Testing the Nature and Limits of Informal Social Control: Extending the Systemic Model of Social Disorganization

George E. Capowich, Loyola University

The systemic model of social disorganization posits neighborhood-level effects of social networks on victimization levels. In particular this theoretical model proposes that the informal social control emanating from these networks accounts for varying crime levels. Although some research supports this hypothesis, recent evidence has refined our understanding of how social networks affect crime, highlighted the importance of non-linear relationships, and has, in some cases, cast doubt on this control hypothesis by suggesting that other factors (such as strain) may operate at the neighborhood level. This study uses three waves of the British Crime Survey to estimate reciprocal models that test whether control or inequality contributes to victimization levels. The results are discussed in terms of the light they shed on the nature of informal csocial control and the implications for the theory's scope and structure are explored.

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Updated 05/20/2006