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Cj 102 - Social Control Theory

Autor:   •  May 24, 2018  •  2,176 Words (9 Pages)  •  416 Views

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Under RCT, the basis of rationality must be explored to determine why a person makes the decision to commit a crime. An individual will take the best course of action based on the options given, whether good or bad. Based on the options, they are often ranked per preference and the decision is often made to the one highest on the list. This is where they have free will or choice over the course of action taken. Often, based on the punishment that one knows is a possibility of committing the crime, it will deter them from committing the act. Fear of legal punishment is a good deterrent for someone that has just been released from a facility. Even though many criminals often fear legal punishment they are often in fear of punishment in informal sanctions. These types of sanctions include self-imposed feelings of guilt and shame, fear of embarrassment and possible isolation from friends and family members (Social, n.d.).

The balance of the reward and the costs incurred while committing the crime or behavior is significant in the determination of completing the criminal behavior. If the individual has a vested self-interest in the criminal action, the higher the probability of participating in the criminal behavior. This balance system is also used when the individual considers the alternative of the non-criminal option. They will weigh all the alternatives and then at that point the determination is made in support of criminal or non-criminal actions. Under rational choice, it doesn’t presume that the individual is entirely rational in their decision-making process; it considers the flaws and shortcomings that come with the data collection process of weighing the benefits and costs. Based on individuality, the weighing factor of each component is entirely different.

Within RCT, there are many other variables that are part of the decision-making process. These variables include peer influences, familial relations, and moral judgement. By adding these variables, it also incorporates portions of the social learning theory into the equation (Akers, 1990). This contends that sometimes-moral beliefs are a deterrent in committing crimes.

Similarities and Differences of Social Control Theory and Rational Choice Theory

Even though there a similarity between social control and rational choice theories, the basis of each is different. Under social control, the basis is the importance of the punishment that accompanies the crime but ignores the role of the legal system. This leads to one to question their part in the control of the crime itself (Social, n.d.). Hirschi doesn’t take into the account the analysis of the parental behavior under the social control theory, he only breaks down the effect of parental supervision. Rational choice theory is based on the costs and benefits of the crime. It breaks down the effects of the crime from both legal and social sanctions. The tie of social control and rational choice theory lies in the connection of the reward/cost balance in regards to the cost through loss of investment in conformity of social norms (Akers, 1990).

Improvements for Social Control Theory and Rational Choice Theory

There is much improvement that must be achieved for social control theory to be truly effective. First, this theory is solely based on internal factors of an individual’s life. It doesn’t take into effect external factors that are beyond the control of the individual. Social control theory doesn’t offer any suggestions to law enforcement agencies to make changes to law enforcement polices or time given to the individual that commits the crime. This theory encourages strengthening the bond between the individual and society (Social, n.d.)

Rational choice theory can only be applied to certain types of crimes. It is easy to apply it to crimes involving property or money but it is difficult at times to apply to crimes that involve violence such as robbery or murder (Social, n.d.).


During the study of a crime scene, the hardest thing to do is to figure out the “Why” the crime occurred. Detectives will often look for clues of person to tell a story. Often, because of the different variables, we look at family interaction, friends, and moral beliefs to guide us as to why an individual committed the crime. When they fall in this category we know they a placed in the category of social control and society hopes that based on these factors a positive influence can be put in place to deter the individual from a life of crime. When the story tells us that the crime was committed based on committing the crime was worth more than not committing the crime we know that if falls under rational choice and the individual made the ultimate decision based on free will to break the law. Each of the theories are great tools to use in solving cases and decreasing the variables that cause individuals to break the law.



Ortiz, M.(n.d.) The Social Control Theory.

Social Control Theory (n.d).

Hirschi, T. (1969). Causes of Delinquency. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Rational Choice Theory.

Akers, R. (Fall 1990). Rational Choice, Deterrence, and Social Learning Theory in Criminology: Path Not Taken. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Vol 81, Issue 3 Fall, Article 6.

Padowitz, K. Rational Choice as a Theory of Crime.


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