Complete Assignment DO NOT utilize ‘outside sources’ to answer any of these questions: you are expected to use the class materials, and to cite information

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Complete Assignment DO NOT utilize ‘outside sources’ to answer any of these questions: you are expected to use the class materials, and to cite information appropriately! 

Down These Mean Streets is Piri Thomas’ coming-of-age story in Spanish Harlem. In the memoir, Thomas recounts his Depression-era upbringing, and his continual struggle with racial identity. As a youth, Thomas engages in several acts of deviance and criminality, eventually landing in prison after shooting a police officer during a botched bar robbery. You must utilize two theories from the second half of the course to analyze Thomas’ behavior, and the reasons for his actions, in the memoir.

You must discuss some of the events in the book explicitly. That is, I should be able to tell from your answer that you have, in fact, read the book – however, do NOT submit something to me that is solely a summary Thomas’ actions. I am not looking for a plot summary: the emphasis here, as always, is on using the theory to explain how social forces affect human action – if you do not do this, you will fail the final, period.

THOROUGHLY EXPLAIN the theories that you use; be sure to DEFINE TERMS. Write as if the reader would be unfamiliar with the theories utilized. TAKE THE TIME TO DISCUSS ONLY THE THEORIES FIRST – FOLLOW THE OUTLINE. Note that as you are using two theories, each theory, its discussion, and the relevant examples alone are worth 40 points!: so be sure to provide as much essential detail about the theories as possible. THEORIES OF CRIME.5

CR 4550
Dr. Lee Blackstone

Why do people conform?

Social Bonding and Control Theories

Control Theory

Control Theory is a bit different from other kinds of criminological theory. The
main focus is on WHY do people conform? Why doesn’t everyone violate the
rules? Deviance is something ‘taken for granted’ – it is CONFORMITY that is of
interest to control theorists.

Theodor Adorno, 1963 essay.

Control Theory

Control Theory explains conformity by arguing that it is social controls which
prevent us from committing deviance and crime. Whenever controls fail or

weaken, then the result is likely to be deviance.

Quick Review: Features of Deviance

Deviance requires:
1. A norm
2. Someone who
violates, or is thought to
have violated, a social
3. A judging audience
4. A negative reaction
(without a negative
reaction: there is NO

Control Theory

Social controls motivate
people to conform…but
people do not need to be
motivated to violate the law.
If social controls are lacking
– then law violations will
Hence…everyone has the
same likelihood of becoming
deviant, or even committing
a crime.

Control Theory

So…an assumption that
everyone would commit
a crime, if they could
get away with it.
Again: why don’t we?

Travis Hirschi (1935 – )

Hirschi is one of the
most important Control
Viewed other theories
as ‘too positivistic’ – in
this sense, meaning that
other theories focused
on factors leading to
crime, as opposed to
what prevents crime (the
focus of Control Theory)


Not all control theorists
assume that everyone
might commit crime
equally…there are
always exceptions.

But, there is
agreement on studying
the kinds of
relationships that can
prevent crime and

Control Theory

The bottom line: CONFORMITY and CRIME are ‘two sides of the same coin.’
If you can explain either one of the concepts through a theory – then you can
account for the other concept.

Two Parts to Social Control

Early Control Theorists

Expanded on Reiss’ ideas in 1958
ID’d three main categories of social
control working to prevent

Direct Control: punishment, and reward
for conformity, supplied by parents

Indirect Control: juvenile does not commit
delinquency due to disappointment
that might befall parents

Internal Control: juvenile’s OWN
conscience/sense of guilt prevents
adolescent from taking part in
delinquent acts

Albert Reiss (1922-2006) F. Ivan Nye (1918 – ?)

In 1951: Argued that delinquency
occurred due to a ‘failure’ of both

‘personal’ [internalized] and
‘social’ [legal/or, informal] controls.

Nye: Emphasis on Family

The more an
adolescent has
needs for security,
love, and new
experiences met
within the family,
the less likely the
child will seek
such needs
outside the

Hence: direct and
indirect controls
must be operating
properly to keep
kids from ‘acting

Walter Reckless (1899-1988): Containment

Proposed his
‘Containment Theory’
around 1958
Built on idea of
‘internal’ and ‘external’
controls – which
Reckless referred to as
‘inner’ and ‘outer’

Reckless’ Containment Theory

Basic idea: that the ‘pushes’ and ‘pulls’ towards delinquency will result in
delinquent behavior…unless COUNTERACTED by ‘inner’ and ‘outer’

containments. If motivation is strong – but containment is weak – then crime
and delinquency becomes much more likely.

