Social control theory has been used to explain why abusers resort to violence and why some people are more likely to be victims of abuse. According to Bartol & Bartol (2011), Social Control Theory, believes that crime and misbehaviour happens when an individual’s bonds to the normal standards are weak or largely non-existent therefore it is necessary to have regulations within the system (Durkhiem, 1960). The theory opposes that all people, from the time there are born, must be controlled by laws, rules, and regulation in order to keep society in check. It continues to outline that those who do not follow these laws, rules, and regulation are more likely to have a weak bond to societal controls end up participating in behaviour that is unaccepted and/or criminal behaviour.
Social control theory has four types of elementary bonds which establish societal bond, determining whether one would become involved in criminal activity (Pratt, Gau and Franklin, 2011). These four bonds include Attachment, Commitment, Involvement and Belief. These bonds are important as they affect the ways in which we behave, for example, a person uses aggressive communication style as a form of communication as that is what they have learnt from their parents. The theory states that when one has lack attachment, not committed to conventional society, have less involvement in conventional activities and believe that they do not need to obey the rules of society, they are more likely to perpetrate domestic violence (Béland et al., 2021).
The first bond is the attachment bond, which looks at ways an individual relates to others emotionally and adopt values and norms which stops them from causing harm to others (Bernard et al., 2010). However, on the other hand, not having attachments could result in criminal behaviour. The second bond is commitment bond which looks at the specific goals one has in the society. Having specific goals/responsibilities ensures one does apply themselves to complete without interpretations (Bernard et al., 2010). The third one is the involvement bond which looks at one participation in social activities, as keeping busy results in not having time to commit crime (Bernard et al., 2010). And the last one is the belief bond which looks at the society believes of what is morally right and those who obey these beliefs of the society are less likely to violate them (Bernard et al., 2010).
Social learning theory suggests that social behaviour is learned when a person observes and imitates other people’s behaviours (Tri Harinie, 2017). Social learning theory is used to mostly to provide and understanding domestic and family violence and explained victimisation and perpetration of domestic and family violence (Anderson & Kras, 2005). Social learning theory believes a no one is born to be violent, but instead aggressive and violent behaviour is learnt through life experience, observation of role models, and society which then leads one to become aggressive and violent towards other people (Seigle, 2008). These behaviours become a form of coping response to stress or a method of resolving conflict (Bandura 1973). For instance, children who witness their parents engaging in domestic violence are more likely to grow up to be perpetrators or victims of domestic violence themselves.
Social learning theory has four core principles, attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation (Wheeler, 2014). The attention principle is the extent to which a person notices the behaviour (Bandura 1973). The retention principle is remembering the behaviour learnt at the attention principle when needing to response to a situation (Wheeler 2014). The reproduction principle is the ability to act the learnt behaviour (Bandura 1973). The motivation principle is imitating the behaviour learnt from observation of others being rewarded or punished for things said or done in the past (Wheeler 2014).
Compare and contrast
Social control theory and social learning theory are two theories that explores why some individuals choose criminal behaviour. Both take a different stance on the issue, however both theories have their strengths and weaknesses. Social control theory believes that behaviours is influenced based on one’s connection to the society, a strong connection to the society results in conforming and if not, one has a tendency to act out or become involved in criminal/deviant behaviour (Bernard, et al, 2010). While social learning theory believes that people learn aggressive criminal behaviour from observing others and make a decision of whether to copy the behaviour to obtain desired results or chose not to if the results are undesirable based on the observation.
Social control theory outlines that socialisation and social learning form attachment to others which helps one to build self-control and reduces the inclination to be indulging in antisocial behaviour (Frye, 2007). The theory suggests that people learn self-control through social interaction with others and that domestic and family violence is a result of a lack of self-control. According to social control theory, the fundamental of the abuser’s behaviour is the need to have power and control over how others feel, think and act, therefore resulting in the abuser using many types of intimidation such as isolation, financial control, and coercion (Hyde-Nolan & Juliao). Buchhandler-Rapheal (2022) continues to outline that, the abuser understands their behaviour to be wrong and can have consequences but continue to be abusive to have power and control. And as a result, victims tend to adapt to the abuser power and control to manage and to prevent the escape of further abuse this includes not reporting the abuse to police or seek to obtain a protection order (Hyde-Nolan & Juliao).
Social learning theory on the other hand believes that people create their social tendencies based on how they interact with their environment (Simons, Simons & Wallance, 2004). It emphasizes the role of personal interactions in the development of violence (Burt, 2019). The theory suggests that people learn to be violent through their interactions with others, which means that domestic and family violence could be the result of a cycle of abuse. The theory believes this is done through vicarious learning, which is where an individual will model behaviours that one has been exposed to as a child (Chibucos, Leite, & Weis, 2005). Under this theory, domestic and family violence becomes an acceptable behaviour through observation and imitation, therefore the child is more likely to continue perpetrating or experiencing violence in their own lives (Pingley, 2017). As a child, it is through observation and imitating other people that we learn our behaviours and what is acceptable or normal behaviours. Simons, Simons, & Wallace, (2004), states that an individual learns what they believe is acceptable to society and what is not by observing the outcomes of others.
