social control | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Social control is the means by which society regulates behavior to prevent crime and promote conformity to norms and values, using formal and informal mechanisms.

Social control refers to the various ways in which society regulates and controls the behavior of individuals and groups in order to maintain social order, prevent crime and deviance, and promote conformity to social norms and values. This can take many different forms, including formal legal systems, informal social norms, and institutions such as schools, churches, and families.

In criminology, social control is a key concept used to understand the ways in which society responds to crime and deviance. It is based on the idea that social order is maintained through the use of both formal and informal mechanisms of control, which serve to prevent individuals from engaging in behavior that is seen as harmful or disruptive to society.

Formal mechanisms of social control include the criminal justice system, which uses laws and punishments to deter and punish criminal behavior. These may include police, courts, and prisons, which are designed to enforce the law and punish those who violate it.

Informal mechanisms of social control, on the other hand, rely on social norms, values, and customs to regulate behavior. These may include family, friends, community, and religious institutions, which influence individuals to conform to the expectations of their social group. This type of social control operates through socialization, which is the process by which individuals learn the values, beliefs, and norms of their society.

In addition to formal and informal mechanisms of social control, there are also a number of theories that seek to explain the ways in which social control operates in society. These include social learning theory, which suggests that individuals learn criminal behavior through interactions with others, and social disorganization theory, which argues that crime is more prevalent in communities with weak social controls.

Overall, social control is an important concept in criminology as it helps us to understand the ways in which society seeks to prevent and control crime and deviance. By studying social control mechanisms, criminologists can develop a better understanding of why some individuals are more likely to engage in criminal behavior than others, and how social institutions can be used to prevent crime and promote social order.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 03/14/2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.