Discuss the propositions of social bond theory and the efforts to test it.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Social bond theory was introduced in the late 1960s by Travis Hirschi.  It is the basis of a major approach to criminology that is still important today.  The basic idea of social bond theory is that delinquency and other deviant behaviors are caused by a lack of strong social bonds between members of society.  A person who does not have strong social bonds with others will be more likely to engage in delinquency and other deviant behaviors.

Social bond theory does not try to account for the motivations of the delinquent.  Instead, it assumes that almost everyone has impulses that could cause them to act in delinquent or deviant ways.  However, not all people act on these impulses because many people have strong social bonds with others.  These social bonds control people and make it less likely that they will act in inappropriate ways.  For example, if a person has close connections to their family members or to their church, they will feel constrained by those connections.  They may still have impulses towards acting badly, but they will restrain those impulses because they are attached and committed to those people with whom they have social bonds.

There have been many attempts to test this theory empirically.  Researchers do not agree on whether the data that they have obtained actually do support social bond theory.

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