Control Theory – Crime and Deviance

Lesson objectiveTo explore the functionalist approach the crime
Lesson outcomes• Assess its relevance in today’s society
• Analyse the perspective
• Explain what control theorists believe

Control Theory: Hirschi’s social bonds theory of crime and deviance

Hirschi (1969), is the main theorist for Control Theory, which is a Functionalist based approach. Control theory is different from most other criminologist approaches, as it focuses on why people don’t commit crimes, rather than why they do. Control theorists argue that all human beings suffer from weaknesses which make them unable to resist temptation and turn to crime, but that there are social bonds with other people that encourage them to exercise self control, tie them to conformity and restrain them from committing crime.

Hirschi suggests that most people would commit a crime if they had the chance. What stops them from doing so is the strengths of their social bonds with other people. There are four social bonds that, if weakened, or broken, will encourage people to turn to crime:

1) Commitment to conventional activities.

2) Attachment to those around them.

3) Beliefs, such as moral beliefs.

4) Involvement with a church, schools activities e.g.

Supporting Evidence

The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Literature Reviews Volume 5, Chapter 12: is excellent at really going into depth as to what the Control Theory is. I fully recommend reading it for those aspiring to get a top grade.

The House of Commons Education Committee demonstrates the impact that external factors can have on individuals,e.g. the education system “‘Only 13% of persistent truants achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE compared with 67% of those who never truanted.’ “. “Truants are both more likely to commit crime and to become the victims of crime. Being in school reduces the opportunities for criminal behaviour. Poor attendance through exclusion or truancy increases the likelihood of getting poor qualifications and becoming unemployed, both well-known predictors of crime. 65% of teenagers who truant once a week or more self report offences compared to 30% of their peers”.

Glyn has pointed out that many young offenders suffer from what he calls ‘parent deficit’. He argues that this is the single most important factor in explaining youth offending. He argues that children need both discipline and love, two things that are often both absent with absent parents.

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