a weakened social bond leads to deviant behavior. The chain of events may be just the opposite: People who routinely engage in deviant behavior may find that their bonds to people who would be positive influences are weakened over time (Agnew. 1987 Siegel. 2007). Or. as labeling theory suggests. people may engage in deviant and criminal behavior because of destructive social interactions and encounters (Siegel. 2007).

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