Control Theory

Basics of the Control Theory:

  • Developed in the 1960s and 1970s, attempts to explain ways to train people to engage in law-abiding behaviour
  • View that humans require nurturing in order to develop attachments or bonds to people and that personal bonds are key in producing internal controls such as conscience and guilt and external controls such as shame
  • According to this view, crime is the result of insufficient attachment and commitment to others

Walter C. Reckless:

  • Developed one version of control theory, called containment
  • He argued that a combination of internal psychological containments and external social containments prevents people from deviating from social norms
  • In simple communities, social pressure to conform to community standards, usually enforced by social ostracism, was sufficient to control behaviour
  • As societies became more complex, internal containments played a more crucial role in determining whether people behaved according to public laws
  • Furthermore, containment theorists have found that internal containments require a positive self-image
  • All too often, a sense of alienation from society and its norms forms in modern individuals, who, as a result, do not develop internal containment mechanisms

Travis Hirschi:

  • A sociologist developed his own control theory that attempts to explain conforming, or lawful, rather than deviant, or unlawful, behaviour
  • He stresses the importance of the individual’s bond to society in determining conforming behaviour
  • His research has found that socioeconomic class has little to do with determining delinquent behavior, and that young people who are not very attached to their parents or to school are more likely to be delinquent than those who are strongly attached
  • He also found that youths who have a strongly positive view of their own accomplishments are more likely to view society’s laws as valid constraints on their behaviour

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