Toward an Elaborated (and More Powerful) Control Theory of Delinquency

Carter Hay, Washington State University

A commonly-recognized problem with criminological theory is that although most theories receive some empirical support, the explanatory power of any single theory tends to be rather linited. One proposed emedy for this problem is theoretical elaboration, a stragegy for improving explanatory power that involves more fully developing our existing theories in ways that preserve their basic assumptions about human nature and the social order. The purpose of this paper is to show how theoretical elaboration can be used to produce a more powerful version of control theory in particular. Control theory currently is seen principally in terms of Hirschi (1969) and Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990. Each of these theories conceives of control rather narrowly, and thus, each excludes potentially important sources of control (including some of those found in the other). The control theory presented here corrects for this problem by conceiving of control more broadly, thereby incorporating all of the explanatory variables found in prior control theories, as well as a few other variables that are not. The end result is an elaborated control theory that should have greater explanatory power than any of the single control theories from which it draws.

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Updated 05/20/2006