Social control theory suggests that all children innate anti-social behaviour although effective parenting can teach children to control themselves, while social learning theory suggest that children do not inherently good or bad but acquire their social tendencies on how they react with others in their environment (Simons, Simons, & Wallace, 2004, p. 33). Social control theory emphasizes the importance of proper socialization, while social learning theory underscores the importance of observing and imitating positive behaviour (Whiteman et al., 2011). The two theories are not mutually exclusive, as they both deal with how people learn to behave in society. Social learning theory emphasizes the role of modelling in learning new behaviours, while social control theory focuses on the role of the family in socializing children (David, 2016). There is overlap between the two theories, as both suggest that deviant.
DFV Responses/interventions guided by theories
In order to effectively address the issue of domestic violence, it is important to understand the different theories that exist surrounding it. Social control theory and social learning theory can help to provide a comprehensive understanding of the issue and how best to address it effectively. In the case of interventions, both theories support the need for education and awareness in order to create social change. Social control theory emphasizes the importance of proper socialization, while social learning theory underscores the importance of observing and imitating positive behaviour (Whiteman et al., 2011).
Interventions should focus on educating individuals and raising awareness about the issue. Additionally, interventions should aim to promote positive social change by encouraging people to engage in positive, pro-social behaviour. By understanding and applying these theories, we can begin to effectively address the issue of domestic violence.
Social control theory believes that domestic and family violence is used to gain a particular self-interested purpose. The presence of acceptable social control procedures such as law enforcement or informal social sanctions from family, friends or colleagues would inhibit the perpetrator from using violence and abuse as a means to achieve their goal (Frye, 2007; Messing, 2011). Some examples of social control includes, cultural beliefs, religion and politics. Social control can be internal or external to the individual (Piquero & Rorie, 2015). External controls are external to the individual, such as the criminal justice system or family and friends, who apply sanctions when inappropriate or antisocial behaviours are demonstrated (Piquero & Rorie, 2015). An example of an external in the form of the criminal justice system is using punishment such as prison or a fine penalty for behaviour that is not acceptable by society. Internal controls are those internal to an individual, such as self-control or morality that stop the person from engaging in the antisocial behaviour (Piquero & Rorie, 2015). An example of internal individual social control is participating in community events/programs.
The majority, at the time that mandatory arrest policies were created, supported the idea that intimate partner violence was a crime. By mandating arrest, the power structure reflected this collective morality back to society, enforcing the collective morality, which allowed for mandatory prosecution policies to be enacted. The logic is that as the social system becomes more comfortable with the notion that domestic violence offenders will be arrested, it is not as difficult to increase the quantity of law so that domestic violence offenders will be prosecuted and possibly serve jail time.
Social learning theory, exposure to DFV can lead to a normalisation of violence and abuse, and cognitive behaviour change is often required for perpetrators to understand their behaviour as unacceptable and to learn alternative behavioural patterns (Ohanian, 2021). Victims, too, may require education and counselling to understand their experiences as socially unacceptable, potentially dangerous and as something worth seeking help for.
Impact / Consequence of these response for victims/perpetrators
This theory underscores the importance of early intervention and prevention programs that aim to break the cycle of violence by teaching nonviolent conflict resolution skills. Social learning theory has outlined that exposure of domestic and family violence leads to normalising abusive behaviour. Therefore, requiring perpetrators to understand their behaviour is not acceptable and to learn new behavioural response and victims to understand their experiences are socially not acceptable and can be dangerous (Ohanian 2021)
Exposure to DFV can lead to a normalisation of violence and abuse, and cognitive behaviour change is often required for perpetrators to understand their behaviour as unacceptable and to learn alternative behavioural patterns (Ohanian, 2021). Victims, too, may require education and counselling to understand their experiences as socially unacceptable, potentially dangerous and as something worth seeking help for.
Many Australian jurisdictions have undergone substantial legislative and practice reforms to improve service responses for victims and their children and to ensure that DFV perpetrators are held accountable at a community and statutory agency level. Social accountability signals to DFV perpetrators that using violence in the home is unacceptable (Meyer, 2016). Yet, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions has largely remained the role of law enforcement with an increasing focus on punishment.
Social control theory and social learning theory are two such theories that can help to explain why domestic violence occurs, and how best to respond to it. According to social control theory, people learn not to engage in criminal or deviant behaviour because they want to avoid the negative consequences that come with such actions (Lawson, 2012). In other words, people conform to societal norms and expectations out of a desire to fit in and avoid punishment. According to social learning theory, people learn by observing the behaviour of others and imitating those who they see as successful or respected (Fryling et al., 2011). This theory can help explain why some people who witness domestic violence are more likely to engage in it as victims or perpetrators later as an adult.
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