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Created: June 22, 2003
Latest Update: October 27, 2003

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Site Teaching Modules CRMJ/SOCA 233 Criminology: Week 9
Social Control Theories
You will be held accountable for purposes of grading for the readings and exercises listed here. There will be no "testing." That means that you will not have to live in anxious anticipation of what we will ask and how much you will have to know. Instead, we will provide weekly discussion questions, lectures, essays, and concepts we feel that you should know as a result of having taken this course. You will assure us of that learning and receive your grade for the questions and concepts about which you choose to write and talk with us. In addition, you will find detailed explanations and examples on our grading policies in the first week's reading.

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Week 9: Week of October 26, 2003

  • Topic:Social Control Theories

  • Preparatory Readings:

  • Lecture: in class

  • Concepts:

    • social bond
    • attachment
    • commitment
    • neutralization
    • drift
    • containment

  • Discussion Questions:

    1. What makes social control theory different from other types of theories? Why.

    2. Looking at the three selections in this section of Williams and McShane, what do you think are the common elements?

    3. Which of these theories best explains delinquent behavior today? Why.

  • Past Lectures and Related Links:

      Theory Resources Page

      Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

  • Some Recommended Activities:

    1. Show and Tell: Bring in a current event or find a program (other than those mentioned in the readings or lectures) showing how the social control theories inform policy.

    2. Explore one of these topics:
      --- What are some risk factors for youth gang membership? Explore studies that utilize social control theories as its theoretical foundation.
      --- The desire for stability, involvement, belief, and conformity can have a dark side. Consider how mechanisms of social control, narrowly conceived, can support new religious , political, and psychosocial cults or sects. How does social control theory help explain the attraction of Heaven's Gate, the Aum Supreme Truth, the Order of the Solar Temple, or the Branch Davidians? [from Adler, 2004, p. 187] Why.
      --- Three-strikes laws can be harsh. Offenders committing petty thefts as their third strike may in some jurisdictions, for example, receive 25 or more years in prison as courts and prosecutors take their prior record into consideration. Such sentences were upheld byt he U.S. Supreme court in 2003. What concerns with three-strikes laws are raised by recent extensions to Hirschi's notion of social control? If we know what best predicts future offending, and programs may be created to address these causal factors, why rely on long prison sentences? [from Adler, 2004, p. 187]
      --- People in the United States work in factories, live in family groups, go to church, and join youth groups. Why do these institutions not function effectively as forms of social control to keep the crime rate low? [from Adler, 2004, p. 185]
      --- Some countries have very low crime rates. Which countries are these? Why. What social control mechanisms successfully keep the crime rates low? Why.

      A Creative Project with CSUDH students! Check out Visual Essays Project. If interested, let me know.

    3. Recommended Readings

      Travis Hirschi. Causes of Delinquency.

      David Matza and Gresham Sykes. Delinquency and Drift.

    Now, check the Minimum Requirements for Criminology, Week 9.

    Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2003.
    "Fair use" encouraged.