Social Control Theory
Social control theory, when applied to the study of criminal behavior, examines the social rules and contracts that influence individual behavior. Social control may be both informal and formal. If informal, it is interwoven with social values, community expectations, and the unwritten social contracts by which communities abide. Alternately, formal social control describes the social laws, rules, and punishments that address behavior that is considered antisocial or criminal.
Social control is effective in preventing criminal behavior when individuals feel connected to a community, a family, or another social entity to which they also feel accountable. On the other hand, it tends not to be effective when individuals feel disconnected from family and community. In fact, the theory contends that criminal behavior flourishes when these links to conventional community standards are broken or missing.
To prepare for this assignment:
Review the article, “Sources of Informal Social Control in Chicago Neighborhoods,” paying attention to various sources of informal social control. Also consider why methods of social control may develop in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Consider how social control theory explains engagement in criminal behavior.
Reflect on how social control theory accounts for the prevention of criminal behavior.
Think about whether or not social control theory is useful for understanding and explaining criminal behavior, and reflect on why or why not.
The assignment (1–2 pages):
Analyze the degree to which social control theory explains engagement in criminal behavior.
Analyze the degree to which social control theory explains the prevention of criminal behavior.
Based on your analysis, describe any conclusions you might draw about whether or not social control theory is useful for understanding and explaining the nature of criminal behavior.
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