First Advisor

Don C. Gibbons

Term of Graduation

Fall 1978

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Affairs




Juvenile delinquency, Social control



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, x, 175 pages)


The concept of social control has been used in sociology since the foundations of the discipline were laid almost a hundred years ago. At the turn of the century social control developed two distinct orientations. The concept has referred to the process of socialization or how individual behavior is regulated in primary group relations, and alternatively, to how the large macrosocial institutions such as education, religion, law and the political system maintain order in society.

Early research in social control focused on the development of inventories of societal means of social control. Changing standards of science, however, forced an abandonment of that perspective and research became more directly concerned with the socialization process. Most recently, social control arguments have centered upon the primary group aspects of socialization and the relation of that socialization to delinquency and have been unattentive to larger social institutions and secondary group factors that also influence behavior.

The version of social control theory developed by Travis Hirschi in "Causes of Delinquency" (1969) has been shown to be an exemplary model of social research. He claimed that in early childhood many youths form a bond to society which prevents some of them from becoming involved with delinquency while others who fail to form a bond become delinquent. Hirschi's theory was strongly supported by the research he conducted which showed that delinquency involvement was inversely related to the strength of an individual's relationship to society.

Despite the importance of Hirschi's research there is mounting evidence that various institutional experiences such as tracking and grading in school operate as contingencies experienced by adolescents which affect their ability to pursue the legitimate careers which is central to Hirschi's thesis and and which may force some youths into patterns of delinquent behavior. Similarly, youngsters who come from different positions in the class structure may vary in their likelihood of obtaining access to high status positions or conversely participating in delinquency if they fail. Yet the impacts of educational policies and the effects of social class background have not been incorporated into social control arguments.

This dissertation extends the explanatory model developed by Hirschi. First, it argues that the socialization levels reached by youngsters in primary group socialization are sometimes altered by subsequent experiences. Secondly, it contends that those changes are related to school experiences and social class backgrounds of youths. Finally, it avers that those changes increase or decrease the likelihood that adolescents will become involved in delinquent behavior.

The data for this research was obtained from the Marion County Youth Study, an ongoing survey of a panel of male youths who were high school juniors in 1964. A twenty-five percent random sample of the panel in 1967 comprised the group used in this research. The group's 1964 responses were identified, and this served as the basis for the data analysis.

The first part replicated Hirschi's contentions that the bond was formed in the family. One element, not formed in 1964, emerged prior to the youth's graduation. Secondly, this research diverged from Hirschi's contention that social class was not related to the levels of bond achieved by youths or delinquency. Delinquency and two of the four elements of the bond were found to be related to social class. Third, the social bond was found to be moderately unstable and change was somewhat related to the educational and social background of the youth. Finally, these changes in bond and secondary group factors were translated into significant variations in the delinquency rates for the youths who comprised the analysis groups.


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