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Social Control Theory and Delinquency - A Multivariate Test

NCJ Number
M D Wiatrowski; M K Swatko
Date Published
48 pages
Multivariate analysis methods were used to consider the relationships between social bonding elements, as defined in Hirschi's social control theory (1969), and the occurrence of juvenile delinquency.
Hirschi's social control theory suggests that delinquent adolescents fail to develop societal bonds consisting of (1) attachment to parents, peers, and school; (2) occupational and educational commitment; (3) academic involvement; and (4) belief in social rules and convention. Data for the analysis were obtained from 2,213 10th-grade boys from 87 schools who were surveyed in 1966. The information included ability test results, measures of family background, affective status, self-concept, values and attitudes, plans and behaviors, and self-reported delinquent behavior. Factor analysis and communality analysis were used to examine empirical support for the uniqueness of the four societal bond elements. Findings indicate that social class and achievement were positively related to the occurrence of juvenile delinquency. Attachment to parents, belief in social rules and conventions, and involvement in school activities with particularly regard to dating were important variable factors in delinquency occurrence. While an analysis of the simultaneous operation of the bonds showed considerable correlation with Hirschi's theory, adding controls for school grades and for ability indicated that some elements were more important than others. About 30 references, tabular data notes, and graphs are included.