What Is Hirschi’s Social Control Theory?

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Travis Hirschi’s social control theory of juvenile delinquency stated that delinquent behavior was caused by a lack of social attachments. Later, he modified his ideas and proposed the self-control theory of crime, which suggested that crimes were committed due to criminal opportunity and lack of self-control and that the degree of parenting a child received was the determining factor in whether or not he would commit crimes.

In 1969, Travis Hirschi put forth his social control theory in his book “Causes of Delinquency.” He claimed that the absence of social bonds and lack of social interaction with parents, teachers, friends and others caused a decrease in acceptance of social norms and recognition of morals, exacerbating tendencies toward juvenile delinquency.

In 1990, Hirschi collaborated with Michael R. Gottfredson on the book “A General Theory of Crime,” in which they proposed that a person’s level of self-control stabilizes by the age of 8, depending on how he is reared as a child. This put a lot of responsibility of whether or not a child would eventually commit crimes on the parents. According to Hirschi and Gottfredson, a child reared in a stable environment would be far less likely to commit crimes than a child that was neglected or abused. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, these theories became very popular among criminologists in America, though they were also widely criticized as being inherently flawed.