- The ideas of social control theories are based on the idea that deviance is everywhere
possible if it is allowed. Instead of inquiring into the causes of deviance, it assumes that it
will occur, and simply asks how deviance can be controlled.
- Bentham: rational calculation, more pleasure and less pain
o Householders who lock their doors at night are expressing one aspect of such
theories, the belief the opportunity in itself is a cause of crime
- Haggerty: rather than attending to questions of social causation or individual pathology,
situational criminology (control theory) concentrates on reducing crime through loss
prevention, target hardening and enhanced visibility
- The neglect of control theory may also have been due to the unpopularity in liberal
sociological circles of work that appears to support discipline, punishment, and regulation.
o Gluecks whose attempts to predict delinquency in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s
became associated with a stress on the pathological, the individualistic, and the
o The Gluecks’ work was neglected in the 1960s, but studying such variables is
central to the revived forms of control theory.
o Shaw and McKay’s concept of social disorganization was considered as the main
sociological version of control theory.
o Jackson Toby proposed a more sociological version of control theory by asserting
that delinquents were distinguished from non-delinquents by their minimal stake
- The combination of variations in the inner commitment to conform and the external
opportunities to deviate was already furnishing an alternative to the by now over-
elaborate motivation offered by the strain theorists.
o Homans and Blau provided a model for the analysis of the individual in society
much like the control theorists. In social-exchange theories, a sociological version
of homo economicus held that human behavior is explained by individual
gratifications provided by exchange and that moral values emerge from ongoing
o Social behavior is based on tangible forms of exchange which provide the bases
for rational choice. In this respect, the theory is close to that of the symbolic
interactionists but differs in its relative indifference to meanings and
interpretations. o Homans’s view of people is more attuned to the behaviorism of Skinner than to
the interactionism of Mead.
- A lack of conformity and presence of opportunities creates deviance.
Discussion: Deviance and Culture – Crime and the Full Moon
- The authors could find no relationship between total violence and aggression or level of
violence and aggression and any phase of the moon despite the belief in among health
workers of the lunar effect.
Sociological Control Theories of Deviance
The Contribution of Travis Hirschi
- Hirschi states that the common property of control theories is their assumption that
delinquent acts result when an individual’s bond to society is weak or broken. He
specifies four elements of that social bond: attachment, commitment, involvement, and
o Attachment to others is an antecedent variable. If one cares about the opinions and
wishes of others, it is because of one’s strong sense of attachment. Deviation is
only possible if a person does not care about the wishes, expectations, and
opinions of others.
o Commitment signifies that: the person invests time, energy, himself, in a certain
line of activity, say, getting an education, building up a business, acquiring a
reputation for virtue. These accumulations are society’s insurance that they will
abide by the rules. When or whenever he considers deviant behavior, he must
consider the costs of this deviant behavior, the risk runs of losing the investment
he has made in conventional behavior.
o Involvement is the behavioral counterpart of commitment. Involvement in
conventional activities is also more likely to associate people with others they are
attached to and to increase their commitment to and investment in the community.
o Finally, deviants and norm-abiding citizens may share a common value system,
but there is variation in the extent to which people’s belief they should obey the
rules of society. The less a person believes he should obey the rules, the more
likely he is to violate them.
- These four variables interact to produce an ideal-typical portrait of a non-delinquent who
is strongly attached to conventional others, strongly committed to conventional activities,
heavily involved in them, and imbued with a strong belief in the need to obey the rules.
The delinquent is relatively free from such controls and hence more at risk of deviation. - The conformist is bonded to others; the deviant is not.
- Control theory is interested in why people don’t commit deviance.
- Kornhauser says that it is not necessary for control theory to explain the motivation of
delinquency in order to explain its occurrence.
- The strength of Hirschi’s work, however, is empirical rather than theoretical. He finds
that control variables correlate with delinquency quite closely and consistently.
- Parental supervision is inversely related to delinquency. Intimacy of communication and
affectional identification with parents showed similarly strong links with delinquency: the
less strong the child’s reported bond with his family, the greater his involvement in
delinquency. The school and teachers showed the same trend.
- Hirschi’s data were based on a large-scale self-report survey of over four thousand
children aged 12 to 17 sampled from a predominantly urban0industrail area designed to
be representative of society.
The Contribution of Steven Box
- Steven Box tried to redress some of the deficiencies of control theory.
- The need for the alignment with labeling theory stems from Box’s attempt to explain how
and why social class and ethnicity have such weak links with delinquency in self-report
studies but such strong in official statistics. The answer he offers is that the first capture
primary and the second secondary deviations. With official intervention, official deviants
are predominantly lower-status.
- Labeling processes interact with control variables to make matters worse for those
defined as deviant, because the bonds they had with conventional society are eroded, and
their exposure to the risks of fresh deviations is heightened.
