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Theory of Social Control

Gaynor Borade Aug 25, 2020
Theory of Social Control is widely cited in criminology. This concept has been explored and represented by Travis Hirschi, a proponent of Right Realism. It investigates social behavior under the supervision of a controlled society and subsequent reduction in antisocial behavior.
Though strongly advocated by Travis Hirschi, the Theory of Social Control has also been explored by the realist philosophers such as Reiss, Nye, and Toby. The definition states that delinquency is simply the consequence of the failure of related social and personal supervision over antisocial personality disorder.
While the 'personal control' definition states the individual ability to refrain from behavior that is in conflict with social norms, that of 'social control' specified the responsibility of society to ensure the timely application of set norms and/or rules.
In other words, theory of social control elaborates on the onus that is shared by society and devised control mechanisms to ensure a safe social arena, one that is devoid of any type of delinquency. 
Society is meant to provide reinforcement of dictated values to keep any type of causal or motivational delinquency traits at bay. The theory is supportive of the fact that it is mostly those who fear little or nothing to lose while conforming to delinquency, who are drawn towards antisocial behavior.
Theory of social control is not without specified ways to organize the various control mechanisms that are already 'in place' in society.
In fact, the theory specifies that it is the responsibility of these control mechanisms like the law and order enforcement teams and the physical paradigms within each community, to effectively and periodically address delinquent behavior. The focus is mainly on the 'family' as the primary source of behavior control.

What Is the Social Control Theory?

Travis Hirschi propounded a theory of social control that emphasizes on the role of society in the control of criminal behavior. It specifies the fact that no society can afford to denounce criminal activity without duly accepting its responsibility towards the same.
Theory of social control stresses on the fact that most delinquent behavior is the result of un-monitored 'social control' by the authorities and primarily, the family. The theory is indicative of the fact that relationships and commitments with respect to set norms and a belief structure encourage or discourage individuals and groups to break the law.
The theory spotlights the internalization of values and timely guidance and monitoring of behavior as the factors responsible for an 'ideal' society. It is highlighted that it is only when an individual or a group has a major stake in the immediate, surrounding community, that the urge to behave in a deviant manner is suppressed willingly.
The theory mentions ways by which the likelihood of criminality can be reduced. Some of the ways include -

• Presence of a wide range of activities;

• Scope for exploring the accepted processes of socialization and ethics;

• Availability of unbiased choices within social contracts;

• Generating a sense of responsibility within the immediate society;
• Predetermining 'costs and consequences' to various choices made available;

• Inner containment of a tendency towards delinquent behavior and social anxiety through the development of self-image, within the family;

• Harmonious living conditions;
• Reduced family conflicts and aggressiveness and development of healthy family relationships;

• Timely obliteration of delinquent peers and subcultures, via dedicated social networking.

Types of Social Control

Theory of social control proposes social learning with the help of 'social control'. This is believed to not only build on and motivate individual and group self-control, but also reduce even the most remote inclination towards antisocial behavior.
Types of social control from various functionalist theories are:

• Direct social control by punitive action for wrongful behavior, by family and state authority;

• Indirect social control by timely identifying of wrong influences on behavior, by family, and state authority;

• Internal social control by conscience questioning and satisfaction of human needs.