Unlike other criminology theories, the social control theory tends to find an explanation of the origin of criminal behavior in individuals, and it focuses on external factors. This theory tries to establish a correlation between an individual’s deviant behavior and crime. It postulates a shared belief in social justice and encourages individuals to obey social norms and rules. The social control theory serves to provide certain control over individuals with deviant behavior with the aim to maintain social order.
The social control theory provides the best foundation to explain why crimes occur. Social control theorists insist that, to some extent, all individuals have the potential to violate the law (Maguire & Duffee, 2008). Unfortunately, the modern society offers various opportunities for illegal activities. For example, criminal activities such as car theft and drug abuse have become exciting pastimes in the United States that require adequate control. Considering the attraction of crimes, social control theorists wonder why people obey the rules of society. They argue that people obey the law because behavior and passions are controlled by external and internal forces (Gaines & Miller, 2015). Some individuals have self-control – a strong moral sense that renders them incapable of hurting others and violating social norms.
The theory under discussion is currently relevant and effective in law enforcement because it helps prevent crime and moderate behavior. Payne (2012) believes that deviance and crime occur because of inadequate constraints. According to control theories, humans need to be constrained because of their orientation toward self-preservation, and there are different forms of control that help maintain order within society. However, at times, these mechanisms of control fail, resulting in deviant or even criminal behavior. Bonding to the social order plays a significant role in the development of social control theories. Some theorists, like Ivan Nye, proposed the following types of control: direct, indirect, internal, and through needs satisfaction (Maguire & Duffee, 2008). Direct control presupposes the application of punishment for deviant behavior, and compliance with the laws is controlled by authority figures or a family. Indirect control, in its turn, is provided by those who can influence behavior, for example, parents, friends, etc. Further, internal control is based on self-control that identifies ethical and moral norms of conduct. Lastly, control through needs satisfaction means that when all needs are met, there is no reason for criminal behavior.
The theory under discussion provides the most complete approach to understanding criminality. Gaines and Miller (2015) assume that it is based on the public opinion, religion, customs, laws, personality, morality, and other factors. Many professionals believe that the most effective means of control are education and family because they are able to provide a deep insight into the nature of a criminal. It is important for criminals to feel somebody’s care and assistance. In fact, many criminals have deviant behavior because of their childhood and the environment where they grew up. Thus, most of them are from the families that have experienced different problems, such as abuse, unemployment, poverty, etc.
Social control seems to be the most effective theory in law enforcement. It explains why people confirm to societal norms and why they refrain from committing crimes. Social control is an important tool for criminals who are not able to evaluate and control their criminal actions, tending to put this responsibility onto others (Kempf-Leonard & Morris, 2012). The social control theory motivates individuals to act in accordance with social order and moral values. It teaches criminals how to distinguish between decent and criminal behavior and helps them become valuable citizens of their society.
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In conclusion, the social control theory is allows to control individuals with deviant behavior who are in the risk group of committing a crime. It helps them find their place in the society and prevents them from misbehavior. Social control is the most effective theory in law enforcement because it provides the most complete approach to understanding criminality.