What Is the Difference Between Social Control Theory and Social Bond Theory?

When studying criminology and sociology, two prominent theories that often come up are social control theory and social bond theory. While they both aim to explain why individuals conform to society’s norms and rules, there are some key differences between these two theories. In this article, we will delve into the distinctions between social control theory and social bond theory.

Social Control Theory

Social control theory posits that individuals conform to societal expectations due to the presence of social controls or constraints. This theory suggests that people have an inherent tendency to engage in deviant behavior, but they are deterred from doing so by various forms of social control.

Internal Social Controls:

External Social Controls:

Social control theorists argue that individuals who have weak or inadequate internal or external controls are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. They believe that the absence of these controls leads to a breakdown in conformity, allowing deviant behavior to flourish.

Social Bond Theory

In contrast, social bond theory focuses on the strength of an individual’s bonds or attachments to society as a determinant of their likelihood of engaging in deviant behavior. According to this theory, individuals with strong bonds are more inclined to conform to societal norms, while those with weak bonds are more susceptible to deviance.

The Four Elements of Social Bonds:

  1. Attachment: The emotional connection an individual has with others, such as family, friends, and community.
  2. Commitment: The investment an individual has in conventional activities like education, career, and relationships.
  3. Involvement: The extent to which an individual is engaged in conventional activities that occupy their time and energy.
  4. Belief: The acceptance and internalization of societal values and norms.

Social bond theorists argue that individuals who have strong attachments, high levels of commitment, active involvement in conventional activities, and a strong belief in societal values are less likely to engage in criminal behavior. These bonds serve as deterrents to deviance by providing individuals with a sense of purpose, identity, and belonging within society.

Differences Between the Two Theories

The main difference between social control theory and social bond theory lies in their focus. Social control theory emphasizes the presence of social controls or constraints as the primary factor influencing conformity. On the other hand, social bond theory emphasizes the strength of an individual’s bonds or attachments to society as the primary determinant of conformity.

While social control theory looks outward at societal factors that deter deviance through various forms of control, social bond theory looks inward at individual factors that promote conformity through strong attachments and commitments. Additionally, social control theory places greater emphasis on external controls enforced by institutions like laws and regulations.

Conclusion

In summary, social control theory and social bond theory provide different perspectives on why individuals conform to societal norms. Social control theory emphasizes the presence of external and internal controls that deter deviance, while social bond theory focuses on the strength of an individual’s bonds to society as a deterrent. Understanding the differences between these theories can provide valuable insights into the complex nature of human behavior and its relationship with social norms and conformity.