Reckless’ Containment Theory

PUSHES: conditions
pressuring youths
towards delinquency
(such as poverty;
blocked opportunities)
PULLS: ‘positive rewards’
towards delinquency
(i.e., a sense of group
belonging from joining
a gang)PUSHES and PULLS are

environmental factors

Reckless’ Containment Theory


Parental and school supervision; strong
sense of group belonging; strong morals

A strong conscience; a GOOD SELF-

Reckless’ Containment Theory

Either type of
containment –
‘outer’ or ‘inner’ –
can work to reduce

If the outer
containment is weak –
then control must
come from the inner
containment (the
good self-concept).

According to Reckless: the SELF-CONCEPT is KEY! – It is a person’s ‘self-
concept’ that makes them less (or more) influenced by the social environment.

According to Reckless, the self-concept – whether you perceive yourself as a
‘good’ or ‘bad’ child’ – is formed by age 12. The self-concept ‘insulates’ a child
from bad influences. Hence: if a youth becomes delinquent, then that youth must
have a poor self-concept that has left her/him vulnerable to the environment.

Reckless’ Containment Theory

Reckless’ Containment Theory

So – there is a bit of a tautology in Reckless’ Containment Theory: that
‘delinquent behavior’ will be related to ‘delinquent behavior.’

Reckless assumed
that if a
neighborhood has
a high rate of
delinquency – then
their must be
strong motivations
leading people to
participate in that

When Reckless
tried to measure
the ‘self concept,’
he looked at it in
terms of whether a
person was
delinquent, or had
a troubled history –
hence – it was not
much different from
‘being deviant.’

‘Techniques of Neutralization’: 1957

Gresham Sykes (1922-2010) David Matza (1930 – )

‘Techniques of Neutralization’ = justifications and excuses for behavior

Sykes and Matza (1957)

‘Techniques of
Neutralization’ are
distortions of
rationalizations found
elsewhere in the

Sykes and Matza
believed that juveniles
DO NOT totally reject
the values of their
society: they just have
VALUES’ which ‘go
around’ the kinds of
rationales that
mainstream society
would accept.

Sykes and Matza (1957)

The ‘techniques of
neutralization’ are
essentially definitions that
are ‘favorable’ to crime and
delinquency – hence, Sykes
and Matza were building on
Sutherland’s ideas.
The definitions ‘free up’
control imposed on youth…
so this is regarded as a
control theory.

Sykes and Matza (1957)

Techniques of Neutralization

Sykes and Matza (1957)

Why do delinquents utilize these techniques?

(Sykes and Matza 1057:665)

David Matza: ‘Drift Theory’ of Delinquency

Matza would take the
ideas about
neutralization, and
propose that the
techniques ‘release’
juveniles – temporarily –
from ordinary moral
As a result: the teen ‘drifts’
between conformity, and

‘Conventional’ beliefs can control
delinquency; ‘neutralizing’ them is a

weakening of social control — ** OR, a
weakening of ‘inner

containment’ (Reckless).

Travis Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory (1969)

The early control
theories were
considered to be made
obsolete by Travis
Hirschi’s social bonding
One of THE most tested
theories in all of

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

One of the main principles of the theory: “delinquent
acts result when an individual’s bond to society is weak

or broken” (Hirschi 1969: 251)

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

Four elements comprise
the ‘social bond.’

The greater the bonding with
parents, peers, school teachers,
and other authorities, the more
likely the person will be steered
towards conformity.

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

The weaker the bonds: the
more likely a person may act
in a deviant or criminal

All the different elements are
connected together – a
weakening of one part means
the weakening of another.

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

OTHERS – the admiration
and affection felt towards
another; an identification
with a person.

Attachment = SENSITIVITY. If
you are insensitive to others –
this might ‘free up’ your
behavior (similar to Matza’s

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

Hirschi preferred
‘attachment’ to ‘self-
control’; he felt that
‘attachment’ covered the
concept of self-control.

Hirschi argued that attachment
to one’s peers can control

According to Hirschi…it didn’t
matter to whom you become
attached; the character of a
person does not matter (in this
theory). Hence: having
delinquent friends does not
mean you will become

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

How much of a
‘stake in conformity’
do you have? What
might be lost by
engaging in crime
or deviance?
(Hence: a sense of
rational choice
here…do you, or do
you not, violate the

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

INVOLVEMENT: How many ‘conventional’/conformist activities are you engaged in (i.e.:
studying, religious groups, being with your family)…The notion of ‘keeping busy’ [“idle hands

do the devil’s work”].

