Two theorist and theories that have been recognized by many involved in the criminal justice field are Ross L. Matsueda’s Theory of Differential Social Control, and, Charles R. Tittle’s Control Balance Theory. Matsueda’s theory, (1) identifies a broader range of individual-level mechanisms of social control, (2) specifying group and organizational processes for controlling delinquency, (3) conceptualizing classical criminological theories as special cases of a general interactionist framework, and (4) testing the interactionist model empirically against specific hypotheses drawn from competing theories. Tittle’s theory believes deviance results from the convergence of four variables: (1) the predisposition toward deviant motivation; (2) the situational stimulation of that motivation, which is called provocation; (3) the opportunity to commit deviance, which is most important in explaining specific kinds of deviance rather that deviance in general, since the opportunity for some kind of deviance is almost always present; and (4) the likelihood that a particular deviant act will activate restraining responses by others, which is called constraint.
A central sociological problem concerns the process by which deviant or criminal behavior is controlled by the larger society. Although most would agree that social interaction is an important locus of control of crime and delinquency, criminological theory has not stressed the interactional mechanisms of social control. Instead, recent developments in criminological theory and research have focused on developing macrotheories of Marxist class categories and delinquency (Colvin and Pauley 1983; Hagan 1989), microtheories of stable individual traits (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990), or life-course theories of life events and delinquent behavior (Sampson and Laub 1990; Hagan and Palloni 1988). Another theoretical trend integrates traditional theories, such as anomie, disorganization, social control, labeling, differential association, and social learning theories, to increase explanatory power or link levels of explanation (Elliott, Ageton, and Canter 1979; Elliott, Huizinga, and Ageton 1985; Pearson and Weiner 1985; Thornberry 1987). Which leads us to two theorist that have been recognized by many involved in the criminal justice field. One being, Ross L. Matsueda’s Theory of Differential Social Control, and the other, Charles R. Tittle’s Control Balance Theory.
Matsueda takes a different avenue and specifies a theory of delinquency based on unified framework of symbolic interactionist view of the self as a reflection of the appraisals of others. He (1) identifies a broader range of individual-level mechanisms of social control, (2) specifying group and organizational processes for controlling delinquency, (3) conceptualizing classical criminological theories as special cases of a general interactionist framework, and (4) testing the interactionist model empirically against specific hypotheses drawn from competing theories.
Ross Matsueda uses symbolic interactionism to show how the social control of delinquency lies in an interactionist conception of the self. He bases his explanation on Mead’s (1934) thesis that the self arises in problematic situations when an individual takes the role of significant others and views oneself from the standpoint of those others. On the individual level Mead (1934) views role-taking as the key to social control. Interactants take the role of others, view themselves as objects from the standpoint of others, and thus fit their actions into a social transaction. In essence, reciprocal role-taking between interactants makes joint activity possible (Mead 1934). This implies a process of social cognition arising in problematic situations, which Matsueda uses to build his explanation of self and delinquency. Reflective thought, or self-consciousness, is critical for explaining delinquency, since delinquency is particularly likely when youths consider behavior that is generally avoided by a variety of social groups (Mead  1982). Matsueda believes when an action or impulse to act is interrupted, causing a discontinuity in interaction, the blocked impulse causes one to view the self (the “me”) as an object from the standpoint of others. The individual views him or herself from the standpoint of significant others, considers alternative solutions to the discontinuity, and appraises potential justifications and reactions of significant others to those alternatives. The proposed alternative is then evaluated by another impulse (the “I”), which reacts either positively, following the alternative into overt action, or negatively, blocking the impulse and eliciting an other “me.” This serial cognitive process continues until the problem is solved or the interaction ends. Once the interaction ends, the “me” is incorporated into the individual’s memory and becomes part of the self to be called up in future interactions.
Role-taking implies five major processes that can effect the likelihood of delinquent or deviant behavior. First, the specific meaning of the self as reflected appraisals (as a rule-violator) should affect delinquency. Thus, delinquency is in large part a function of stable meanings of the self relevant to deviant behavior, which arise partly through processes of role-taking and labeling.
