Social control theory is a criminological theory that suggests that individuals are motivated to commit crimes due to the absence or weakness of social bonds with others. According to this theory, people are more likely to engage in deviant behavior when they do not feel connected to their community or have a sense of belonging.

Understanding Social Control Theory

Social control theory was first introduced by Travis Hirschi in 1969. Hirschi argued that individuals are less likely to engage in criminal behavior when they have strong social bonds with others. These social bonds can include relationships with family, friends, school, and work.

The Four Elements of Social Bonding

Hirschi identified four main elements of social bonding that can prevent individuals from engaging in criminal behavior:

The Role of Socialization

Social control theory also emphasizes the role of socialization in preventing crime. Individuals learn acceptable behaviors through interactions with family, friends, and other members of society. When individuals feel connected to their community and share common values and beliefs, they are more likely to internalize these values and follow the rules.

Critiques of Social Control Theory

While social control theory has been influential in the field of criminology, it has also faced some criticisms. Some argue that the theory does not account for the role of social inequality and how it can influence an individual’s ability to form strong social bonds. Others point out that the theory does not explain why some individuals with strong social bonds still engage in criminal behavior.


Social control theory is an important concept in criminology that emphasizes the role of social bonding and socialization in preventing crime. While the theory is not without its criticisms, it has contributed to a better understanding of why individuals may engage in deviant behavior and how society can work to prevent it.