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Deviance and Social Control
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7.1. Deviance and Control
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Information Technology and Computing. Utilizing national survey data on 2, Icelandic adolescents, Berburg and Thorlindsson sought to assess the effects of internal and external values and perceived norms on aggressive behaviour. The authors found a significant relationship between the neutralization of aggression within community norms and aggressive behaviour amongst both male and female respondents.
Additionally, amongst male respondents, community conduct norms were found to be a stronger predictor of aggression than the effect of conduct norms and peers. Findings such as these support the notion that community groups that adhere to violent norms will likely affect the aggressive nature of individual members. While not as widely studied as other facets of social control, the impact of religiosity on delinquency has been assessed by those seeking to understand this aspect of social control.
Johnson et al. The authors further sought to determine, if that was found to be the case, why religious adolescents did not engage in deviant behaviour to the same extent as their non-religious counterparts did. Data were obtained from the National Youth Survey, a national longitudinal study on American youth. Religiosity was based on the extent to which individuals ascribed to the beliefs of a particular religion and were dedicated to attending services of that church on a regular basis. The authors found that religiosity had a negative effect on delinquency, which included a measure of violence.
They argue that religion decreases delinquency due to the effect religion has on shaping beliefs. Further, it is suggested that religious youth may be less inclined to associate with delinquent peers. Research conducted by Benda and Turney , Herrenkohl et al.
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However, it should be noted that such findings are not entirely conclusive, as other research has found otherwise. MacDonald et al.
The authors had initially hypothesized that young people who were found to be more religious would be less likely, compared with young people who did not have a strong religious affiliation, to participate in delinquent acts. While perceived as an insulating factor, this was not found to be the case. The effect of religion on delinquency was further questioned by Benda and Corwyn , who found increased religiosity to be a strong predictor of violence among adolescents.
At best, the extant literature on this aspect of social control demonstrates mixed findings on the role of religion as a mechanism of social control against delinquency. Despite research that supports the tenets of social control theory, some scholars have questioned the strength of the theory.
As Gibbons notes, some have questioned whether the notions of self-control as proposed by Hirschi can be used to explain more serious offending behaviour. Critics of the theory contend that the theory may be better able to explain minor offending, but does not necessarily adequately account for more serious crime Gibbons, Research examining the impact of various aspects of social control theory can shed some light on potential areas of policy development.
As discussed, social control theory asserts that the role of the parent is paramount to the bonding of young people to the family. As research in this area has largely found a strong relationship between parental attachment and lower levels of delinquency, providing support to parents in the form of parenting skills training could be an effective step toward addressing youth crime by building strong bonds between parents and children. Beyond the family, schools play a prominent role in the socialization of young people and could also play a key role as an insulating factor against crime.
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The school can provide support to young people that they may not be receiving elsewhere. In light of this, Sprott et al. Alternatively, young people deemed to be at risk or delinquent should receive greater support from the school, not less. The authors suggest that policies promoting school cohesion and bonding young people to their schools should be favoured.
Religion, Deviance, and Social Control
The general theory of crime, also known as self-control theory, emerged through the evolution of social control theory. Just as Hirschi had built upon previous control theories with his introduction of social control theory, Gottfredson and Hirschi further developed their conception of the causes of crime and encapsulated it within a new theory: the general theory of crime. While control theory emphasizes the importance of social bonds as an insulating factor against criminal involvement, the general theory of crime posits that low self-control is a key factor underlying criminality.
This newer control theory is often referred to as self-control theory due to its focus on this aspect. Gottfredson and Hirschi integrated aspects of other theories to form the general theory of crime, borrowing notions from routine activities theory, rational choice theory, and other psychological and biologically based social theories of crime. The two theories differ in what is believed to be the fundamental propensity towards crime; however, both theories are centred around aspects developed in childhood through effective parenting Siegel and McCormick, Although focused on internalized control rather than social control, the general theory of crime shares commonalities with the former theory through its emphasis on the role of parenting in instilling self-control during childhood.
Like other control theories, the general theory of crime places significant weight on this early developmental process as setting the stage for later life. Gottfredson and Hirschi shifted their focus away from an emphasis on the role of social control as protecting people from participating in criminal activities towards the conception that self-control, or lack thereof, could be used to explain criminal behaviour. According to the general theory of crime, crime is seen as a means of obtaining immediate gratification, and the ability to delay such short-term desires is linked to self-control.
As such, those with a propensity for criminal involvement are thought to lack sufficient self-control. This lack of self-control is traced back to childhood where, the theorists suggest, the initial indications of deviant behaviour emerge. For those with limited self-control, participation in deviant behaviour only continues throughout the life course Lilly et al.
As such, while it is believed that self-control is obtained during early childhood and does not necessarily change with time, the theory does propose that rates of offending decline with age, even for those who have lower levels of self-control. As the general theory of crime focuses exclusively on the role that self-control plays in criminality, research has also focused on the relationship between self-control and a propensity for criminal behaviour. Other factors believed to be related to self-control have also been assessed within the extant research, including measures of risk-taking behaviour.
A selection of the existing research that has tested this theory is reviewed below. Research on the general theory of crime has largely focused on the effect of low self-control on offending. The author conducted interviews with street youth on various types of offending, including property crime, drug use and violent crime. Baron found a relationship between low self-control and violent behaviour, with low self-control being the most powerful predictor of violent offending.
Despite these findings, the author notes that the findings are not necessarily supportive of the assertion that low self-control is a strong predictor of all criminal behaviour, suggesting instead that the theory can be used to explain certain types of offending. Similar conclusions were reached by Piquero et al.