Most of the criminological theories that we know usually explains the causes of an individual engaging in criminal acts. Unlike those theories social, control theory also known as social bond theory explains otherwise. It focuses on why an individual, specifically a young person, does not engage in such acts. This theory believes that the type of bond made between an individual and the society plays a part in the probability of one engaging in criminal acts. For example, delinquent acts are more likely to happen when an individual’s bond with society is weak or broken (Burke, 2009). This is then further explained with the use of the four elements of the social bond. The four elements comprise attachment, commitment, involvement and lastly belief (Hirschi, 1969).
Firstly, attachment refers to the relationship an individual has with the others and institutions, such as family, peers, teachers, colleagues and schools, workplaces respectively. More importance is given to the parents and school attachments (Pratt, Gau and Franklin, 2011). For instance, when the attachment with the parents and teachers from school is strong, the youth in this context will refrain from engaging in delinquent acts. Parents and teachers will teach the youth socially acceptable behaviours (Wiatrowski, Griswold and Roberts, 1981) which will then, guide and shape the youth. Hence, the youth will look up to them as a role model and would not want to upset those who they care about and love with their actions (Pratt et al., 2011).
Secondly, commitment refers to an individual putting in the time and effort to achieve one’s goals (Costello, 2010). To give an example, an individual who aspires to enter University or a desired career, would not risk it to lose the chances of achieving the goals by getting involved in a criminal act. Hence, making sure that one is well committed to the goals.
Thirdly, involvement in prosocial activities will allow an individual to form bonds with others and also occupy one’s time. When a youth engages in sports, co-curricular activities, studying or any other prosocial activities, one would be too busy to spend time on antisocial activities (Pratt et al., 2011).
The last element, belief, refers to the belief in societal norms and values such as laws are meant to be followed and not broken (Kelley, 1996). An individual will not engage in any criminal acts if one holds a strong belief in such values and norm as doing otherwise would be going against their belief. For instance, a youth will not engage in theft acts if he/she believes that stealing is an offence.