Academic journal article Theory in Action

Hirschi's Social Bonding Theory Nearly 45 Years Later: A Comparison of a Traditional, Contemporary and Hybrid Model

Academic journal article Theory in Action

Hirschi's Social Bonding Theory Nearly 45 Years Later: A Comparison of a Traditional, Contemporary and Hybrid Model

Article excerpt

Travis Hirschi (1969) developed social bonding theory. The main premise of his argument was that conformity, not deviance, is what needs explaining. The present study further investigated the following aspects of Hirschi's social bonding theory: attachment to parents, attachment to school, involvement in conventional activities, and belief in the law/legal system. The goal of the present study is to fill a gap in the literature by conducting an analysis that compares Hirschi's traditional measures to contemporary measures using a single independent national sample. The present study built three models: the Traditional Hirschi Model utilizes the measures indicated by Hirschi's 1969 book, Causes of Delinquency; the Contemporary Model utilizes contemporary scales gathered from a literature review; and the Hybrid Model is an amalgamation that combines the strongest components of the two prior models.


Hirschi writes that attachment to conventional parents is a central component of control theory. Indirect parental control is theorized to be the primary mechanism that prevents delinquency. Attachment to school is also central to control theory. He defines attachment to school as how much a student likes school and has positive feelings about his/her teacher. Regarding the involvement bond, Hirschi emphasizes the importance of involvement in school-based activities such as studying. Moreover, Hirschi argues that the youth at highest risk of delinquency are those involved in the activities of working class adults. Hirschi makes the case that the belief bond is a belief in and respect for the rules of society. Thus, a weak or broken belief bond increases a person's likelihood of deviance.


This section will review the literature that uses the same or slightly altered measures and questions that Hirschi used. Research on the attachment to parents bond shows that youth with weak bonds with parents have higher rates of delinquency (Hirschi, 1969). Research has confirmed that a strong family attachment is associated with lower levels of delinquency (Kim., Kwak, and Yun, 2010; Krohn, Massey, Skinner, and Lauer, 1983; Ozbay, and Ozcan, 2006), and criminal offences (Chui and Chan 2012; Ozbay, and Ozcan, 2006). Hirschi found that weak attachment to school is associated with a higher risk of deviance. Researchers have also found that there is a negative relationship between school attachment and deviance (Ozbay, and Ozcan, 2006), and violent and property crime (Chui and Chan 2012). Research on the involvement bond found that the more time students spend on homework, the less likely they are to partake in deviant acts (Hirschi 1969). Research also found that if adolescents rushed into adulthood by becoming involved in leisure activities typically favored by working class adults, they were more likely to commit delinquent acts (Hirschi 1969). Research on the belief bond found that the more people believe in society's rules, the less likely they are to partake in deviance (Chapple, McQuillan, and Berdahl 2005; Costello and Vowell, 1999; Herschi 1969; Öxbay and Özcan 2009; Ozbay, and Ozcan, 2006).


This section will review the studies that have stayed true to Hirschi's theory and his conceptualizations, but have measured said concepts using contemporary scales. Contemporary research finds that as family bonds get stronger, the risk of delinquency gets weaker (Chen, Thrane, and Adams, 2012; Hay, Meldrum, and Piquero, 2013; HeavyRunner-Rioux, and Hollist, 2010; Junger and Marshall, 1997; Menard, and Grotpeter, 2011; Orcutt and Schwabe, 2012). Research found that a weak attachment to school is associated with a higher risk of deviance (Haines and Case 2004; Hay et al, 2013; Li, 2004), and crime (Chen, 2009). Research on the involvement bond and extracurricular activities found that partaking in extracurricular activities reduces the chances of partaking in deviant behavior (Booth et al 2008; Huebner and Betts 2002). …

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