Social Control Theory is a prominent sociological theory that seeks to explain why people conform to societal norms and how social systems maintain order. It focuses on the mechanisms through which societies regulate individual behavior and prevent deviant actions. This theory explores the various forms of social control that exist and examines their impact on individuals and communities.

Understanding Social Control Theory

Social Control Theory falls under the umbrella of sociological theories that aim to explain human behavior in relation to social structures and institutions. It proposes that individuals are naturally inclined towards deviant behavior, but society employs various mechanisms to control and discourage such actions.

Key Concepts:

The Role of Socialization

Socialization plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s behavior according to social norms. Through the process of socialization, individuals acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and values required for successful integration into society.

Agents of Socialization:

Critiques of Social Control Theory

Social Control Theory has received both praise and criticism from scholars over the years. While it offers valuable insights into the mechanisms that maintain social order, it has been challenged on several fronts.

Critique 1: Cultural Diversity

One critique argues that Social Control Theory does not adequately account for cultural diversity and variations in societal norms across different communities. It fails to acknowledge that what is considered deviant in one culture might be entirely acceptable in another.

Critique 2: Lack of Individual Agency

Another criticism suggests that Social Control Theory places too much emphasis on external controls and social bonds, neglecting individual agency and personal motivations. It fails to consider that individuals may choose deviant behavior despite strong social bonds or internal controls.


In conclusion, Social Control Theory provides valuable insights into the mechanisms that regulate individual behavior and maintain social order. It emphasizes the importance of social bonds, belief systems, external controls, and internal controls in encouraging conformity to societal norms. However, it is essential to consider cultural diversity and the role of individual agency when applying this theory to different contexts.