Iycee Charles de Gaulle Summary Explain and contrast The Social Control Theory and The Self Control Theory Essay

Explain and contrast The Social Control Theory and The Self Control Theory Essay

Explain and contrast The Social Control Theory and The Self Control Theory. Which theory do you think best explains why people engage in criminal behaviors?

Social Control Theory, which is also known as the Social Bonding Theory was proposed by Travis Hirschi. He later refined his theory when he wrote with Michael R. Gottfredson A General Theory of Crime in 1990 (Welch, 1998). The theory suggests that because of people’s relationships, commitments, values, norms, and beliefs are motivations for people to comply with the law.

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The Social Control Theory is based from the Hobbesian outlook of human nature that all options taken by people  are controlled by specifically defined social laws and condition, actual and implied understandings and standardized procedures by people in the society (Travis Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory, 2000).

In contrast, the Self-Control Theory proposes that the person’s degree of self-control that he develops in his formative years is the reason why an individual develops a tendency to commit or not to commit crimes or do an action that is considered wrong by society, either legally or morally (Welch, 1998). A low degree of self control is the reason why people will not be able to conform easily to the norms and social codes while on the other hand, a high self-control explains an individual’s likelihood of conforming to social norms and laws (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990).

Both theories emphases the influence and consequence of parental upbringing. They both consider that parental upbringing that acts as the foundation of socialization and self-orientation are the major factors that influence an individual’s propensity to commit crime or acts unacceptable by society. In evaluation, the social control theory though able to recognize the importance of societal factors and the consequences of people’s interaction with them, it is not able to consider for example the consequence of motivational issues. Self-control theory considers better a person individually with respect to his behavior. It’s suggestion that behavior is not just determined by the social institutions themselves but is affected by the person’s concept and disposition towards it.

Explain the concepts and principles behind the social learning theory. Using the social learning theory constructs, explain its link to why people engage in criminal behaviors.

The Social Learning Theory was derived from the work of Gabriel Tarde which proposed that social learning occurred through three stages of imitation: close contact, imitation of superiors, and insertion. The modern social learning theory as proposed by Albert Bandura believed that aggression is developed through a behavior modeling (Bandura, 1976).

Bandura emphasized the importance of observational learning which is learning behavioral patterns through the observation and imitation of other individuals. Observational learning has four key components which are attention, retention, motor reproduction or action and motivation (Bandura, 1975).  Edwin Sutherland in his work Differential Association Theory, proposed a model that learning in a social environment is dependent on the cultural conflicts between different groups in a society who are the ones who define what behaviors are to be considered deviant. Ronald Akers refined these theories in 1966 to describe different deviant behaviors that lead to criminal behavior from Sutherland’s theories (Sutherland, 1947 p. 5-7).:

1. “Criminal behavior is learned according to the principles of operant conditioning”

2. “Criminal behavior is learned both in non-social situations that are reinforcing or discriminative and through social interaction in which the behavior of other persons is reinforcing or discriminative for criminal behavior”

3. “The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs in those groups which compromise the individual’s major source of reinforcements”

4. “The learning of criminal behavior, including specific techniques, attitudes, and avoidance procedures, is a function of the effective and available reinforces, and the existing reinforcement contingencies”

5. “The specific class of behaviors which are learned and their frequency of occurrence are functions of the reinforces which are effective and available, and the rules or norms by which these reinforces are applied”

6. “Criminal behavior is a function of norms which are discriminative for criminal behavior, the learning of which takes place when such behavior is more highly reinforced than non-criminal behavior”

7. “The strength of criminal behavior is a direct function of the amount, frequency, and probability of its reinforcement

Explain the “paradoxical effects” corporal punishment may have on children becoming involved in delinquent acts.

Corporal or physical punishment refers the practice using physical pain as a reprimand for a wrong doing. Examples of discipline considered as corporal punishment range from pinching, shaking, slapping, punching and kicking with or without the use of implements or aids. The severity of punishment is generally dependent on the gravity of the misdemeanor. The objective however is not to injure but to use pain as deterrent of bad behavior.

