TravisHirschi’s Social Control Theory
TravisHirschi’s Social Control Theory
TheHirschi’s social control theory also referred to as the social bondtheory gained fame in the 1960s when sociologists were seekingdifferent perceptions of crime. Developed in the year 1969, thistheory was based on the existing social control concepts. Hirschi’ssocial control theory claimed that bonds to family, educationalinstitutions and other important areas of the society played a veryimportant role in diminishing ones tendency for committing crime.Therefore according to this theory, crime occurs because somepeople’s bonds or ties with the society’s important institutionssuch as school and family are not established well or are very weak.Unlike other theories of crime which aim at explaining why peopleinvolve themselves in crime activities, the social control theorytakes the contrary approach, explaining why people avoid doing orgetting involved in crime. Thus, according to this theory criminalityis a possibility for everyone in the society which avoided by thosewho maintain strong social and family bonds only. Hirschias explainedthat these bonds are normally founded on four main elements namelyattachment, commitment, involvement and belief (Michael & Murray,2010).
Attachmentis the level to which an individual is attached to the people withinthe society. A person who is more attached to the other people is notlikely to become a criminal. Primary attachments normally happen withparents because they spend much of the time with their youngchildren, followed by attachments to teachers, friends, religiousleaders as well as other members of the society. Commitment is thefear of engaging in criminal behavior to avoid the risk of losing theprecious energy and time invested in life goals such as career andeducational goals (Katz, 1999). Moreover, a person who is committedto values that are conventional has a lot to lose when he or sheengages in crime. Also, an individual’s personal involvement inactivities which serve to leave very little time for engaging incriminal activities and to strengthen the social bond that theindividual has with the other people in the society leaves theindividual with no time for engaging in crime. The final element isbelief which refers to the general value system of the society. Aperson who believes in the societal norms which are against deviantbehavior is likely to conform in them. Therefore, such a personcannot engage in any criminal acts because of his or her beliefs. These four elements of work together to insulate or protect a personfrom getting involved in criminal activities (Siegel & Brandon,2011).
HowSampon and Laub’s age-graded life course perspective differ fromHirschias theory
Samponand Laub’s age-graded life course perspective of criminology varyfrom the Hirschi’s theory of self control about the people who arelikely to commit criminal activities. Sampon and Laub’s age-gradedlife course perspective claim that both change and continuity existall through ones life course and that changes in a person’scriminal behavior may take place after going through new socialcircumstances and experiences to make him or her a reformed person.On the contrary, Hirschi’s theory claims that even though thepersonality of a person does not change all through, the connectionbetween crime and self-control is likely to change. However, thesetwo perspectives of criminology share the same focus on what makespeople to abstain from engaging in crime. For Hirschi’s theory, itis the parent’s emotional investment in their children’sself-control development which makes them to desist from criminalbehaviors even when they grow up (Siegel & Brandon, 2011).Similarly, the Sampon and Laub’s perspective claim that it’s theformer offenders or criminals emotional attachment to marriage, jobor something else that they value a lot, which make them to abstainfrom crime. The turning points as mentioned in the sampon and Laub’sperspective are life circumstances or events which pull previouscriminal or deviant people in the society from their unlawfullifestyle to a conventional way of living. Examples of such turningpoints which influence crime include marriage, employment andmilitary service. Marriage and employment provide the need to behavein a narrow and straight manner for the previous criminal if theywant their marriage to stand firm and to keep their employment. Onthe other hand, military service provides the reformed criminal withthe discipline and structure they require to abstain completely fromcriminal behaviors (Laub and Sampson, 1995).
HowHirschi’s general theory of crime differ from his social controltheory
Twentyone years after developing the social control theory, Hirschitogether with Michael R. Gottfredson developed another theory called“A general theory of crime” in the year 1990. This was a moredeveloped self control theory compared to how it was presentedoriginally in 1969. These two theories differ even though they weredeveloped by the same person. While the self control theory stressthe significance of social bonds as protective factor of peopleagainst crime engagement, the Hirschi general theory of crime claimthat the major factor in causal criminality is low self-control toresist the criminal behavior. The general theory of crime is alsoreferred to as self-control theory. This is because Gottfredson andHirschi claimed that children who have low self-control grow withbehavioral problems which make them to become juvenile and adultcriminals as they grow up. They argued that parenting plays a majorrole in determining their children’s ability to control theirdesires and feelings. For instance, parents who mentally orphysically abuse their children or neglect them bring up children whoare insensitive, impulsive, nonverbal, and risk taking. Thesechildren are likely to get involved in criminal acts as they grow. Onthe other hand, parents who supervise and care about their childrenas well as punish them appropriately when they do wrong bring upchildren with the required self-control, and therefore they will beable to resist or control the urge of engaging in criminal acts evenwhen they grow old (Michael & Murray, 2010).
Criticismsof Hirschi’s general theory of crime
Althoughthegeneral theory of crime may seem persuasive and accurate, there aremany unanswered questions and criticisms facing it. One of thecriticisms of the general theory of crime is that it addresses onlyone type of a criminal and one factor that make people to engage incriminal acts. Other researchers have found out that there are manypaths which criminals take when engaging in criminal acts. Moreover,criminals engage in different types of deviant or criminalactivities, influenced by different external factors, and atdifferent rate than others. For instance, some criminal engage in avariety of different criminal activities while others engage inviolent crimes only. Another major criticism of this theory is thatit claims tendency to crime cannot change, thus a persons behavioralpatterns and personality cannot change in their life course. Researchhas however shown that changing and conventional events such asbeginning or ending of personal relationship, substance abuse, endingschool and recovering from substance abuse all increase thelikelihood of engaging in criminal acts. The other criticism of thistheory is that entails circular reasoning or is to a certain extenttautological (Siegel & Brandon, 2011). For instance, according tothis theory you can only tell that a person is impulsive if he or shecommits a crime. That means all criminals are impulsive, otherwisethey would not engage in criminal acts. However, research has shownthat there are non-impulsive people who engage in criminal acts. Another criticism of this theory is that it gives the wrongimpression about human nature. It has made assumptions that are notreal regarding the personality of humans, by claiming that all humansare self-indulgent, self-serving and selfish and are thus supposed toput under control otherwise they will engage in criminal acts. A moresensible approach could have been that nearly all human beings areinherently generous and kind hearted by nature and the selfishhedonists who engage in crime are just a few exceptions in thesociety (Siegel & Brandon, 2011).
Katz,R. S. (1999). "Building the Foundation for a Side-by-SideExplanatory Model: A General Theory of Crime, the Age-GradedLife-Course Theory, and Attachment Theory." WesternCriminology Review1(2).
Laub,J. H., and Sampson, R. J. (1995). “The Long-Term Effects ofPunitive Discipline.” Pp. 247-258 in McCord, J.Coercion and Punishment in Long-Term Perspectives,ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
MichaelD. & Murray A. S. (2010). CorporalPunishment of Children in Theoretical Perspective.London, UK: Yale University Press.
Siegel,L. J. & Brandon, W. (2011). Juveniledelinquency: theory, practice and law,Andover: Cengage Learning, Inc.