What Are Types of Social Control?

Social control is a general term used to refer to the societal and political machinations employed to manage individual and group behaviors. Once effectively employed, social control provides conformity and compliance to the established rules or laws of a society.

There are different types of social control that can be employed. Informal social control is not a set of hard written rules. These controls are expressed in society as norms, mores and customs. People operating within a society are expected to inherently understand and accept these rules, even when they are unspoken, and to behave accordingly. When people deviate from the restrictions imposed by informal social controls, some of the ramifications include disapproval, social discrimination, criticism, shame and ridicule. These types of sanctions are used to curb deviant behavior.

Types of formal social control include laws, rules and orders. These controls are generally written and can change as the needs of society change. The penalties for violating these social controls include fines, incarceration, other legal ramifications and, in extreme cases, death or being ostracized from society. Formal social controls can be manipulated to determine societal norms. These determinations can knowingly force certain citizens, who are deemed undesirable by nonconformity to the norms, to operate outside of a society.