How Social Bonds and Social Control Theory Applies to Juvenile Delinquency?


Jane Flores

How Social Bonds and Social Control Theory Applies to Juvenile Delinquency?

When it comes to understanding juvenile delinquency, the social bonds and social control theory play a crucial role. These concepts help shed light on why some young individuals engage in criminal behavior while others do not. In this article, we will explore these theories and their application to juvenile delinquency.

Social Bonds Theory

The social bonds theory, also known as the social control theory, was developed by sociologist Travis Hirschi in 1969. This theory suggests that individuals are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior if they have strong social bonds with society. These bonds act as a deterrent and prevent individuals from committing crimes.

The Four Elements of Social Bonds:

  • Attachment: This refers to the emotional connection an individual has with their family, friends, school, or community. When young people feel valued and connected to others, they are less likely to engage in delinquent activities.
  • Commitment: Commitment refers to an individual’s investment in conventional activities such as education or career goals.

    When young people have strong commitments, they are less likely to risk their future by engaging in criminal behavior.

  • Involvement: Involvement refers to the participation of young individuals in legitimate activities such as sports, clubs, or other extracurricular activities. When their time is occupied with positive engagements, they have less opportunity for delinquent behavior.
  • Belief: Belief refers to the acceptance of societal norms and values. When young people believe that rules should be followed and that crime is morally wrong, they are less likely to engage in delinquency.

Social Control Theory

The social control theory expands on the social bonds theory by examining the factors that weaken or break these bonds. According to this theory, delinquency occurs when an individual’s social bonds are weak or absent.

Factors that Weaken Social Bonds:

  • Parental Neglect or Rejection: When young individuals experience neglect or rejection from their parents, they may seek alternative means of validation and belonging, which can lead to delinquent behavior.
  • Poor School Performance: Academic failure and a lack of engagement in school can result in weakened social bonds. The disconnection from educational pursuits may push young people towards delinquency.
  • Peer Influence: Negative peer groups can exert a strong influence on young individuals, encouraging them to engage in delinquent activities. Peer pressure can weaken social bonds with conventional society.
  • Neighborhood Disorganization: Living in an unstable and crime-prone neighborhood can weaken social bonds as it exposes young individuals to criminal role models and limited opportunities for positive engagement.

Applying the Theories to Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency refers to criminal behavior committed by individuals who are under the age of 18. Applying the social bonds and social control theories helps us understand why some juveniles engage in delinquent behavior while others do not.

When young individuals have strong attachment to their families, schools, and communities, they are less likely to engage in delinquency. Similarly, commitments to education or career goals act as deterrents against criminal behavior. Involvement in positive activities reduces the opportunities for delinquency, while belief in societal norms discourages law-breaking actions.

Conversely, weakened social bonds through parental neglect, poor school performance, negative peer influence, and neighborhood disorganization increase the likelihood of juvenile delinquency. These factors create an environment where young individuals are more susceptible to engaging in criminal activities.


The social bonds and social control theory provide valuable insights into juvenile delinquency. By understanding the importance of strong social bonds and the factors that weaken them, we can work towards preventing and addressing juvenile delinquency effectively. By fostering strong attachments, commitments, involvements, and beliefs in young individuals, we can create a society where delinquency is minimized.