Midterm 2 notes 25/11/2013 12:56:00 PM
Chapter 9: Control Theory by: Travis Hirschi (Socio-psychological)
From lecture: Social Control Theory
Human nature is assumed to be guided by instincts (greed, lust, pride)
Deviance occurs whenever society is disorganized, or when there is an
absence of social restraints
Motivation to deviate is assumed to be a constant by social control
Instincts or impulses are not the cause of deviant behaviour because all
people (including the non-offenders) have these instincts
Social control theorists assume that all people have instincts and the
capacity to commit crimes
Hobbes added “reason” to instincts; this gives humans even greater
capacity for crime and deviance.
Durkheim believed that rules automatically develop
People accept the rules and take pleasure (or get rewards) for obeying
Durkheim stated that greater strength and power is derived from
Durkheim argued that societal breakdown is indicated by “anomie” (or
the lack of rules)
Ambition must be regulated or controlled; if ambition becomes unlimited,
anomie is created
(“People aspire for everything and are satisfied with nothing.”)
Controls or restraints of society regulate individual instincts
Hirschi describes four types of bonds or restraint: Attachment,
Commitment, Involvement, and Belief
Attachment is defined as sensitivity to opinion of others (empathy)
o Lack of attachment epitomized by the sociopath or psychopath
o Terminology like sociopath or psychopath has been replaced by
DSM term, “antisocial personality disorder.”
• Focuses on youthful delinquency, age, where most deviant forms of
norms occur. • Conforming behaviour is reinforced by individuals’ attachment to norm-
abiding members of society, the commitment and investment they have
in a legitimate life and identity, their level of involvement in activities and
organizations, their subscription to community held beliefs and values
characterizing normative society.
• People who violate these norms have a flaw in the bonds of society; they
can be bought back with reinforcement of the weak bonds.
• Control theory assumes the delinquent act results when an individual
bond to society is weak, 2 highly complex concepts, and the bond of the
individual to society.
Elements of the Bond
Sociologists say man is sensitive to the opinion of others.
Psychologists emphasize insensitivity to the opinion of others; make
it a syndrome or type.
Mental abnormality can be explained by anti-social behaviour, vice
Psychopath example, that lack of attachment is not a symptom but
indeed psychopathy and lack of conscience is just another way of
saying the same thing; and the violation of norms is (or may be) a
Impulsivity and aggressiveness can also be seen as natural
consequences of freedom from moral restraints.
Such conflict like becoming alienated could easily supply a reservoir
of socially derived hostility sufficient to account for the
aggressiveness of those whose attachment to others has been
To violate a norm, is therefore, to act contrary to the wishes and
expectations of other people that is, if he is insensitive to the
opinion of others—then he is to that extent not bound to the norms,
free to deviate.
The essence of internalization of norms lies in the attachment of the
individual to others.
There are certain advantages with this view: 1) explanations of
deviant behaviour based on attachment do not beg the question, since the extent to which a person is attached to others can be
measured independently of his deviant behaviour.
We make the relationship between attachments problematic rather
than definitional. I.e.) after a divorce, man is susceptible acts of
deviance such as suicide and forgery; when he re-marries we
believe he gets his conscience back that he lost before.
Few deny men on occasion obey the rules simply from the fear of
consequences; we label commitment.
Commitment: defined as the individual’s rational investment in
The individual’s position in society determines the possible cost of
being caught or arrested.
Commitment maybe conceived of as society’s “insurance policy”
that we will obey the rules
Person invests time, energy and himself, in a certain line of activity,
say, getting an education, building up a business, and acquiring a
reputation for virtue.
When he considers deviant behaviour, he must consider the costs of
this deviant behaviour, and then he runs the risk of loosing his
investment he has made in conventional behaviour.
Concept of commitment assumes the organization of society is such
that the interest of most persons would be endangered if they were
to engage in criminal acts.
The insurance of society is the commitment that people have built
up with reputation, goods, and prospects, so they will abide by the
Most persons are committed to a conventional line of action such as
occupational careers or education, and therefore is committed to
conformity, thus they would generally avoid deviance.
Involvement or engrossment in conventional activates is part of
control theory; a person too busy doing conventional activities to
find time to engage in deviant behaviour like appointments,
deadlines, working hours, schedules, plans etc. Line of reasoning is responsible for the stress placed on recreational
activities to reduce delinquency, like the idea of drafting boys into
the army to keep them out of trouble; major deterrent of deviance.
Matza and Sykes explain those who are led to deviance are the
ones that are members of the leisure class, and therefore between
parental domination and future integration into society, end up
committing crime of the leisure of adolescent.
Defined as the degree to which people have faith in institutions or
share in common values.
Control theory assumes the existence of a common value system
within the society or group whose norms are being violated.
If a man believes in the rules, he will not violate. However, if he
believes the rules he violates, it becomes a norm.
Question is how can one know its bad to steal and still do it?
Two answers: beliefs are merely words that mean nothing without
other links or restraints like attachment & commitment.
Second is deviant rationalizes his behaviour.
o The strain theory explains the motivation is so strong; that
the deviator will still act even knowing it is wrong.
o Semantic dementia, the dissociation between rational
faculties and emotional control.
o The deviant rationalizes his behaviour; still believing it is
wrong but able to commit the act.
o Sykes and Matza term them “techniques of neutralization”
and Cressey calls them “verbalizations.”
o Techniques of neutralization occur prior to the commission of
the deviant act, if neutralization is successful they are free to
commit the act. (ALL CONSIDERED STRAIN THEORIES)
o Strain that prompts the effort at neutralization also provides
the motive force that results in the subsequent act.
o Concept of neutralization assumes the existence of moral
obstacles to the commission of deviant acts.
o However, many persons feel not moral obligation to conform
regardless of personal advantage, and there should be
tendency toward consistency, neutralization is unnecessary. We assume that the beliefs that free a man to commit deviant acts
are unmotivated in the sense that he does not construct or adopt
them in order to facilitate the attainment of illicit ends.
We assume there is a variation in the extent to which people
believe they should obey the rules of society, and, furthermore,
that the less a person believes he should obey the rules, the more
likely his is to violate them.
Denial of responsibility- one of the techniques described
Forces beyond the individuals control (my parents did not love me,
or friends led me astray)
Cressey’s theory of embezzlement: person in a position of financial
trust (a fiduciary) confronts a “non-shareable problem”
The fiduciary embezzles to solve the problem, and develops
verbalizations to justify the crime. I.e.) just borrowing the money,
I’ll pay it back.
Criticism of Social Control Theory:
1. It’s a psychological theory (just recycling Freudian concepts of id
2. Questionable assumption about human nature (are people pre-
packaged as evil or good?)
i. Clinard advocates “tabula rasa or blank slate” conception of
human nature (social and cultural experiences affect character
3. Lack of empirical support for major elements of the theory
i. Involvement concept rarely co