The theory of social control: Does it apply to the very young?

Kimberly Kempf Leonard, Scott H. Decker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article reports the findings of a replication study of social control theory that used fifth grade students. This sample was the youngest used to test this theory. All four elements of the bond (belief, involvement, commitment, and attachment) were measured with individual items from the Richmond Youth Project and more recent tests of the theory. Outcome measures included both illegal and non-conforming behavior. In general, the social control model was unable to distinguish deliquency very well. Some differences were observed when the model was applied independently to male, female, white, and black youths. Two elements of the theory-attachment and commitment-were most important to the explanation of nonconformity. Belief was significant in several models, but in the opposite direction of that predicted by the theory. These results suggest that the elements of the bond work differently for pre-teens than for their older counterparts. These results also add to the mounting evidence that greater attention to the operational definitions of the elements of the social bond is necessary before the theoretical merits of the social control theory can be ascertained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-105
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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