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Social Bonding Theory in Criminology Coursework

Social Bonding Theory Explanation and Its Four Key Elements

The theory of social bond was first developed in 1969. The author of this theory, Travis Hirschi, dwelled on the different approaches to social problems and tried to explain them in the most extensive way possible (Hirschi, 2011). It is interesting that a bit later this theory was expanded and the theory of social control appeared. In order to correctly apply Hirschi’s theory, one should clearly realize the idea on which this theory is based.

The major concept developed by the social bonding theory claims that there are several important elements that should be taken into consideration when assessing criminal behaviors inherent in an individual (Hirschi, 2011). On a bigger scale, the theory of social bonding appeared as an attempt to extend the general theory of crime. Nonetheless, there is a critical difference between the two reflected by Hirschi’s peer-centered approach. The four major elements of the theory include the notions of commitment, attachment, the belief of importance, and involvement in various activities (Hirschi, 2011).

The first and the foremost element is the attachment. According to the idea of the social bonding theory, the society that surrounds us has a momentous impact on our personality and may restrain an individual from committing a crime (Hirschi, 2011). Ultimately, in the case if the crime occurs, there are three key attachment sources which include peers, parents, and educational facilities. The theory describes attachment as the ability of humans to be both moral and social beings to a certain extent at the same time (Hirschi, 2011).

The second element is called commitment. This element of the social bonding theory can be reflected by educational expectations and professional ambitions. The fact that we contribute to our well-being is seen as a constraint that minimizes the probability of delinquent behavior (Hirschi, 2011). Third, the involvement in conventional activities is presented as a way to reduce the occurrence of criminal activity by means of motivating the individual to partake in other activities. In this case, the theory claims that deviation will be highly unlikely due to limited spare time (Hirschi, 2011).

The belief of importance is connected to the personal values of an individual. This element of the theory can be explained as an attainable constraint that is commonly developed within a society. Consequently, delinquent behavior should be anticipated in case if the individual refuses to adhere to the common guidelines and attain the values promoted by the society (Hirschi, 2011).

The Relation between the Social Bonding Theory and Conformity

There is a strict relationship between the theory of social bonding and conformity. The theory explains it as the process of socialization and creation of a link between the society and a given individual (Siegel, 2015). The link is supported by the key four elements that were mentioned above. Therefore, the stronger is the manifestation of these four elements, the smaller are chances that the individual will display delinquent behavior or engage themselves in illegal activity (Douglas, Burgess, & Ressler, 2013).

Therefore, the weaker is the influence of the group, the weaker is the individual’s attachment to their behaviors and commitment to their values. The idea of conformity is inextricably linked to the notions of independence and rules of conduct (Wagner, 2013). Conformity may also be perceived through the individual’s unwillingness to commit crimes due to the fact that they realize the consequences of such behavior.

The connection between conformity and social bonding theory can also be described as a rational restriction which rewards commitment and law-abiding behavior. Another example of this linkage is the parents’ influence on their child’s conformity (Beirne & Messerschmidt, 2015). We should take into consideration the parenting style and the parents’ ability to communicate the ideas of adequate behavior to their kid when the levels of commitment and conformity tend to zero.

Social Bonding Theory and the Schools of Crime Causation

The theory of social bonding can also be associated with several theoretical schools of crime causation (Douglas et al., 2013). First, there is an explicit connection between the theory and the impact of strain on a given individual. This relationship can be described by incorporation of the key elements of the social bonding theory into the theory of strain. On a bigger scale, it means that strained individuals are predisposed to delinquent behavior, but their attachment to the peers and commitment to values may serve as the barriers on the way to criminal activities (Douglas et al., 2013).

Another example of the connection is the social learning theory. The society often is able to influence an individual to an extent where the person will unquestioningly obey the unwritten rules and values of the society. In this case, the relationship is dependent on the belief of importance, and it dynamically coexists with the moral norms of the individual (Douglas et al., 2013). Overall, the theory of social bonding is in full compliance with the majority of the theoretical schools of crime causation and clearly reflects their essential hypotheses.


Beirne, P., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2015). Criminology: A sociological approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Douglas, J. E., Burgess, A., & Ressler, R. K. (2013). Crime classification manual: A standard system for investigating and classifying violent crimes. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hirschi, T. (2011). Causes of delinquency. New York, NY: Routledge.

Siegel, L. J. (2015). Criminology: The core (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wagner, W. E. (2013). Practice of research in criminology and criminal justice. New York, NY: Sage.

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