Theory Based on the Factors That Leads to Juvenile Delinquency Term Paper

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Social Control Theory of Juvenile Delinquency

Underlying Assumptions

Travis Hirschi's Social Control theory of deviance assumes that deviant behavior is largely a function of the connectedness of the individual to his or her society; more specifically, Hirschi's assumptions are that juvenile delinquency, and criminal deviance more generally, are inversely related to the following elements of connectedness between the individual and the community: involvement, commitment, attachment, and belief (Akers & Sellers, 2004; Huebner & Betts, 2002).

Structure of Theory

Hirschi used the concept of involvement to describe the manner and extent to which the individuals takes part in the so-called "conventional" activities, such as extracurricular school functions and other organized opportunities for socially productive youth recreation available in the community (Macionis, 2008). Hirschi used the concept of commitment, to describe the basic "acceptance" in the most general senses, of fundamental social and behavioral norms, values, and expectations in the individual's community and society. Hirschi referred to the concept of attachment to characterize the quality of the interpersonal relationships within nuclear and extended families and between and among peers as well (Akers & Sellers, 2004; Huebner & Betts, 2002). Hirschi used the concept of belief to describe the degree to which the individual accepts and shares the dominant societal beliefs of the community outside of the extended family (Akers & Sellers, 2004; Huebner & Betts, 2002).

According to Hirschi, in principle, individuals who are connected to their local communities and to their societies more generally tend to conform their behavior to the expectations of those communities and societies (Macionis, 2008). By contrast, individuals who are not connected to their local communities and to their larger societies by virtue of the four elements of societal connectedness outlined by Hirschi are at much greater risk of juvenile delinquency early in life and to deviance (including criminal conduct) later in their lives (Schmalleger, 2009).

Strengths and Weaknesses of Social Control Theory

In many respects, Hirschi's Social Control Theory of deviance, criminality, and juvenile delinquency is completely consistent with the more general concepts of social psychology and the psychological development of individuals (Henslin, 2009). In that sense, it is difficult to argue that connectedness as defined by the four elements detailed by Hirschi is not substantially related to the degree to which individuals respect cultural norms and societal values. Naturally, the more connected the individual is to his society and community the more important it will be for him to adopt its social values and to fulfill the various behavioral expectations of individuals in that society. Conversely, individuals who lack involvement in their communities, who do not share a commitment, to the same ideals and expectations as those of their communities and society, who develop comparatively little attachment to the dominant values and norms of their societies, and who maintain fundamentally different beliefs than those generally espoused by their neighbors and community members are much more likely to act out in ways that are disapproved of or actually prohibited by the laws of their societies (Schmalleger, 2009).


Sources Used in Document:


Akers, R.L., and Sellers, C.S. (2004). Criminological Theories: Introduction,

Evaluation, and Application. California: Roxbury Publishing Company.

Button, D.M. "Social Disadvantage and Family Violence: Neighborhood Effects on Attitudes about Intimate Partner Violence and Corporal Punishment." American

Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 33 (2008):130 -- 147.

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