- Motivation to commit deviance is also more important for Box than for earlier control
theorists. Whether or not an individual with the option to deviate decides to, depends to
some extent on what he makes of the issue of:
Secrecy – chances of concealment
Skills – the knowledge required for deviance
Supply – the necessary equipment
Social – the support of associates
Symbolic support – support from the wider culture
o Example – a pot-smoking campus party scores high on all points
- Box vs. Cohen: status frustration is more important than resentment. The former leads to
reaction formation and the latter leads to behavior that seeks to assert independent
- Box vs. Matza: to control theorists, no such commitment to the rules exists in the first
place; hence ‘I was pushed’ is an excuse after the fact which the offenders hopes will
result in leniency. There is no way of settling this issue here but Matza’s techniques have a double purpose; that is, they both express an existential state of mind and serve as an
excuse for offence.
- The criminal justice system can be criminogenic.
Case Study: The Contribution of Harriet Wilson
- Harriet Wilson used an index of chaperonage and she measured the degree of protection
parents gave to their children to ensure their safety. A high chaperonage index was
positively related to strict rather than permissive standards of morality: strict parents
insist on a degree of tidiness and cleanliness in the home, they tend to discourage or
punish genital play, children looking at each other when undressed, or giggling over the
toilet and parents tend to avoid undressing in the children’s presence.
‘Situational’ Control Theories
The Economist’s Angle
- Control theory relies on a model of rational choice.
- Measures for crime prevention have two linked emphases: reducing the physical
opportunities for offending and increasing the risk of an offender’s being caught.
- Neighbors are more important than the police in preventing break-ins.
- The second prong of the preventive approach builds on the assumption that there is a
good deal of unrealized potential for making use of the surveillance role of employees
who come into regular and frequent contact with the public in a semi-official capacity.
The Contribution of Newman
- Passive improvements in environmental design can reduce deviance.
Case Study-Situational Crime Prevention
-situational crime prevention is an evidence-based approach that deters offenders through the use
of architecture as a place-improvements process
-through proper planning of space and places, crime can be reduced simply by making that space
or place less attractive
-two important benefits are the increase in the sense of public ownership, and the decrease in
-primary prevention tries to reduce deviance by correcting the underlying factors -secondary prevention focuses more narrowly on individuals who are known to be likely to
become involved in crimes
-tertiary prevention tries to prevent recidivism
-in British Columbia, bike patrol was instituted and the average number of cars stolen per month
dropped significantly after the introduction of the bike patrol
The Broken-Windows Hypothesis
-it was discussed first by Jane Jacobs and published in an essay by James Wilson and George
-broken windows, graffiti, and malicious damage were held to be the visible and about which no
one effectively cared
Discussion: Deviance Exploration-The Brown-Windows Promise?
-broken-windows theory- controlling symbolic signs of public disorder and minor
misdemeanours could reduce crime
The Idea of Surveillance
-the panopticon was meant to be a vast, circular building with cells housing prisoners about its
rim and a dimly lit central tower with inspectors at its centre
-there are two intellectual influences at work in the new vision of control
-the first is the analysis of the partial retreat of a now ‘hollowed-out’ State and its formal
agencies of control into core activities centred on the maintenance of order over especially
troublesome groups and spaces
-surveillance is becoming more diffuse
-the second influence is a growing criminological emphasis on the importance of ‘risk’
--populations are differentially affected by risk: some are relatively exposed, and there are
hierarchies of vulnerability Miscellaneous Theories of a Control Character
-three separate usages
-first, there are control theories which take control variables of different kinds to be the most
significant causes of deviance
-second, there is control theory as a substantive phenomenon in its own right, that is, the
sanctions that are brought to bear against deviancy
-third, there is that aspect of all theories of deviance that deals with control, either implicitly or
Psychology and Control
-Eysenck’s theory of crime and personality and its psychological variantextroverts are more
resistant to conditioning than introverts and that in all contexts save a criminal sub-society
extroverts will tend to be more amenable to criminality than introverts
-it is also argued that neuroticism interacts with extroversion to heighten the likelihood that
inhibiting responses will be overwhelmed by excitation
-in the circumstances of poverty and overcrowding, the more extroverted children are socialized
into neuroticism, not because that is an innate condition, but because faced with intolerable
physical constraint they cannot withdraw into protective apathy as do their more introverted
-crime is held to be a preferred choice determined by its consequences, that is, by the pleasures
and paints that flow from particular decisions
-decisions to offend are defined as the outcome of an interaction between innate drives and
secondary reinforcers of behaviour, that is, between the biological and the cultural , and social
conditioning supplies the links between the two
-A General Theory of Crime by Gottfredson and Hirschithey argue that deviance stems from
-it provides an immediate, easy, and simple gratification of desires that is attractive to those who
cannot or will not defer their enjoyment
-low-self control is associated with a lack of discipline, training, or nurturing and those are
properties vested in a number of institutions, including schools, friendship groups, and the family
and its child-rearing practices Routine-Activity Theory (Cohen & Felson)
-they argue that the focus of attention should shift to the ordinary circumstances of offending and
to simple models of rational choice rather than more complicated descriptions of human motive