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Control Theories. Control Theory. Everyone is motivated to break the law So, the question is NOT: Why do we break rules? But, Why don’t we? Deviance result from weak social constraints A theory of conformity Constraints originate in our social experience. Social Sources of Control.

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control theory
Control Theory
  • Everyone is motivated to break the law
    • So, the question is NOT: Why do we break rules? But, Why don’t we?
  • Deviance result from weak social constraints
    • A theory of conformity
    • Constraints originate in our social experience
social sources of control
Social Sources of Control
  • We connect to society via social groups
    • Family, neighborhood, and school
    • “We are moral beings only to the extent that we are social beings” Emile Durkheim (1925)
  • Social rewards become contingent on staying out of trouble
    • We develop stakes in conformity
    • “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose” Bob Dylan
hirschi s social bond theory
Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory
  • People break the law because they have not internalized society’s rules
  • Internalization requires strong social bonds to groups in society (family, school, job)
    • Social bonds do not reduce criminal motivation, they increase one’s ability to resist the temptation of crime
hirschi s social bond theory5
Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory
  • (Emotional) Attachment to conventional others, such as parents, teachers, and peers leads us to avoid their disapproval = source of conscience
  • (Material) Commitment to conformity, deviance places conventional investments at risk = rational choice
  • (Temporal) Involvement = opportunity – “idle hands are devil’s workshop”
  • (Moral) Belief in the rightness of conventional rules, and the degree to which they should be followed
age graded theory of informal social control
Age-Graded Theoryof Informal Social Control
  • Sampson and Laub (1993) extend Hirschi’s original bond theory
  • Attempt to explain change in offending over the life course
    • A developmental approach
  • Social bonds reduce adult crime
    • More optimistic than self-control theory – people can change!
research questions
Research Questions
  • Are there typical pathways to crime?
  • Once formed, can these pathways be altered?
  • Why are some delinquents able to turn their lives around while others are not?
the life course perspective
The Life-Course Perspective
  • Trajectories = long-term pathways through life
  • Transitions = short-term events that affect life trajectories = turning points
  • Turning points facilitate role transition
  • Attending school -> employment -> career -> marriage -> family
age graded theory of informal social control9
Age-Graded Theoryof Informal Social Control
  • Social bonds foster informal control (Hirschi)
  • Parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee
    • Tend to be age-graded
    • Affected by larger context, neighborhood, history
  • Weak social bonds = weak informal control
    • Weak bonds = weak commitments to others = few stakes in conformity = less to lose = deviance likely
continuity and change
Continuity and Change
  • Continuity
    • Prior delinquency reduces opportunities for social bonding
      • Contrast with low-self control theory
  • Change
    • Life transitions affect life trajectories
      • If they create interdependency and obligation
      • Bad relationships yield little informal social control
empirical evidence
Empirical Evidence
  • Predictors of delinquency
    • Lack of bonds to family and school
    • Lack of parental discipline, supervision, attachment
    • Neighborhood conditions (poverty, family disruption) affect delinquency indirectly through family bonds
  • Change in adult bonds to work and family = decrease offending
policy implications foster and protect social bonds
Policy Implications:Foster and Protect Social Bonds
  • Job training and family counseling
    • Before and during prison
  • Less reliance on incarceration
    • Incarceration undermines work and family, which undermines informal social control
  • Use of community based punishment
    • Protect existing social bonds to work and family
recent developments low self control theory
Recent Developments:Low Self-Control Theory
  • Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990)
    • One cause of crime: low self-control
  • Self-control is formed in early childhood and remains stable throughout life
  • Restraint resides in the person, not in the relationship to social groups in society
    • In contrast to Hirschi
the origins of self control
The Origins of Self-Control
  • Young children lie, push, hit, steal, cheat
  • By age 8-10, kids learn to control these behaviors - self-control is achieved
  • Sources of learning self-control
    • Parenting is key – careful supervision and punishment for misbehavior
    • Natural sanctions – injuries, bruises, fear, pain
low self control theory
Low Self-Control Theory
  • Most people know right from wrong
    • Crime is a matter of human weakness
  • Most offenders offend repeatedly
    • Prior offending is best predictor of future crime
    • Emphasis on continuity in offending
  • Offenders tend to be generalists
  • Most offending requires no special skill
  • Offending usually brings immediate benefit, with the potential for long-term costs
low self control theory16
Low-Self Control Theory
  • We are all born with low self control
  • High self-control is created in early childhood
    • Parental monitoring and punishment, set by age 8-10
  • People with low self-control yield to the temptation of immediate gratification
  • De-emphasize social/motivational factors
    • The cause is in the person
  • De-emphasize the rationality of criminal choices
    • Low self-control undermines rationality
a general theory
A General Theory
  • Self-control is the only important causal factor
  • Other associations with crime are spurious (also due to self-control)
    • Failed marriages, unemployment, low education
  • Crime co-occurs with other immediately gratifying but high risk behaviors
    • Smoking, drinking, drug use, speeding, unprotected sex, accidents
    • All give pleasure with minimal effort
age crime curve
Age-Crime Curve
  • Individual differences in the propensity to offend remain stable over time
  • Regardless of initial starting point, everyone slows down with age
  • Low self-control = the willingness to engage in behaviors that bring immediate benefits, with the chance of long-term, negative consequences
    • Crime is defined as such behavior
  • How can low self-control predict crime when it is part of the definition of crime?
  • G&H do not see this as a problem, but rather an unfortunate fact of life
policy implications of self control theory
Policy Implicationsof Self-Control Theory
  • Focus on early family-based intervention
    • Formal CJ sanctions can play only a minor role
  • Increase immediate difficulties and risks of crime, not long-term risks
    • Situational crime prevention – crime specific
  • Restrict unsupervised youth activity for those with weak families