Social control and social bonding theories
1. Brief recap
Sykes and Matza: Techniques of neutralization (1957)
2. Hirschi: Social control theory (1969)
3. Hirschi and Gottfredson: General theory of crime (1990)
4. Policy implications
2. Sykes and Matza: neutralization Theory –provide a theory that seeks to clarify and
flush out Edwin sutherlands differential association theory. It clarifies the elements in
differential association theory.
Elaboration of Sutherland’s Differential Association theory— the theory that
suggests that people learn criminal behaviour. Law abiding people learn anti-
criminal definitions, while criminal learn pro-criminal definitions.
Focuses on juvenile delinquents and young offenders—both deviance theory and
neutralization theory focus on juveniles.
Vs. cultural deviance theory is an example of a social structure theory—theories
that assume that the structure of a neighborhood and society will determine the
norms and values of that neighborhood. How does the structure of lower class
neighborhoods allow for the creation of a different structure system? They have a
value system that says that crime is “OK”.
Is an example of a social process theory (social learning) – disagrees from social
structure theory. Not everyone from a lower class neighborhood commits crime.
Attempt to explain these ideas of how some people commit crime while others
refrain from doing so. Social process is also social learning, which ties in with
sutherlands theory of differential association. We learn techniques through
interactions with close peers.
Skyes and Matza say Cultural Deviance theory cannot explain the following: 1. Why do young offenders feel guilt or shame? Because young offenders are
partially committed to the dominant social and moral order where criminal
behaviour is not seen as morally right.
2. Young offenders draw a sharp line between those who can be victimized and
those who cannot be victimized. They don’t victimize their family and friends.
3. Young offenders frequently respect and admire law-abiding people. Some of their
role models are law abiding citizens
4. Many young offenders are not completely immune from the demands of
conformity made by the dominant social order. – young offenders are still in
relationships who are not deviant and criminal. There is no entire neighborhood
with criminals. Some point in a deviant’s life, they will encounter a law abiding
If young offenders believe in the laws of conventional society, then why do they
violate them? Sykes and matza say juvenile delinquents violate because they
have developed justifications for their deviance. These rationalizations are
techniques of neutralization.
Learn techniques of neutralization (pro-criminal definitions (Sutherland))
Allows people to temporarily suspend their adherence to moral values of
dominant society in order to commit crime – allow you to temporarily
suspend your moral beliefs
5 Techniques of Neutralization
1. Denial of responsibility: It was an accident! Any harm was unintentional! –They
can blame their family history. All of these theories work under a deterministic
Deterministic perspective—idea that human behaviour is completely
determined by internal and external factors beyond our CONTROL, which
downplays our voluntary choice and free will.
2. Denial of injury: I didn’t harm anyone! “I didn’t steal anything, I borrowed it” So it
wasn’t harming anyone.
3. Denial of victim: S/he had it coming! The offender deflects blame by blaming the
4. The condemnation of the condemners: Everyone steals! Why pick on me?
5. Appeal to higher loyalties: I have to protect my buddies/family! When they
commit crime they know they are sacrificing abiding by the laws and instead fulfil
the demands of their smaller in-group, and feel that they are showcasing their
loyalty to that in-group.
Drift: young offenders move in and out of crime and delinquency because they
embrace both conventional and criminal values –as a society we have subterranean
Subterranean values: moral values that are publicly condemned but held and
practised in private— an example is pornography
Our human behaviour lies on a continuum—we are not always criminal or vice versa
(Criminal behaviour) Drift: Techniques of neutralization -> (Law abiding
Testing Neutralization Theory
Cause and effect: its criminal behaviour that is the cause, that leads to the effect
which is the rationalizations. Another test is to see if both criminals and non-
criminals hold the same value system. If this is wrong, then cultural deviance
theory is true which holds that everyone holds different value systems.
Sykes and Matza: Conventional morals neutralization criminal act
Other scenario: Criminal act neutralization/rationalization
Survey data: young offenders do not value or condone violent behaviour
Offenders use neutralizations before engaging in violent behaviour
3. Hirschi: Social Control Theory 1969
Onset of criminality is linked to weakening of social bonds and these social
bonds are what will tie you as an individual to society
Assumption about human nature: we are all potential criminals because we like
easy gratification. Crime then, is attractive. Hirschi says that we are refrained from committing crime because we fear that if we commit crime it will damage
our social bonds and the relationships we have with our family and friends.
Assumption about society: we all share the same social rules and moral values.
Unlike cultural deviance theory, hirschi’s theory suggests that we all share the
same social values.
Social bond: on-going link, created through socialization, between individuals and
Stake in conformity
Is composed of 4 elements that will build a persons stake in conformity—a
scenario where you have gained rewards to continue abiding to conventional
1. Attachment: ties to social institutions formed via continuing and intimate
interactions –school, marriage are important because they are what will
help you accept social norms and develop a social conscience. Without
caring about another human being you will not develop respect for other
authority figures. A psychopath does not have any deep attachments.
2. Commitment: energy and effort invested and expended in given set of
activities—getting education, and saving money in the bank. Once you
build up this strong commitment in having a conventional life, you are less
likely to engage in crime because it would jeopardize your current position.
3. Involvement: amount of time spent with others in shared activities –there
is a finite amount of time in a