A 2002 study of the effects of corporal punishment on children found substantiation to the protests against. The study was done by Dr. Elizabeth Thompson entitled, Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review which concluded that corporal punishment by parents of their children contributed to:

“greater aggression , poor internalization of moral values , higher rates of delinquency and antisocial behavior, poor quality of parent-child relationships, poor child mental health, being a victim of child abuse, abusing own child and spouse” (Thompson, 2002).

This indicates that corporal punishment that is intended to deter misbehavior can actually lead to greater improper behavior. The infectivity and harmful effects of corporal punishment is widely accepted but the paradox is that many still do spank children, especially toddlers. Another paradox is that though many child development and psychology professional provide readily information regarding the problems of corporal punishment, very few directly tell parents not to practice corporal punishment (Strauss and Kantor 1992).

Some of the reasons raised for these behavior is that the future implications of using corporal punishment on children is not emphasized enough or that parents do not have a long term view in terms of the factors influencing their children’s behavior. Also, there is hesitation that the giving specific directions to parents may be viewed adversely, that direct instructions form professionals may be perceived as hostile to parental prerogative or rights. It is therefore important that further action be done to communicate the implications done about corporal punishment and its consequences both by parents and professional to understand why beliefs against corporal punishment are not actualized or practiced in the existent child rearing practices.

Discuss the factors relating to the possibilities of the family structure being a major contribution to a juvenile becoming involved in delinquent behaviors.

            Researchers have proposed that family characteristics and family environments can influence the development of juvenile delinquent behavior.  Inconsistent or ineffective parenting, family oriented problems, neglect, and the children’s relationship with their parents and their siblings are some of the key factors to be considered. Social reaction theorists suggests that society is one of the key elements accountable for juvenile delinquent behaviors and since children’s preliminary exposure to society is the family, his perceptions, reactions an conclusions, will largely be influence by the kind of family he has (Nye, 1958).

The study conducted by Crystal L. Murry, Jimmy Williams, and Randall T. Salekin, indicated that:

“proportionately, more juvenile offenders come from family arrangements other than the two-parent family home. However, the results do not support the hypothesis that juveniles residing in family arrangements other than the two-parent family arrangement are more likely to commit serious delinquent acts or crimes.” (Murry et al, 2006)

The results of the same study also does not support the premise that juvenile offenders residing in family arrangement other than the traditional two-parent family arrangement are more likely to be repeat offenders.

Their conclusion became that family structure alone did not are not directly contribute to the gravity or the rate of recurrence of juvenile criminal incidence and instead it concluded that family structures combined with other elements that may be environmental, situational, and functional in nature or origin of development may be more of a consequence to juvenile delinquency, its incidence and prevalence, than family structure alone.


Akers, Ronald L. (1991). Self-Control as a General Theory of Crime. Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume 7, p. 201-211.

Bandura, A. (1975). Social Learning & Personality Development. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, INC: NJ.

Bandura, A., & Ribes-Inesta, Emilio. (1976). Analysis of Delinquency and Aggression. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, INC: New Jersey

Evans, R.I. (1989). Albert Bandura: The Man and His Ideas – A Dialogue. New York: Praeger

Gottfredson, Michael R. and Travis Hirschi. (1990). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Murry, Crystal L., Williams, Jimmy, Salekin, Randall T. (2006). Juvenile Delinquency and Family Structure: Links to Severity and Frequency of Offending.

Nye, I. (1958). Family relationships and delinquent behavior. New York: John Wiley.

Travis Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory (2000). Retrieved on August 22, 2006 from http://home.comcast.net/~ddemelo/crime/hirschi.html

Welch, Kelly (1998). Two Major Theories of Travis Hirschi. Retrieved on August 22, 2006 from http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/hirschi.htm

Straus, Murray. (1995) Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and its Effects on Children.

Straus, M. A. and Kaufman Kantor, G. (1192). Corporal Punishment of Adolescents: A Risk Factor in the Epidemiology of Depression, Suicide, Alcohol Abuse, Child Abuse, and Wife Beating. Durham: University of New Hampshire, Family Research Laboratory.

Sutherland, Edwin (1947). Differential Association Theory.

Tarolla, S., Wagner, E., Rabinowitz, J., Tubman, J. (2002). Understanding and treating juvenile offenders: A review of current knowledge and future direction, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 7 (2). p. 125-143.

Thompson, Elizabeth (2002). Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review, American Psychological Association, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 128, No. 4. p. 539-579.