The age-graded theory of social control is a criminological concept that suggests that individuals are more likely to conform to societal norms and values as they age. This theory is based on the assumption that social bonds between individuals and their communities strengthen over time, making it less likely for them to engage in deviant behavior.

Key Ideas of Age-Graded Theory

According to the age-graded theory, there are two key concepts that influence an individual’s level of social control: turning points and social bonds. Turning points are events or experiences in an individual’s life that can either strengthen or weaken their bonds with society. For example, getting a job or getting married may strengthen an individual’s ties with their community, while getting divorced or losing a job may weaken them.

Social bonds refer to the connections a person has with others in their community, such as family, friends, and colleagues. The stronger these bonds are, the more likely an individual is to conform to societal norms and values.

How Age-Graded Theory Works

Age-graded theory suggests that an individual’s level of social control changes over time as they progress through different stages of life. For example, during adolescence and early adulthood, individuals may be more likely to engage in deviant behavior due to a lack of strong social bonds or turning points that could discourage such behavior.

However, as individuals age and experience new turning points (such as starting a family or pursuing a career), their level of social control increases. This means they become less likely to engage in deviant behavior since they have stronger connections with their community.

Implications for Criminology

The age-graded theory has important implications for criminology since it suggests that interventions aimed at strengthening social bonds can help prevent crime. For example, providing job training programs for at-risk youth may help them establish stronger ties with their community and reduce the likelihood of them engaging in criminal behavior.

Additionally, the theory suggests that individuals who have experienced a turning point (such as going to college or getting married) may be more receptive to interventions aimed at reducing recidivism. For example, providing job training programs for individuals who have been incarcerated may help them establish new turning points that could reduce their likelihood of reoffending.


The age-graded theory of social control is an important criminological concept that highlights the importance of social bonds and turning points in shaping an individual’s level of social control. By understanding these concepts and how they change over time, we can develop more effective interventions aimed at preventing crime and reducing recidivism.