Category: Law Essay
Law essay


There are numerous debates regarding theoretical integration in matters of criminology. Criminology is, therefore, a scientific field that draws its theories from different currents of psychology, law, and sociology. However, there lacks a unified conceptual framework amidst theoretical work and research. Diverse empirical studies have found linkages between a theoretical proposition and the criminology theories. The diverse theoretical approaches give an explanation of risk factors and criminal behaviors. Crime prevention is at times implicitly based on a theoretical comprehension of crime. Therefore, while focusing on the practicality of responses, more value is found in the acknowledgment of a theoretical explanation for crime alongside insights offered by these explanations.


Theoretical basis has guided the scientific studies propelling the causes of crime and delinquency. Good theories provide a foundational lens through which it becomes possible to comprehend the manifestation of behaviors. In criminology, the theoretical lens is founded on concepts of biology, psychology, and sociology with a typical explanation on behaviors that violate the stipulated laws of society. Responding to the unavailability of ‘single magical theory’, researchers have resulted in the integration of theories with a desire to acquire an explanation for a bigger proportion of crime and delinquency. Ideally, a theoretical integration is a composure of a single theory from theoretical constructs of competing theories. When integrated with criminology, it becomes advantageous to allow researchers to comprehend a behavior in a complex and complete manner. The two theories of differential social control by Ross Matsueda and Control balance by Charles Tittle have been identified as being closely associated with criminal justice. An analysis of integration for the components of these criminology theories is important in creating integrated models of crime and it improves understanding of causes of crime. In this paper, the objective is to discuss the integration of Differential Social control theory and Control Balance Theory in the context of criminology.

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Literature Review and Theory

Central sociological problems regard a process of dealing with deviance or crime and the manner in which it controls society. According to American Society of Criminology (2000), the majority of people argue that social interaction is an essential locus for controlling delinquency and crime though criminology theories but they hardly stress the interactional mechanisms of social control. According to Hagan (2001), recent development in criminological theories and research studies put more focus on the development of macro theories for the Marxist class category. On the other hand, Beirne and Messerschmidt (2011) articulated the life theory of life events and delinquency. However, in the criminal justice category, the most recognized integration of theories is differential Social control and the control Balance theory. Matsueda adopts symbolic interactionism aspect to demonstrate how social control for crime is engaged in the interactionism conception.

The explanation is based on Mead’s thesis in regards to self-arising towards problematic cases where individuals assume roles of duly significant others and views themselves from the perception of other individuals (Bernard, Vold, Snipes, & Gerould, 2010). At an individual level, Mead’s thesis perceives role-taking as a fundamental tool for social control. Essentially, reciprocal adoption of roles between the interacting parties facilitates for joint activity, implying a process of social cognition that results from problematic scenarios that Matsueda builds an explanation for the crime. Reflective thinking and self-consciousness are key in obtaining an explanation for criminology. Role-taking encompasses five essential processes that affect the probability of the occurrence of crime and forms delinquency behaviors. First, the particular meaning of reflected appraisal concerning being a rule violator affects criminology behaviors. In this regard, criminology is part of the stable definition of self-relevant to behavioral conduct and it arises through role-taking and labeling. Secondly, holding an attitude towards criminology mitigation to problematic scenarios could affect the probability of criminal behaviors. In the problematic scenarios, developing an attitude is a plan for action that serves to redirect social acts by means of role taking.

According to Britt and Gottfredson (2003), whenever attitudes of a social group lack a solution for a problem, it creates interaction discontinuity and the individual forms odd attitudes. In the case of criminology, it is expected that an individual will endeavor in criminal acts acceptable to law-abiding social groupings by justifying and neutralizing a behavior. In other cases, persons opt to change perspectives by changing roles such as having law violating peers who have a likelihood of committing criminal acts. Whenever attitudes that favor criminology are adopted by an individual, they gain stability and become a backup for future reference. As a result, the existence of stable attitudes and justification for criminology promotes increment of criminal resolutions towards problematic scenarios as pointed out by Merton (2005). Third, a process that affects Criminology involves the anticipation of reactions of others in criminal behaviors. Britt and Gottfredson (2003) argue that it is through role-taking that an individual becomes aware of other people’s reactions towards certain things; hence, they make considerations for the resulting consequences for reactions of a group membership. This is paramount in the theory of differential social control since the ability to anticipate a response.

