Social Bond Theory & Delinquency


The social sciences are the areas of study and research regarding society, culture and human interactions, which include inter-personal relationships. Theories have been formulated to explain certain actions and behaviors, such as delinquency in human society. The Social Bond Theory propagated by criminologist Travis Hirschi is one such theory.

Social Bond Theory

  • Social Bond Theory (formerly known as Social Control Theory) is the belief that the self control of an individual can be built by manipulating the processes of socialization and social learning. It is also thought to help decrease the urge to engage in antisocial behavior. The theory proposes that people are influenced not to participate in criminal activities based upon their relationships with others, beliefs, commitments, values and social norms.


  • It is believed that a person will voluntarily not commit deviant acts based upon her internalization of moral codes and her bonds within a community. So in essence, morality is created within the constructing of a social order with the understanding of consequences to certain decisions and costs being assigned to these decisions thus labeling some of them immoral or illegal. The theory's aim is to understand how to decrease the propensity toward criminality from being developed within an individual.

Control Mechanisms

  • According to the theory, there are four types of control mechanisms which are: 1) Direct, which is based upon the reward and punishment system whereby a youth receives or is threatened with punishment for wrong behavior or is rewarded for compliant behavior by parents, family members or figures of authority. 2) Internal, which is based upon the notion that an individual will not engage in delinquent behavior because of conscience. 3) Indirect, which is the belief that a youth will not engage in delinquency for fear that it will cause pain and disappointment to those whom he has close relationships with like his parents for example. 4) Control through needs satisfaction, which is the theory that if all of a person's needs are fulfilled, she will not see the necessity of delinquent activities.

Bonds and Decisions

  • This theory attempts to explain how choices and decisions made by individuals are controlled by understandings, agreements and arrangements by people within societal and communal settings, thus social contracts are formed. This has assisted in the understanding that individuals will be less than willing to get involved with criminal activities based upon their reluctance to lose the affection or respect (bonds) of those close to them if these bonds are deeply instilled within the individual to strongly care enough about.


  • Social Bond Theory has played an important role in the comprehension of delinquency within society, especially in understanding how our daily interactions are shaped by our realms of influencing, which includes relationships and community bonds plus our internal moral codes and personal consciousness. This can be observed by how our behavior patterns are curbed by these impacting factors. Also, these external and internal forces set the stage for our interactions in the world at large, be it peaceful and cooperative or violent and deviant.

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