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The Social Control Approach


-         Social control theory differs from the theories we have studied so far by asking a different question: “What causes people to conform to the rules?”

-         The fundamental belief of social control theories is that the natural state of humankind is base and animalistic, and that unless these natural impulses are inhibited or constrained by social controls, everyone would yield to the enjoyment and excitement of deviant behavior


Types of Control


-         Social control theories believe that there are 2 types of control:


  1. Inner Control – this refers to constraints internalized in the personality. People conform because doing so makes them feel good about themselves
  2. Outer controls – this refers to the potential loss of social or economic rewards experienced by the individual


-         Outer controls can be formal or informal:

-         Informal outer controls include concerns about what others will think, and how others will react

-         Examples of formal outer controls include the treat of being caught by the police, and of going to court and receiving a sentence


Walter Reckless – Containment Theory


-         In 1961 sociologist Walter C. Reckless proposed Containment Theory

-         Reckless believed that people are kept from violating the law in several ways. If properly socialized by their parents and peers. The individual will control him – or herself. That is, the individual provides their own containment (containing their natural impulses which may lead to law violations)

-         If individuals fail to contain themselves, their families and or peers may try to contain them (talk with them, try to counsel them, etc.)

-         If that fails, the other social institutions of informal social control may provide containment – schools, the faith institutions, and the community or neighborhood residents

-         If all those fail, the criminal justice system, as a social institution of formal social control, may attempt to contain the individual (through arrest, confinement, etc.)

-         Reckless also suggests that everyone is exposed to various “pushes” and “pulls,” forces that push or pull an individual into law violation

o       We can see such pushes when children are threatened by other children to join a gang

o       An example of a pull may be when a child sees that, in order to get money to buy things, he or she can join a gang and reach their objective. The are pulled into the gang by its attraction as a way of earning status and making money


Ivan Nye – Family Ties


-         Ivan Nye’s version of social control theory emphasizes the role of the family in socializing their children

-         Nye assumes that all humans are born with a tendency toward deviance. However only a few violate social norms

-         He explains this by identifying four types of social control stemming from the family environment:


  1. Internal control – conscience
  2. Indirect control – desire to avoid bringing shame to loved ones
  3. Direct control – family and school rules
  4. Legitimate need satisfaction – ability to be successful in school, at work, and in society


-         Variation in the strength of these controls results in various in behavior ranging from conformity to deviance

-         Strong controls produce obedience to social regulations

-         Weak controls permit people to express their deviant impulses


Travis Hirschi – Social Bonding


-         People refrain from violating the law because they have a stake in conformity. They know that, if they follow the society’s rules, they will be rewarded with success.

-         According to Hirschi, when a member of society’s bond to that society is weak or broken they may become criminal. Attachment, involvement, commitment, and belief in the values and goals of the society are what keep people from offending


-         Attachment – refers to the connection between individuals and other conventional people and institutions. If you are attached to someone, you care greatly and value that person’s opinion and want his or her respect. If you are detached, you do not care about others opinion or whether they respect you. Therefore, high degrees of detachment make rule violation likely


-         Commitment – When individuals consider committing deviant or criminal behavior, they must consider the risks of losing the investment they have made in previous conventional behavior. If individuals have worked long and hard at accumulating social and economic status, they have more to lose by violating laws


-         Involvement – this refers to the amount of time spent pursuing legitimate activities. Hirschi believed that involvement in conventional activities would keep someone’s time to occupied to allow him the indulgence of deviant behavior


-         Belief – refers to the belief in the values and goals of the society. People are more likely to conform to social norms when they believe in them


Deterrence Theory


-         Deterrence theory views people as rational beings who are capable of calculating the costs and benefits of breaking the law

-         If an individual believes that the benefits of committing a crime outweigh the potential costs of arrest and punishment, then he or she will be more likely to commit a crime and visa versa


Types of Deterrence


  1. Specific – Specific deterrence focuses on punishing known deviants in order to prevent them from ever again violating the specific norms they have broken
  2. General – General deterrence warns member of the public about the potential punishment that they might bring upon themselves if they commit the same offence


Dimensions of Punishment


  1. Severity – more severe punishments increase the level of deterrence
  2. Certainty – If a potential offender is virtually certain of receiving a punishment, he or she is less likely to commit the crime
  3. Celerity – this refers to how quickly sanctions are imposed. A short time interval between the crime and punishment increases the deterrence value of the punishment


What are the policy implications of social control theories?




        Strengthen the individual’s self esteem so that offending is not an option. Make sure the individual has positive role models among family members and peers

        Provide each child with a reason for having a stake in conformity. Reward them for good behavior strengthen their bond to society




-         Provide individual, group, and family counseling

-         Provide activities, education, and work opportunities designed to involve youth in conventional activities





What are the policy implications of deterrence?




