Social control theory

Essay by chawawwa33University, Bachelor's March 2006

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In this paper I will discuss and examine research that has been conducted in order to explain why individuals conform. The research will also explain different theories that criminologists have formed to understand why people conform in group situations. Rather than trying to determine why some people deviate from social and legal norms, the control theory asks: Why does anyone conform? Why doesn't everyone violate the rules? The answer that seems most logical is that we conform because social controls prevent us from committing crimes. The control theory argues that people are motivated to conform by social control but need no special motivation to violate the law.

Every group or situation encountered in everyday life is governed by social norms. Social norms are the accepted way to behave within a group or environment. There are norms for every social group ranging from work environments, socializing and even waiting your turn at the petrol station.

Every place or group has it own social norm, for example, when driving on public roads, individuals are expected to follow all the rules but when driving in banger racing on private land, then individuals are expected to speed and collide with other cars. Without social norms, society would collapse into chaos, we need to know and understand what is expected of us. Early control theories include both socialization, in which a person acquires self- control, and the control over the person's behavior through the external application of social sanctions, rewards for conformity, and punishments for deviance. Personal controls are internalized, whereas social controls operate through the external application of legal and informal social sanctions. The three main categories of social control that prevent deviance are:

1) Direct control, by which punishment is imposed or threatened for misconduct and compliance is rewarded by...