Who Created the Social Bonding Theory?


Martha Robinson

Who Created the Social Bonding Theory?

The social bonding theory, also known as the social control theory, is a concept that explains why people conform to societal norms and rules. It suggests that individuals are less likely to engage in deviant behavior when they have strong bonds with society. This theory has been influential in the field of criminology and sociology, helping researchers understand the factors that contribute to criminal behavior.

Origins of the Social Bonding Theory

The social bonding theory was first introduced by Travis Hirschi, an American sociologist, in his groundbreaking book titled “Causes of Delinquency,” which was published in 1969. Hirschi’s work revolutionized the field of criminology by challenging traditional theories that focused solely on external factors such as poverty or peer influence.

In his book, Hirschi proposed that four elements make up an individual’s social bond:

  • Attachment: The emotional bond an individual has with others, such as family or friends.
  • Commitment: The level of investment an individual has in conventional activities, such as education or career.
  • Involvement: The amount of time and energy an individual puts into legitimate activities.
  • Belief: The acceptance and adherence to societal values and norms.

Hirschi’s Contributions

Hirschi’s social bonding theory had a significant impact on criminology and sociology. It provided a new perspective on why individuals choose conformity over deviance. His theory shifted the focus from external factors to internal processes within individuals, highlighting the importance of social bonds in preventing criminal behavior.

Hirschi argued that individuals with strong attachments to others are less likely to engage in deviant behavior because they fear the negative consequences it may have on their relationships. Similarly, individuals with high levels of commitment and involvement in conventional activities have more to lose if they engage in criminal acts. Finally, individuals who strongly believe in societal values and norms are more likely to conform to them.

Hirschi’s social bonding theory has been widely applied in criminological research. It has helped explain various forms of deviant behavior, such as drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, and white-collar crime. Researchers have used Hirschi’s theory as a framework for understanding the factors that contribute to both minor and major criminal acts.

Further Developments

Since its inception, the social bonding theory has undergone further developments and modifications by various scholars. Researchers have expanded on Hirschi’s original work by exploring additional factors that influence an individual’s social bond.

Self-Control Theory

One notable development is the integration of Hirschi’s theory with Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theory. This theory suggests that individuals with low self-control are more likely to engage in criminal behavior due to their inability to resist immediate gratification or impulses.

Social Learning Theory

Another development is the incorporation of social learning theory into the social bonding framework. Social learning theory posits that individuals learn behavior through observation and imitation of others. By combining these two theories, researchers have gained a deeper understanding of how social bonds influence an individual’s propensity for deviant or conforming behavior.


The social bonding theory, formulated by Travis Hirschi, has significantly contributed to our understanding of why individuals conform to societal norms and rules. His focus on the importance of social bonds has revolutionized criminology and sociology, providing valuable insights into the prevention of deviant behavior. Through further developments and integrations, researchers continue to expand upon Hirschi’s original theory, enhancing our knowledge of the complexities of human behavior in relation to social bonds.