-         Increase the severity, certainty, and celerity of punishment




-         Lengthen sentences, hire more police


 Chapter 6

Symbolic Interactionism


-         Symbolic are defined as signs that stand for things. They can be verbal or nonverbal

-         According the symbolic interactionist perspective, society is a large collective of people held together by a common culture that is composed of shared symbols

-         People use symbols to communicate with others and communication with others requires interaction between people. When we are communicating/interacting we use symbols to convey meaning

-         Different symbols mean different things to different people, depending on the situation

-         One of the main ideas behind symbolic interactionism is how self-image, self-concept, and identity develop

-         Interactionists believe that a person’s self-concept develops as the result of the social interactions a person has with important people in his/her environment

-         People will develop a positive or negative sense of themselves in response to their perception of how people are responding to them


George Herbert Mead


-         The founder of symbolic interactionism


Herbert Blumer


-         A student of Mead’s who outlined symbolic interactionism

-         Blumer believed that people act towards things/events on the basis of what those things mean to them

-         This suggests that factors such as economic hardship and involvement in deviant groups do not necessarily lead to deviant behavior

-         Blumer believed that people interpret things in different ways

-         Blumer also believed that the meanings that people attach to different things are a result of social interaction with others

-         People create, modify, and transmit meaning through the process of interacting with others

-         They observe and interpret actions and reactions of others in relation to objects, conditions, and acts; they then acquire and internalize the meaning attached to things, to situations and to behaviors

-         People have an active role in creating meaning – that through interaction they receive information and then interpret that information based on their values, culture etc

-         Therefore, two people may attach different meanings to the same circumstances




-         People come to develop 3 important definitions that affect their current and future actions – both conforming and deviant:



  1. Defining Self
  2. Defining Society
  3. Defining Situations


1. Defining Self


-         A person develops their concept of self through their interactions with others

-         The reactions that a person gets from others provide them with symbolic information regarding their personal identity – attractiveness, worthlessness, kindness

-         The positive and negative meanings that a person attaches to themselves will affect how they act towards themselves and toward other people

-         Mead separates the self into 3 components:


  1. I – the action-oriented, behavioral past of the individual
  2. Me – the person’s thinking, reflective component, which reflects the attitudes and beliefs people have about their own social and physical characteristics
  3. Generalized Other – what people imagine others will think about them and their actions – composed of all the significant others in a person’s life


Charles Horton Cooley


“The looking-Glass Self”


-         People’s perfections and imperfections are reflected symbolically on the faces, voices, and movements of those in their social environment

-         Cooley argues that people feel pride or mortification as a result of their interpretations of others’ responses to them


2. Defining Society


-         People’s concept of society develops based on their interaction with society

-         Their perception or as being totally unfair develops through interacting with various agents of socialization – family members, friends, co-workers, and the media

-         This perception affects how the person behaves


3. Defining Situations


-         People develop understanding of different situations through interaction as well. Once situations are interpreted in a certain way, its meaning will influence the person’s behavior

Labeling Perspective on Deviance


-         The symbolic interactionist theory as it is applied to the study of deviance is commonly referred to as the labeling perspective

-         It is not the act itself but the contextual meaning attached to it that defines whether or not something/someone is labeled as being deviant – i.e. deviance is in the eye of the beholder

-         Those who are labeled as deviant are usually from the lower social economic statuses and have less social power than those who apply the labels

-         Differences in income, occupation, property ownership, age, sex, and culture define social position and, to a major extent, social power

-         Some individual in Canadian society are given special status with regards to power – including lawyers, judges, psychiatrists, psychologists, police and corrections officers


Frank Tannenbaum – The Dramatization of Evil


-         Tannenbaum believes that children participate in many different activities on a daily basis and many of these activities are not okay with adults (example – smoking, jigging school)

-         He theorized that because adults found these types of behaviors to be negative, and regulations punish them, adolescents may be drawn into behaving in a negative way because they find the activities to be stimulating


Edwin Lemert


-         The progression of deviance from primary to secondary deviance

-         According to Lemert, primary deviance occurs when people violate the rules of society

-         He felt that this was inevitable and that everyone at sometime or another would break the rules of the society

-         Lemert felt that deviant acts produced by accident, by unusual situations, by a desire to experiment or by pressure from deviant associates are common in everyone’s lives

-         He also believed that deviance is considered to be primary if it is hidden, and if it did not result in a strong, negative social reaction

-         Lemert believed that deviance progressed from its primary form to a secondary form, as the person performs more and more deviant acts and they receive more and more negative responses

-         The more negative responses they receive from significant others, the more likely they are to progress into the more advanced and more serious forms of deviance

-         In order to retain a positive identity and to recast their self-image, people will begin to reorganize their life around the deviant status and the deviant role

-         They will change their outlook as an effort to protect their self-image. They become firmly committed to the deviant role – for example – the professional con artist, the best break and enter robber, the professional prostitute


