How Do Sampson and Laub Extend Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory?

Hirschi’s social bond theory has been a foundational concept in criminology, explaining the factors that influence an individual’s propensity to engage in deviant behavior. However, Sampson and Laub have taken this theory a step further by incorporating additional elements into the framework. In this article, we will explore how Sampson and Laub extend Hirschi’s social bond theory and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the social bonds that prevent individuals from engaging in criminal activities.

Understanding Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory

Hirschi proposed that individuals with strong social bonds are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. These social bonds consist of four key components:

Hirschi argued that when these social bonds are strong, individuals are more likely to conform to societal expectations. However, Sampson and Laub recognized that these bonds could change over time due to various life events and experiences.

Sampson and Laub’s Life Course Perspective

Sampson and Laub introduced the life course perspective into the social bond theory framework. They emphasized the importance of understanding how trajectories throughout an individual’s life can shape their social bonds and influence their likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior.

They argued that certain turning points or life events, such as marriage, employment, or educational attainment, can strengthen or weaken an individual’s social bonds. For example, getting married may increase an individual’s attachment to their spouse and decrease their involvement in deviant activities.

The Role of Age-Graded Social Control

Sampson and Laub also incorporated the concept of age-graded social control into the extended social bond theory. They suggested that social control mechanisms can vary across different stages of life and have a significant impact on an individual’s behavior.

During childhood and adolescence, for instance, parents and schools play a crucial role in exerting social control over individuals. However, as individuals transition into adulthood, other institutions such as work and marriage become key sources of social control.


Sampson and Laub’s extension of Hirschi’s social bond theory provides a more dynamic understanding of the factors that influence an individual’s likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior. By incorporating the life course perspective and age-graded social control, this extended framework acknowledges the importance of considering individual trajectories over time.

Understanding how social bonds can change throughout a person’s life allows us to develop Targeted interventions that support positive development and reduce the risk of criminality. By recognizing the significance of various life events in shaping these bonds, we can better understand how to promote pro-social behaviors at different stages of life.