Second, holding attitudes toward delinquent solutions to problematic situations will affect the likelihood of delinquent behavior. Attitudes are predisposition’s or plans to act (Mead 1938) that serve as “pivots for the redirection of social acts” through role-taking in problematic situations (Dewey 1922). Attitudes are significant symbols whose meanings are shared in the sense that they call out “functionally identical” responses in the self and in others (Miller 1982). As such, the attitudes of one’s communities and social groups constitute the generalized other and become incorporated into the “me.” This does not mean, however, that the attitudes of the larger community always prevail. When the attitudes of a given community or social group fail to resolve a problematic situation and create a discontinuity in interaction, an individual will sometimes form an attitude that is at odds with those of the larger group (Mead 1934; Miller 1973). In this situation, however, the individual must fit the new attitude together with the old attitude so that the new one is acceptable from the perspective of the generalized other. In the case of delinquency, we might expect individuals to attempt to make delinquent behavior acceptable to law-abiding social groups by justifying, disclaiming, or neutralizing the behavior (Hewitt and Stokes 1975). Or individuals may change perspectives and take the role (perspective) of a different generalized other, like a law-violating youth group, that would be more likely to favor delinquency. When attitudes favoring delinquency are incorporated over time into the “me,” they become stable and can be called up in the future. Consequently, the stronger and more stable the attitudes, motives, and justifications favoring delinquency, the greater the likelihood that delinquent resolutions to problematic situations will occur.
A third process affecting delinquency involves anticipating the reactions of significant others to delinquent behavior. Specifically, through role-taking individuals also become aware of the likely reactions of others to certain behaviors; thus they can consider the consequences of such reactions for self-image, extrinsic rewards, and group membership (McCall and Simmons 1978). This is at the heart of reflective thought for Matsueda, since the ability to anticipate the responses of others is imperative for viewing oneself as an object and for incorporating the future into a present problem in light of the past. Reflective thinking regarding a delinquent action requires considering the potential consequences for that action, particularly the responses of significant and generalized others. The more negative the anticipated reactions to a delinquent behavior, the lower the likelihood of delinquent lines of action.
Role-taking also implies that associating with delinquent peers would influence the likelihood of delinquency, both indirectly and directly. Indirectly, delinquent peers permit the emergence of a pro0delinquent generalized other or reference group, providing delinquent conceptions of self, pro-delinquent attitudes, justifications, motives, and potential positive reactions to delinquent behavior. Directly, delinquent peers increase the likelihood of delinquency through group processes, like engaging in a conversation of gestures, presenting situationally-induced motives, and presenting opportunities for delinquency (Short and Strodtbeck 1965; Briar and Piliavin 1965).
Finally, Matsueda’s perspective implies that delinquent behavior can occur in the absence of reflective thought, via habitual or scripted responses established through previous experiences. Indeed, reflective thought establishes habits that allow individuals to respond to future encounters in those situations without cognition. In general, role-taking is more likely in the case of socially-disapproved behavior. But even delinquent behavior can become habitual: When problematic situations are repeatedly solved using delinquent behavior, the cease to be problematic and delinquency becomes automatic, scripted, and habitual. This is consistent with psychological research that finds behavior to be automatic rather than reflective in routine situations (Langer 1989). Prior experience with delinquency, thus is an important predictor of future delinquency, especially when delinquent situations have become routinized or institutionalized, as in delinquent gangs.
These five features of role-taking, then, are important individual-level mechanisms by which delinquent behavior is produced. While analytically distinct, they should overlap considerably in reality. This raises the important question of whether these features of role-taking affect delinquency at all, and if so, whether they affect delinquency uniquely or jointly. This individual-level process leading to delinquency might be termed “differential social control,” since self control incorporates reference groups and is thus social control and can lead either to delinquency or conformity depending on the direction of control (Matsueda 1992).
Figure 1 depicts a structural equation model of differential social control and delinquency. The model consists of six blocks of variables: (1) background variables measuring location in the social structure; (2) a measure of prior delinquency; (3) variables measuring commitments to conventional roles, parental disapproval of delinquency, and appraisals by parents (objective labels); (4) role-taking measured by delinquent peer associations; (5) other variables representing the role-taking process; and (6) an outcome variable of subsequent delinquent behavior (Heimer and Matsueda 1994). The model specifies a sequence of variables in which role-taking, the proximate determinant of delinquency, mediates the effects on delinquency of role commitments and social structural position. Thus, persons develop commitments to conventional roles in part based on their objective location in the class, residential, or ethnic structure. (See Figure 1.)
Tittle’s Control Balance Theory portrays the probability of deviance as a function of the ratio of control exercised to that experienced, and it stipulates the type of deviance likely to be committed as a joint function of the magnitude of one’s control imbalance and the seriousness of potential deviant acts (Empey, Stafford, Hay 1999). The magnitude of a control imbalance is directly related to the probability of deviance of some kind. However, the seriousness of specific types of potential deviant behavior varies inversely with the magnitude of a control deficit and directly with the magnitude of a control surplus. Thus, a small control defficit portends predatory deviance, one of the most serious types, and whenever an individual enjoys a large control surplus, the chances of decadence are greatest. Moderate control deficits signify enhanced chances for defiance and whenever medium control surpluses prevail, chances of plunder are increased. Finally, with large control deficits, submissive deviance is likely, whereas those with small control surpluses will most likely exploit (Tittle 1995).
