What Are Agents of Social Control?

Agents of social control are individuals, groups and organizations that encourage other people to conform to social norms. Such agents include family, schools, the government and the media.

The primary agent of social control in any person’s life is their family. From the beginning, families attempt to instill values that a person must live by, which usually reflect society’s expectations. Further, education promotes behavioral standards in terms of dress, demeanor and sometimes, beliefs. Religion acts as an agent of social control by offering instructions or guidelines for living, as well as proposed punishments for those who do not follow them. The media and sports stars also have a role to play. While sports stars usually adhere to strict U.S. values, the media enshrines capitalism, sexism and other views.

The government can act as an indirect and direct agent of social control. Indirectly, it promotes speech that places emphasis on social values. Directly it has the power to punish and rehabilitate criminals. The government also dictates welfare programs, which are used to prevent civil disobedience and promote conformity. By introducing sanctions for certain behaviors, the government ensures people conform. In the past, they have also used torture as a means of preventing deviance.