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What is Travis Hirschi’s social control theory?

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surfer3 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 11, 2010 at 7:23 AM via web

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What is Travis Hirschi’s social control theory?

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william1941 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted September 11, 2010 at 10:17 PM (Answer #1)

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The Theory of Social Control created by Travis Hirschi places a lot of emphasis on the role that is played by the society in controlling criminal behavior. According to the theory society has a very important role to play in controlling crime and it is not possible for all the responsibility to be placed on the individuals committing the crime. Almost all delinquency is the result of a lack of monitoring by the authorities and the family of the delinquents. Relationships and commitments are given a very important role here in determining whether laws are broken by people.

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menen1892 | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 13, 2014 at 3:48 PM (Answer #2)

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Hirschi's Social Control Theory, which was first introduced in the late 1960's as Social Bond Theory is a key theory that is utilized in Sociology and/or Criminology. The main point of the theory is that when people lack strong bonds with the people around them and their society as as a whole, these people are more likely to commit crimes because of a lack of attachment to society and those around them. This theory suggests that those who have strong bonds with the society that they live in, will not commit crimes.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM (Answer #3)

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Originally titled "Social Bond Theory", this framework of thought was developed in 1969 by Travis Hirschi with the purpose of trying to extract the variables that contribute in the people's decision to become law-abiding citizens. 

The reason why it was once known as a "social bond" is because the original theory suggested that criminal activity is the product of a lack of meaningful connection with society. Basically, that people break the law because they have lost respect, appreciation or their sense of belonging toward society. 

Upon further analysis, the theory became referred to as "social control" theory based on 

a perspective which predicts that when social constraints on antisocial behavior are weakened or absent, delinquent behavior emerges.

Hence, it is not so much the lacking "bond" that motivates breaking the law, but the lack of control that one has over the environment, society, and our own conditions. When we feel that we cannot control a situation, we revert to primitive practices of instant gratification and take the risk of suffering the consequences of our actions. 

Hirschi further offers how it is that people become involved with society in a way that they can feel in control. He proposed that there are four connectors:  a) attachment, b) belief, c) commitment, and d) involvement. 

The attachment comes as the result of our daily dynamics and interaction with the environment that surrounds us. Our attachment to friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, and other like-minded people makes us more connected to the world in which we live. 

Our beliefs  consist on our system of values, religious background, or any other connection to something that we consider worthy of deep respect; something sacred that should not be tampered with. When we choose to act "like good Christians" or "according to the teachings of ______" we are using our beliefs as the mitigator between good and bad behavior. 

The commitment consists on the personal ethos by which we individually abide. For example, following the Ten Commandments, abiding by the military code of honor, abiding by the rules of the state, by the Constitution, or whatever ethical principle makes us act in a rightful way shows our commitment to that principle. 

Involvement is an interesting concept within the theory because it basically shows that, once and individual is engaged in meaningful activity, the chances of committing a crime greatly diminish. This is why youth sports and after school activities are so highly-encouraged in academic and community settings. 

Conclusively, the social control theory entails that once we are able to interact with our environment positively, and we feel power over what surrounds us, we automatically move away from antisocial and criminal behaviors that hinder our personal growth. 


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