Deviance results from the convergence of four variables: (1) the predisposition toward deviant motivation; (2) the situational stimulation of that motivation, which is called provocation; (3) the opportunity to commit deviance, which is most important in explaining specific kinds of deviance rather that deviance in general, since the opportunity for some kind of deviance is almost always present; and (4) the likelihood that a particular deviant act will activate restraining responses by others, which is called constraint. Whether the coming together of these four variables actually produces deviant behavior, however, depends on the nature of their convergence and a number of other conditions.
First, predisposition toward deviant motivation has three components: (1) bodily and psychic needs; (2) a basic, universal desire for autonomy, the magnitude of which varies only slightly from person to person; and (3) the control ratio, which varies greatly because it reflects many elements that differ among individuals. Since there is usually little variation from individual to individual in desire for autonomy, and since bodily or psychic needs are seldom severely restricted, for all practical purposes predisposition toward deviant motivation is reflected by the person’s control ratio (Tittle 1995). Therefore, the theory assumes that predisposition toward deviant motivation varies directly with a control imbalance in either direction from the balanced zone.
As far as bodily and psychic needs are concerned it is simply revolved around control. Control does not imply complete prevention of the expression of behavioral motivations or goal achievements; rather, it implies that full realization of desires or impulses can be curtailed or limited. Control is conceived as a variable; the degree to which behavioral expression of impulses or desires can be limited, or curtailed, varies from person to person and from situation to situation. Thus being controlled, as Tittle uses it, is a continuous variable conveying the extent to which expression of one’s desires or impulses is potentially limited by other people’s abilities (whether actually exercised or not) to help, or reward, or hinder, or punish, or by the physical and social arrangements of the world.
The second major concept in the theory is “deviant motivation.” In general, motivation refers to the push, reason, impulse, or urge to act. The driving force for deviance has two components–one predispositional, and the other situational. The situational component is the individual’s perception or feeling that committing an act regarded by most others as inappropriate or unacceptable might allow that person to alter the balance of control he or she normally exercises relative to that which he or she normally experiences, even if temporarily. The predisposition for deviant motivation is referred to as a desire for autonomy. Like a number of psychologists and social psychologists (Adler 1956; Charms 1968; Deci 1975; McClelland 1975; Burger 1992; Gecas 1989), Tittle contends that a desire for autonomy–escaping control over oneself and exercising more control over the social and physical world than one experiences–is almost universal among humans. Autonomy is the simultaneous struggle of external control and escape from external control over oneself. A “need” or desire for autonomy is present in almost all humans, though it may show some variation in magnitude from person to person as a result of the amount, or degree, of dependency experienced in childhood.
Lastly, although control ratios conceivably can take on an unlimited number of values, small differences are theoretically meaningless. The theory is not concerned with extremely fine gradations among control ratios, at least not at the present state of its development. Rather, it focuses on seven zones on a continuum. The middle zone, encompassing control ratios reasonably close to unity, is called the “balanced” zone. Deviations from the midpoint in the positive direction include three zones representing progressively greater degrees of control surplus; the zone of “minimal” surplus, the zone of “moderate” surplus, and the zone of “maximum” surplus. Similarly, deviations from the midpoint in the negative direction encompass three zones of increasing control deficit: the zone of “marginal” deficit, the zone of “excess” deficit, and the zone of “extreme” deficit.
Not only do people posses a fundamental desire for autonomy that interacts with their control ratio to generate a natural inclination toward deviant motivation, but the control ratio also interacts with various primary desires to produce a predisposition toward deviant motivation. These initial impulses include hunger, thirst, sexual need, desire for entertainment or amusement, as well as various activities that gratify fundamental bodily or psychic needs. The likelihood that these urges, or needs, will be blocked is strongly linked to the individual’s control ratio; when blocked, they constitute predisposition’s toward deviant motivation. Although everybody has such desires that potentially propel behavior, their exact form and degree vary from, person to person in ways that are sometimes referred to as “tastes.”
