Social Control and Self-Control Theory of Crime Causation

Sociologists, psychologists, and criminologists have been attempting to explain delinquent behavior for decades. Despite their tireless efforts and vast expertise, a perfect explanation for delinquent behavior has yet to emerge. Only after a comprehensive examination of the literature dedicated to the search for a single answer does one come to the conclusion that it simply does not exist. Rather, there is universal agreement and evidence that crime is the outcome of a combination of causes rather than a single factor. Whatever its perspective, a comprehensive theory of crime must explain how delinquent patterns of behavior form, what causes people to engage in a delinquent manner, and what sustains their delinquent behaviors. So, Travis Hirschi developed “Social Control Theory” and “Self-Control Theory” in an attempt to encapsulate crime. Hirschi collaborated with Michael Gottfredson to create the latter theory.

Social control theory and self control theory are two theories that explain why some people choose to act on deviant behavior while others do not. Both have opposing yet similar viewpoints on the subject. According to social control theory, people’s behavior is influenced by their social ties; if they have strong ties to society, they will adapt, whereas if they don’t, they will act out or engage in criminal or violent behavior. Individuals are inherently driven to deviate, according to the theory, and will do so unless they are constrained by strong ties to society. This distinguishes the theory from self-control theory, which claims that individuals are socialized to create a personality marked by low self-control throughout their early years of life, and they will have this trait with them for the rest of their life.

According to the social control theory, weak relationships, such as attachment, lead to criminal behavior. Teenagers form strong ties with their friends in some cases, but this type of attachment can be dangerous. They are frequently concerned about being accepted by their peers and will participate in delinquent behavior to acquire acceptance. In example, a lack of parent–child connection during adolescence, especially in the middle, is likely to lead to an increase in peer association. This is also true of the self-control theory, which claims that a child’s level of self-control is predicted by the style of parenting an individual received. Children whose parents provide them with inadequate parental supervision will have low levels of self-control, making them more inclined to participate in criminal behavior. Because commitment is a key component of both theories, the self-control theory and the social control theory are similar. Individuals with poor self-control crave rapid pleasure, and commitment clashes with their drive for the “here and now.” According to these theories, a person who lacks commitment is more prone to engage in deviant behavior. Both the self-control and social control theories point to beliefs as a factor for people not committing crimes. Individuals who are extremely devout may be subjected to stricter constraints in order to combat criminal temptations. Having a strong belief and value system gives significant rewards for self-control, making it easier to resist impulsive behavior temptation. Both theories appear to have survived the test of time and operate concurrently to provide a basic explanation for individual deviant behavior. Although there are some existing inconsistencies and contradictions between the two theories, the depth of their complementary relationship cannot be underestimated, especially since it has not been stated that the Social Control Theory and Self-Control Theory are inherently incompatible.