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

values and
norms’ (especial
ly the idea that
you should
obey the law)…
Hence: much
like ‘definitions
in favor of the
law’ (Sutherland

For Hirschi – what needs to be explained is why people would violate rules which they strongly
believe. Perhaps a person’s belief in the ‘justness’ of norms and laws has been weakened.

Hirschi’s Social Bonding Theory

Social Bonding Theory: Empirical Validity

Hirschi found that delinquency
was strongly related to
associating with delinquent friends
(an obvious point which Hirschi
somehow did not expect in the
original theory).
Parental deviance was also found
to provide youth with a deviant
model, and undermined social
control within the family. (We
have seen this in social learning
theory.) Inadequate discipline
from parents is a good predictor
of delinquency.

Social Bonding Theory: Empirical Validity

Hirschi did not include religious
beliefs in his original theory – but
religion is tied to conventional,
conformist values.
Following religions showed:
involvement in conventional
activity; attachment to others; a
commitment to conformity.
Religion can strengthen aspects of
the social bond, and therefore
support social bonding theory.

Gottfredson and Hirschi: 

Self-Control Theory (1990): GTC

Michael Gottfredson Travis Hirschi

Gottfredson and Hirschi: 

Self-Control Theory (1990): GTC

Self-control Theory is
meant to explain ALL
crime and deviance,
under any circumstance.
Defined self-control as:

“the differential tendency
of people to avoid
criminal acts whatever
the circumstances in which
they find themselves.” (p.

Self-Control Theory/GTC

Gottfredson and Hirschi predict that:

1.Individuals with high self-control are less likely to enter into criminal behavior
2.Individuals with low self-control are more likely to commit crime

Low self-control also depends on the CIRCUMSTANCES
in which a person finds herself/himself.

Therefore: the situation/opportunity must be ‘right’
before an individual’s lack of self-control will
result in criminal behavior.

Self-Control Theory/GTC


Gottfredson and Hirschi argue that low self-control is a result of incomplete or
poor socialization; hence, the burden of instilling self-control is on the parents of


Self-Control Theory/GTC

The FAMILY is the most
important institution for
socialization; peer
groups are not initially
as important.
According to
Gottfredson and Hirschi:
the amount of self-
control a person has
remains stable, once it is
formed in childhood.

Self-Control Theory/GTC

Self-Control Theory/GTC

Low self-control can also explain ‘analogous behavior’ –
‘risky’ behavior including smoking, drinking, illicit sex, and

dangerous driving. Gottfredson and Hirschi view all of these
activities as manifestations of low self-control.

Problems with Self-Control Theory

Gottfredson and Hirschi
do not provide evidence
for their theory, despite
wanting to explain ‘all
Tautology: the capability
to commit crime, and
low-self control, appear
to be the same. Hence:
low self-control…causes
low self-control.

Problems with Self-Control Theory

The GTC proposes that the
amount of self-control that a
person has remains stable
over one’s life. Is this true?
What if life circumstances
Sampson and Laub found
that some childhood
behavior might be related
to adult crime…But, changes
in behavior later in life were
related to changes in family,
and employment.

Robert Sampson & John Laub

Problems with Self-Control Theory

Most anti-social children DO NOT
become anti-social adults.

What do we like about Self-Control Theory?

Logically consistent
Wide scope
Parsimonious: ‘low self-
control’ is THE

Control Theory: Policy Implications

If the problem lies with
‘loosened’ or
‘weakened’ social
bonds – then emphasis
should be placed on
programs that increase
attachments and
commitments, and
learning prosocial
behaviors (in school, or
in the family). Discipline and reinforcement should be

provided to children.

Gottfredson and Hirschi: Policy Implications of Self-
Control Theory (1990): GTC

Michael Gottfredson Travis Hirschi

Policy Implications of Self-Control Theory/GTC

Low self-control is not
focused on the ‘long
Hence…those with low
self-control will have
little patience for the
time to improve job
skills, improve their
communities, or reduce

Policy Implications of Self-Control Theory/GTC

Controversial: the idea
that improving the
job skills/etc. – WILL
NOT WORK to reduce
crime and deviance
Gottfredson and Hirschi
would also argue that
punishment and
rehabilitation efforts will
have little effect.

Policy Implications of Self-Control Theory/GTC

Because of the emphasis on family
(and good parenting) as the
source of self-control – only
policies targeting children will
have an effect
Gottfredson and Hirschi: Parents
need to be trained in how to
properly socialize their children –
and how to discipline children
when they act out of low self-
Is this practical? How would you
go about changing child-rearing
practices in our society?

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