For deviant motivation to emerge, those predisposed toward it by an imbalanced control ratio must comprehend, or perceive, the possibility that deviance will alter their control ratios in an advantageous way. Since the variables that are likely to create a perception that deviance will advantageously alter control ratios, are mainly situational, they are called provocations. Although some degree of provocation is necessary to activate the causes of deviance, the extent and intensity of situational provocation also represent a contingency under which the causal mechanisms of the theory operate with greater or lesser efficiency. For deviance to occur, individuals must become fully conscious of their control ratios and of the possibilities for changing them through the use of deviant behavior. People have a general sense of their control ratios, but most of the time they operate with only secondary awareness of their deficits or surpluses. Everyday life is such a routine that most people rarely contemplate their control ratios. Yet everyone, from time to time, experiences circumstances that bring to mind the balance of control.
An opportunity to commit a particular kind of deviance is defined as a circumstance where that behavior is possible (Tittle 1995). Situational features that make deviance possible, vary with the type of deviance in question. An opportunity for exploiting others, for instance, necessarily involves access to a potential victim (or a victim-related object or thing of value) for that particular type of exploitation and a set of physical realities making the predatory act feasible. A robber must have access to another person with something of value to he predator and must not be diverted by physical barriers; in addition, for eventual triumph, the would-be robber must show superior physical strength, cunning, or weaponry. The requisites for burglary are access to a structure containing something of value to predator and the means to enter the building and remove the things of value. Rape demands access to another human, usually a female, along with an inequality of physical strength, cunning, or weaponry. So it is with opportunities for all kinds of deviance. No matter how favorable the motivation and constraint configuration, the actual likelihood of deviance occurring depends on there being an opportunity for it to happen. In addition, however, since opportunity varies with each different situation, we must also regard frequency and magnitude of opportunity as important contingencies under which the control balance process operates.
All these deviant acts are acts of deviance that require some sort of restraint from officials, parents, schools, police, or some other authoritative person or agency. Otherwise they would not be the factor for the control of balance needed for delinquency to be used in an attempt to show control. This is were variables come in to play, depending on the local of certain areas the constraint for such crimes may or may not be there. If parents are involved in a child’s upbringing the child may only commit deviant acts which would result in constraint from the parents to satisfy his or her control imbalance. Whereas, on the other hand in a family were the parent is not actively involved in the child’s upbringing, the child may search farther to feel the control balance they seek. Such as stealing a car, or some other act of deviance, resulting in constraint from an authoritative agency.
Control is defined broadly to incorporate the idea of total ability to limit the behavioral options of others and resist such limitations on one’s own behavioral options. Behavior is portrayed as an expression, though modulated and deflected by various circumstances, of an individual’s control ratio, or amount of control that can be exercised relative to the control that is experienced. The control ratio, a complicated mix of elements bearing on the interplay of control exercised or experienced, along with a fundamental desire for autonomy and some basic human needs, is described as intersecting in various ways to structure a persons predisposition for deviant motivation.
The theory of control balance explains deviance as a product of the tension between motivation and constraint when individuals try to rectify imbalances of control. Deviant behavior occurs when several variables come together in a favorable alliance. First, provocative features of a situation activate predisposition’s toward deviant motivation, generating a perception that deviance will enable the individual to alter a control imbalance; second, an opportunity to deviate exists; and third, the probability that deviance will activate controlling responses indicating a favorable condition. The chance of deviance, in general, are a product of the magnitude of motivation and opportunity, but the probability of particular kinds of deviance is the result of a complex interplay between motivation, opportunity, and constraint (Tittle 1995).
In summary, Matsueda’s theory of differential social control specifies a theory of delinquency based on unified framework of symbolic interactionist view of the self as a reflection of the appraisals of others. He (1) identifies a broader range of individual-level mechanisms of social control, (2) specifying group and organizational processes for controlling delinquency, (3) conceptualizing classical criminological theories as special cases of a general interactionist framework, and (4) testing the interactionist model empirically against specific hypotheses drawn from competing theories.
Tittle’s control balance theory, says deviance results from the convergence of four variables: (1) the predisposition toward deviant motivation; (2) the situational stimulation of that motivation, which is called provocation; (3) the opportunity to commit deviance, which is most important in explaining specific kinds of deviance rather that deviance in general, since the opportunity for some kind of deviance is almost always present; and (4) the likelihood that a particular deviant act will activate restraining responses by others, which is called constraint.
However, in either theory it is so hard to pinpoint the causes of actual deviance to any of a multitude of reasons let alone just one. There are so many uncontrolled variables to people, social levels of income and education, and overall beliefs on delinquent behavior. Although, there are similar aspects underlying both theories, this tends to revert back to the teaching of the parents, teachers, and other influential people, who are close to juveniles. What this leads me to believe is that the theories take for granted that everyone is brought up in an ideal family and social setting. This is simply just not true. There will always be juvenile delinquency, and in part because similarly, their will always be adult delinquency. Sending the improper signal to youth that it’s all right to do delinquent acts.
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