The Functions of the Social Bond

James J. Chriss, Cleveland State University


Travis Hirschi's control or social bonding theory argues that those persons who have strong and abiding attachments to conventional society (in the form of attachments, involvement, investment, and belief) are less likely to deviate than persons who have weak or shallow bonds. Later, Gottfredson and Hirschi moved away from the social bond as the primary factor in deviance, and toward an emphasis on self-control. In short, low self-control is associated with higher levels of deviance and criminality irrespective of the strength or weakness of one's social bonds. In this article I argue that Talcott Parsons' AGIL schema easily incorporates Hirschi's social bond into its broader analytical framework. Furthermore, from within the logical framework of Parsons' system, Hirschi's move from an emphasis on social bonds to an emphasis on self-control is wholly compatible with, and even anticipated by, the AGIL schema. The article illustrates, and argues for, the continuing importance of theoretical subsumption in sociology and criminology. Lastly, a set of testable hypotheses is generated based upon this theoretical reformulation.