Control Theory Essay

7484 Words30 Pages
Control Theory Sherrie R. Muasau Department of Criminal Justice April 25, 2011 Introduction Control theories take the opposite approach from other theories in criminology. As their starting point, instead of asking “What drives people to commit crime?” they ask “Why do most people not commit crime?” Social control theories tend to demonstrate a view of human nature that reflects the beliefs of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), a seventeenth-century English philosopher who was convinced that humans are basically evil. In Hobbes best-known work, Leviathan (1651), he argued that the desire for money and fame was part of human nature. The scholars who developed control theories see delinquency as a somewhat normal behavior emerging from unmet wants and needs (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). Their focus is on the control factors that prevent people from committing criminal or delinquent acts (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Hirschi, 1969; Nye, 1958; Reckless, 1967; Reiss, 1951; and Sykes & Matza, 1957). People obey the law because they are responding to appropriate social controls. People who violate the law do so because their social controls are not working or their bonds to law-abiding people have been broken or were never developed (Reiss, 1951). The question becomes not how to prevent criminal behavior, but how to get people to engage in law-abiding behavior. This paper examines a variety of approaches by social control theorists. Early Control Theory One of the earliest known control theories was presented by Albert J. Reiss, Jr. in 1950. Reiss (1951) argued that delinquency was “behavior consequent to the failure of personal and social controls.” Reiss (1951) defined personal control as “the ability of the individual to refrain from meeting needs in ways which conflict with the norms and rules of the community” while social control was “the
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