Social Bonding Theory Essay

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Travis Hirschi's Social Bonding Theory

The theorist, Hirschi, asserts that those who exhibit deviant behavior desire to do so and that criminal behavior is seen among people with weak social bonds. In his social bonding model, he delineated four elements which make up social bonds, namely, attachment to partner/spouse, engagement in conforming behaviors, holding conventional beliefs and values, and dedication to conventionality (Wolfzorn, Heckert & Heckert, 2006). The theorist indicates that with increased attachment of a person to fellow human beings, their belief in conformist social values will increase. Furthermore, with increased investment and involvement in conventional activity, their propensity to deviate will decrease (Chriss, 2007).

Four Elements of Social Bonding Theory

Social bonding has four elements, namely: attachment, involvement, belief, and commitment.

The first component -- attachment -- denotes individuals' ties to their spouses or partners, and other members of the family. This aspect encompasses the extent of a person's emotional or affectional connections to key people in their life, how far they relate to these persons, and how far they value these persons' expectations. As per social bonding theory, people who have powerful attachments with key people in their life exhibit lesser likelihood to participate in deviant activities. In case of youngsters, parental attachment is of utmost significance (Durkin, Wolfe and Clark, 1999). Parent-child communication quality forms one of the main indicators of the parental attachment element.

The next social bonding facet -- commitment -- denotes the cumulative investment of resources, time, and energy in performing conforming activities (for instance, attending college or going to work). Such investments are considered investments in conformism. Hirschi's theory of social bonding postulates that people having sound commitments will try to refrain from putting them in jeopardy by participating in deviant activities. In case of college-goers, their devotion to receiving higher education forms a salient aspect of their life. Indicators of devotion to getting educated include GPA (grade point average) and academic orientation. A number of fresh research works on the subject of social bonding have taken religious commitment into account as well. This is normally measured in terms of religiosity or how far a person displays a sincere respect for his/her religion, and its practices and values (Durkin et al., 1999; Chriss, 2007).

Involvement is the third social bonding component; it deals with the time an individual devotes to conforming activities, like taking part in sports or clubs, or completing school work. Social bonding theory claims that those who devote their time to conformist activities will simply lack the time to involve themselves in deviant activities.
In case of college students, involvement indicators include the quantity of time they devote to studying or engaging in part-time employment after college hours (Durkin et al., 1999; Wolfzorn, Heckert & Heckert, 2006).

The final element -- belief -- represents an individual's agreeing to a conformist value system. Hirschi's theory claims that any wavering of such conventional attitudes increases a person's likelihood to participate in deviant activities. This element involves regard for authority and a broad acceptance of societal conventions as being ethically and obligatory (Durkin et al., 1999).

How Social Bonding Theory Affects Conformity in America

In simple words, people attempt to judge and observe things and people correctly and accurately. They typically depend on social indications in the vicinity for helping them interpret a particular situation. A major research work studied the impact of societal pressure exerted by a collection of inaccurate people on a person's drive for accuracy. The author discovered that when an easy task, or one whose solution was clear, was offered to a participant, his/her impetus to complete it correctly reduced the effect of societal pressure from a group that responded wrongly to it. That is, despite all other participants giving a different answer, the participant in question was aware and confident of the right response to that task. Hence, he/she experienced less societal pressure to concur with the wrong cluster (Lumbert, 2005).

But with significant increase in the task's difficulty level, the participant banked on cues from the group, with regard to how to respond. Once again, deliberate wrong answers were given by the group. Apparently, a person who is uncertain about how a task is to be performed, or how he/she is to act, will feel less anxious by deciding to concur with a big group. Another study manipulated group confidence. Once again, the participant was assigned a tough task and the group gave the wrong answer. However, unlike the….....

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Baron, R. S., Vandello, J. A., & Brunsman, B. (1996). The forgotten variable in conformity research: Impact of task importance on social influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 915-927.

Chriss, J. J. (2007). The functions of the social bond. Sociological Quarterly, 48(4), 689-712. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2007.00097.x

Durkin, K., Wolfe, T. and Clark, G. (1999). Social bond theory and binge drinking among college students: A multivariate analysis. College Student Journal, 33: 450-461.

Gosselin, D.K. (2005). Heavy Hands: An Introduction to the Crimes of Family Violence, 3rd Edition, Pearson Education, Inc.

Lumbert, S.P. (2005). Conformity and Group Mentality: Why We Comply, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Pasupathi, M. (1999). Age differences in response to conformity pressure for emotional and nonemotional material. Psychology and Aging, 14, 170-174.

Stinchcombe, Arthur L. (2005). The Logic of Social Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wolfzorn, M., Heckert, A. & Heckert, D.M. (2006). POSITIVE DEVIANCE AND SOCIAL BOND THEORY. Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology Vol. 34, No.2, 107-122

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