-         Sykes and Matza believe that in order to deal with their deviant acts, people use one or more neutralizing techniques they specified 5 of these:


  1. Deny Responsibility
  2. Deny injury
  3. Deny Victim
  4. Condemn Condemners
  5. Appeal to a Higher Loyalty


Howard Becker


-         To extend the labeling concept further, Howard Becker developed two other concepts: Moral Entrepreneurship and The Deviant Career


Moral Entrepreneurship


-         According to Becker “moral entrepreneurs” are people with the power to create and/or enforce social norms – they are the people who bring attention to some wrongdoing – along these lines he believes that offenders are created by moral entrepreneurs because they are in effect labeled as being offenders


The Deviant Career


-         Sociologists define a career as a sequence of social statuses through which people pass in some sphere of their lives – the stages are generally novice, new recruit, veteran, and retiree

-         Becker believes that many forms of deviance can be seen as careers and that professional criminals pass through similar stages of career development

-         As people pass through each stage of the deviant career, they redefine themselves as being more and more effective in their role

-         He also identified the concept of “master status” – which is defined as an identify that overrides other identifies regardless of the context in which the person is located

-         For example – The label “”Ex-Con”


Interactionist Theory and Social Policy


-         There is a movement to reduce the labeling of people throughout all institutions in society – this movements includes:

-         Diversion programs that keep people out of the legal system

-         Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill

-         Decriminalization of soft drugs, prostitution and gambling


Chapter 7

Conflict Theories


-         There are two types of conflict theories of crime. Liberal conflict and Marxism

o       Liberal conflict theories view society as composed of a variety of groups who complete for and have differing amounts of power

o       Marxist conflict theories see society as composed of two competing groups, one owns or controls the economy, the does not


Liberal Conflict Perspectives


Thorsten Sellin – Culture Conflict


-         Thorsten Sellin proposed a theory of crime based on culture conflict

-         In societies where the culture is homogeneous or uniform, the values and norms that people adhere to are essentially the same for all people

-         Cultures that have this kind of consensus are governed by a single set of rules, which he called “conduct norms”

-         He suggested that conflict can arise when an individual or group of people move from one country to another country

-         He called this primary conflict


      The value systems of the two countries may be different that conflict between the two value systems is likely to occur


-         He also said  that conflict often arises when an individual or group or people move from one part of a country to another part of the same country

-         He termed this secondary conflict

-         While the values between the two groups may not be significantly different, there may be a conflict in the use of the language, dress style, personal mannerisms, etc

-         The move from a rural community to an urban community may also result in secondary conflicts when the rural person encounters the urban residents, or when an inner-city family moves to the suburbs

-         Usually, the dominant group in society translates its conduct norms into law. Therefore, a society’s laws represent the conduct norms of the dominant cultural group or groups


George Vold – Group Conflict


-         George Vold (1958) believed that humans are by nature social beings, forming groups out of shared interests and needs

-         The interests and needs of groups interact and produce competition over maintaining and/or expanding one group’s position in relation to others in the control of necessary resources (money, education, employment, etc

-         This competition is expressed as a political struggle or conflict, with the group most efficient at controlling political processes obtaining the authority to pass laws that limit the fulfillment of minority group needs


Austin Turk


-         In 1969, Austin Turk developed a general conflict theory of crime:

-         “Authority subject conflict”

-         Turk draws on the analysis of modern society presented by Ralf Dahrendorf

-         Dahrendorf expanded on Marxist theory

-         According to Dahrendorf, control of the economy is only one source or power and may or may not overlap with the control of other institutions such as the church school and government

-         Turk divides society into two groups: those with power, “the authorities” and those without power, “the subjects”

-         In order for society to be ordered, there has to be a balance between consensus-building and coercion

-         Long-term maintenance of this balance results in psychologically “conditioning” subjects to their social roles

-         If subjects are conditioned successfully, they do not question the legitimacy of their relationships to those in authority

-         Turk uses two terms to help explain his theory: “cultural norms,” which are verbalized values, such as laws, and “social norms,” which are actual behaviors, such as how laws are actually enforced

-         When balance exists and social conditioning is successful, there is minimal conflict in society

-         However, under certain conditions group differences are likely to lead to social conflict and subjects are likely to be criminalized


Turk specifies three of these conditions


  1. Conflict between authorities and subjects is more likely when behavioral differences between authorities and subjects are made worse by cultural differences
  2. Conflict is more likely when those engaging in illegal acts are organized
  3. Conflict is more likely if the subjects are less sophisticated


Turk also specified three conditions affecting the probability of enforcement:


  1. The probability of enforcement of legal norms increases as the congruence between the cultural and behavioral norms of authorities increases
  2. The lower the power of the (subjects), the higher the probability of enforcement
  3. The lower the relaxation or norm violators (subjects), the higher the probability of enforcement


Here are the notes for corrections and policing