Social control theory highlights the importance of social bonds and informal social control to help explain the persistence of and desistance from offending over the life span. This entry begins with a brief look at origins of the theory. Then, it provides a conceptual and empirical review of this theory and concludes with a discussion of Robert J. Sampson and John H. Laub’s age-graded informal social control theory, a contemporary theory that expands upon the social control theoretical tradition.


The roots of social control theory trace back to the 1600s and 1800s, in the early works of Enlightenment scholar Thomas Hobbes and the sociologist Émile Durkheim who emphasized the importance of social norms, institutions, and laws for restraining individual impulses and behavior. The ideology behind these ...

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