In addition, Matsueda perceives criminology as likely to occur through habits or scripted responses built by previous experiences and, in most cases, occurring in the absence of reflective thinking. The latter builds a habit that gives individuals an opportunity to respond to future scenarios encountered in such situations without cognition. However, criminal behaviors become a habit more so when problematic cases are often solved, using criminal affiliated behaviors. They stop being problematic, but criminal engagement is resultantly automatic and habitual. The consistency is associated with psychological research, in which case behavior is seen as automatic and not reflective in the routine scenarios. Prior experience in aspects of criminology helps in predicting future crime, especially when criminal acts become a routine such as organized gangs.

On the other hand, the Tittle’s Control Balance Theory argues that traditionally control-based theories propose a breakdown of control irrespective of their source, hence leading to acts of crime and delinquency. Regarding the likelihood of deviance, the theory takes recognition of an individual controlling over others. Control imbalance happens when the control ratio is imbalanced by having more control and results in a surplus. If the control ratio moves in the opposite direction, then it results in a deficit. The control balance theory also argues the case of deviance as a component of the ratio of control as argued by Merton (2005). It articulates the mode of deviance that is supposedly committed as a component of the amount of control imbalance. The amount of control imbalance accorded is directly proportional to the likelihood of deviance although with inverse variations, depending on the amount of control deficit and a direct relationship between the amount of control surplus Policy implications of Control Balance Theory are essentially more complex than the social theory.

Whenever a policy aims at implementing programs that reduce criminology, applying control balance theory means that the policies ought to be focused on developing programs that hold individual control ratio balanced and assists individuals to manage their behavior. The policy initiatives are more oriented towards individuals, facing a controlled deficit than the deficit. Indeed, it is a more daunting task to design a program for convincing individuals facing a controlled surplus to avoid extending their control. Indeed, the control balance theory is itself an integrated theory as it incorporates the theme of control and integrates it with theoretical aspects of criminology.


There are various reasons justifying the integration of theories in criminology. Consequently, there are conceptual and pragmatic factors that oblige criminologists to focus on fewer seemingly enlightening theories such as social control and control balance theories. Although the control balance theory has not led to empirical studies as compared to Tittle’s social control theory, it is not to imply that control balanced activities have concepts that are not worth getting integrated into theoretical structure framework. Integration of the key theoretical concepts ought to stimulate advanced research on an empirical basis. Matsueda in the edition of Differential social theory proposes that individual associations are characteristically determined in the realization of basic context for social organization in prevention against crime. Tests for the Social theory have, however, remained at a micro-level and they ignore Matsueda’s views regarding peer associations that experience variations due to contextual effects of criminology. Moreover, the differential social theory has received criticism due to its failure to give an explanation regarding individuals possessing differential associations. As for Differential Social theory, the personal level variables include gauging an association alongside measures of criminal and non-criminal peers, development of attitudes for the law, and recognition of peer values.

Integrated Theories

The integrated framework of theories focuses on criminal behaviors that ought to be incorporating numerous components such as the capacity to perform behaviors, behavioral influences and mechanisms for behavior feedback. Social theory is fundamental for building integrative frameworks that incorporate the stated formulation. The criminology works that use this approach restate Differential Social theory in the context of social theory. The former theory brings on board the concept that the essential personal behavior is an instrumental mechanism that operates in alteration of an environment in a manner that influences subsequent personal characters. The basic instrumental model perceives the behavior as a measurable psychomotor whose results can be rewarding or punishing in what is termed as either positive or negative utility. As pointed out by Ross (1998) behavioral skills determine the type and level utility received. With regard to the context and timing of a presentation, utilities have the likelihood of causing the behavior to be increased or decreased.

There are two patterns of behavioral learning that must be distinguished in the context of criminology. The first is the definition of behavior on account of contingency, whereby behavioral learning is an element responsible for the sequence of utilities that is presented to an individual. Another category is the rule-governed behavior that hails from cognitive activities and that is a result of previous contingency learning). Key understanding of the Control Balance Theory entails aspects of observation learning such as modeling. Keen observation of peoples’ behavior under a condition for which these people get utilities increases the likelihood for the behavioral conduct in similar conditions (Ross, 1998). The social theory model presents an additional elaboration to portray the complexity of human conduct. For example, there are diverse types of the rule governing behaviors and a discriminative stimulus. For a criminal, the appearance of a weak individual in a deserted street constitutes discriminative stimuli since it is an ideal opportunity for facilitating a criminal act.

