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Control Theory of Deviance Essay

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Updated: May 3rd, 2022


The behavior of people in society today goes over and above the acceptable standards by the norms. The social life of a society is usually characterized by people who conform to the norms of society and the ones who are deviant. Deviant behavior can be thought of as any unusual way of life that society does not approve.

In defining deviant behavior, there are very vital theories that are used in giving its definitions greater meaning. One of the theories of deviant behavior is control theory. Control theory defines explanations that talks about why people do not deviate rather than why they deviate (Stark, 1).

Control Theory

Using control theory in explaining deviant behavior is vital since it talks about why most people are not deviant rather than why people are deviant. Control theory in most cases answers questions that are related to normal behavior. Normal behavior is shaped by the social control measures that are imposed on members of the society.

When using control theory in defining deviant behavior, conformity to norms of the society is treated as being a problem rather than deviance. From another viewpoint, deviant behavior in society is more likely to occur when the controls to conformity are weaker or are non-existing.

Control theory dwells mostly on behaviors that conform to the norms in society rather than the deviant behaviors. From this perspective, it can be noted that it explains deviant behaviors on why people do not engage in deviant acts or criminal acts.

To this effect, it is vital in explaining deviance behavior since it focuses mostly on controls that lean towards social and personal attitudes that prevent engagements in criminal acts. This is so because the social and personal attitudes are what guides a person in choosing a path that he/she can follow in society (Stark, 1).

Control theory explains deviant behavior at all levels in the society since people possess two systems that control decisions that they make against their desire to deviate from the normal way of life. Each person’s life is controlled by inner and outer controls. The inner controls take into account one’s sense of morality and conscience.

People fear any punishment that accompanies their acts. The outer controls consider the people in one’s life who are against deviant behaviors. These outer controls influence the course that one takes in his life since they act as role models. Due to this fact, one would not like to disappoint them by engaging in deviant acts that would not please them.

Deviant behavior considers several factors such as age. In categorizing deviant behavior in the age bracket, it is notable that young people aged between mid-teens and early twenties commit most of the crimes in our society. People tend to alleviate crime, as they grow old. Another category that helps in explaining deviant behavior is the social class that one belongs to. It is evident that mostly the same groups of individuals commit a crime and is more prevalent in poor neighborhoods.

In categorizing deviant behavior in terms of income level, the low earners in the society are greatly involved in crime to sustain their demands in life. Lastly, deviant behavior can be categorized in terms of gender. Gender factor is evident since criminal acts are believed to be a reserve for men rather than women on most occasions. This is understandable from the fact that men get more behavioral freedom in society hence have the chance to engage in dubious acts than women.


In concluding remarks, one can argue the fact that engaging in criminal acts is a choice that is solely left to one to decide on either engaging or avoiding criminal acts. Control theories on the other hand help in understanding the existence of deviant acts from another perspective. Consideration is made on the reasons one takes by not engaging in criminal acts (Stark, 1).

Works Cited

Stark, Rodney. Sociology. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2006. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Control Theory of Deviance." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/control-theory/.


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