In this case, the criminal does not facilitate the occurrence of that favorable opportunity but he rather finds the opportunity by adopting the acquired knowledge in the physical and social orientation of the scene of the crime. Other elements of that crime have an effect on the likelihood of successfully executing the crime but will a possibility for manipulation. For instance, it includes technical and human resources, in which the criminal bears on the behavior, including working with fellow criminals and possessing weapons. The rule governing behavior involves a process of the rule of morality and expediency under the social theory. Experience comprises of rules learned through cognitive behavioral chains that give guidance for overt behaviors and that are designed to facilitate the maximization of acquisition for utilities. The decision regarding the confirmation to social norms in a bid to avoid sanctions may choose an imitation of social role models that obtains utility to follow designated plans for maximum utility acquisition and represents behaviors under the concerns of expediency. On the other hand, rules for morality are cognitive behavioral chains that give guidance for behavior in defining what is right and what is wrong. Such rules are different regarding quality right from behavior assessment and maximization of utility. The rules governing morality are obliged to govern duty and ethical obligations, therefore, distinguishing them from assessing behaviors.

Negative and undesirable utility plays a role in the promotion of crime and delinquency. The utility could be either formal or informal reprimand for the lack of being law abiding. The social theory advocates for an equally desirable utility that should be produced and distributed uniformly within the social structures. The likelihood of punishment at certain security levels is dependent on the resources allocated towards enforcement of law and order within the established correctional facilities and harsh penalties imposed by judges. The expectation is finding a structural variability in criminology on the basis of varied utility in production and distribution.

Integrative Structures of Criminological Theories

Whenever a theory is mapped onto the integrative structure, the only aspects mapped are the formulations explicitly cut out in the theory and not making additional extensions for the formulation. The control balance theory is centered on the ideology of criminal behaviors being learned along with the surrounding mechanisms involved in the learning. Behaviors that violate the laws of the land are perceived expressing general values and needs in developing learning processes that motivate and drive attitudes. It is also pertinent to learn the integrative constructs of behavior because when learning a criminal behavior, there is the inclusion of techniques for committing a crime. An additional consideration regarding the integration of the theories goes beyond the basic forms that give proposition for integration models. An integrated framework accounts for the different concepts and at different levels of analysis to ensure a link between the two theories in regard to concepts proposing the basic causes of crime.

The theory equally emphasizes the need to distinguish attitudes and rationalization regardless of whether they are favorable or unfavorable to the legality of codes. In some societies, a person becomes surrounded by people who attribute the definition of legal codes to being rules that ought to be observed while in other cases, it means a favorable violation of legal codes. Negative labeling formulation indicates that punitive social reactions towards a criminal behavior would likely reduce the likelihood of opposite effects. According to Parsons and Smelser (2002), the social theory in this scenario precisely relates to a symbolic interactionist formulation that postulates behavior, and its results for social relations are defined by the meaning accorded by other people’s behaviors. While symbolic interactionism is concerned with theoretical views of human interactions, negative labeling is duly concerned with the manner, in which negative symbolism increases behaviors for rule-breaking.

According to the social control theory, the social attributes of personal characteristics have the ability to alter a person’s behaviors more so because the source of the attribution is a ‘powerful’ position with respect to the individual. Whenever the law abiding persons get hold of criminal offenders and believe them to have a disposition towards criminal actions, they have the mandate to administer negative sanctions and make communication for their assessment that the said person is indeed an offender. However, the majority of law-abiding persons have no will to be associated with the offender and, in many cases, they will deny accessibility towards a legitimate opportunity. More misconduct and exposure towards these sanctions and attributes make the offender develop self-concepts for continuing those criminal acts such as shoplifting or burglary. Therefore, the integrated theories outline four crucial mechanisms that model an integrative construct, including utility demand, guidance for morality, adoption of utility, and demand for the utility. When criminal identity and delinquency crystallize, there is a likely increment in unconventional social relations.

According to Parsons and Smelser (2002), the social control theory regards illegal behaviors to be a measure of resultant failure for establishing a bond among conventional social groups, including family setting and peers. In the absence of robust conventional bonding as well as behavioral constraints, the individual is likely to fall into unconventional characters. In this theory, Matsueda settles for a systematic treatment of bonding and hence, the theory’s viability for integration. Matsueda identifies four critical components of bond mechanisms, which is are establishing attachment, engagement, commitment, and belief.


A major fundamental rule for expedience is concerned with attention granted upon other people’s behaviors while making an imitation for their success. The integration between the Control Balance Theory and Social Theory comprises a rational aspect for establishing a link because it allows one to gauge results of either social conforming or nonconforming behaviors. In this regard, integration involves rule for expedience. The integration aspect of social linkage entails emotional fulfillment from the law-abiding individuals. Indeed, theoretical integration in criminology proposes that law-abiding citizens are a significant source of positive utility while criminology poses a threat to these positive relations. In brief, the paper covered an outline for the integration of Tittle’s control balance theory and Matsueda’s social theory with considerations on the types of a crime necessary for an explanation with a mention of criticism and praise for the theories.

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