This paper is going to deal with the reasons of antisocial and delinquent behaviors. Theories of Social and Self Control discussed by Ronald L. Simons, Lesley Gordon Simons and Laura Ebert Wallace in “Families, Delinquency and Crime: Linking Society’s most Basic Institution to Antisocial Behavior” will be thoroughly considered and contrasted in order to find out which of them explains the antisocial and delinquent behavior of people in a better way. One of the theories under consideration will be compared with the example of a separate person who was chosen as a participant of the project because of his exhibition of antisocial behavior.
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A person who lives in a society and interacts with other members of it should follow certain rules of behavior established by the society itself and consisting of a certain set of norms and standards. However not all the members of society prove to observe the established rules exhibiting antisocial behavior, which is associated with criminality and delinquency. Antisocial behavior is any act that violates the rules and laws of society – an act that is illegal, no matter what age of the perpetrator (Connor & Barkley, 2004, p. 7). It includes different types of crimes starting from the minor ones such as assault, robbery, theft, burglary and ending with the most serious ones, for instance, kidnapping and homicide, as well as such “behaviors as diverse lying, disobedience, truancy, running away, drug use, setting fires, vandalism” (Henggeler, Schoenwald & Borduin, 1994, p. 4). Criminality and delinquency can be treated as a subgroup of antisocial behavior with criminality as a rule referring to the offences committed by adults and delinquency dealing with illegal acts committed by a minor. Some scientists keep to the point that antisocial behavior of children and adolescents depends directly on socio-economic status of their family whereas others state that there exist other reasons underlying such behavior. There is a necessity to find out and explain possible reasons of antisocial behavior considering the example of a separate individual and to contrast the obtained information with the existing theories of antisocial behavior.
The participant of the research is David, male, age 13, a student of the seventh grade of the middle school. Over the past year and a half David was exhibiting antisocial behavior which is revealed in his extreme aggression to his peers and his being detained twice for the suspicion in theft. Recently he was also noticed among the members of the local gang of minors; some of them are regularly detained by the police officers as loitering in public places with a presumed purpose of theft. Occasionally David was caught smoking and sometimes drinking alcohol; every time he was brought home by police officers who notified the parents about the incident. David comes from the family with a sufficient proficiency level and his parents stated that they have been paying enough attention to the upbringing of their child.
The Results of Individual’s Antisocial Behavior
The results of David’s antisocial behavior are his lacking behind the class at school for he is constantly skipping classes; he also does not have friends within the school or among unproblematic adolescents; he has been running away from home twice; he has been detained twice and is suspected in some other instances of theft in the neighborhood.
Assumed Reasons of Individual’s Antisocial Behavior
Major factors that seem to have contributed to David’s present behavior seem to be insufficient attention on the part of parents at this stage of personality development of the child and absence of parents’ desire to accept the fact that they have a problem child.
Nothing except for domestic punishment has been done so far in order to improve David’s behavior though police officers repeatedly insisted on correction facilities. However, the parents do not accept the problem as such referring to transitional age of their son. They have been warned that in case of another detention, corrective measures will be taken in a compulsory way.
It is advisable for the parents to consider different reformatories and corrective institutions because home punishment seems to be not efficient enough to deal with David’s antisocial behavior.
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Theories of Antisocial Behavior
It is necessary to examine the theories of antisocial behavior put forward by other scientists in order to examine David’s situation more thoroughly. Ronald. L. Simons together with other contributors to the book “Families, Delinquency and Crime: Linking Society’s most Basic Institution to Antisocial Behavior” considers ineffective parenting to be the main reason of juvenile delinquency and that children who exhibited antisocial behavior as a rule have problem with law when they grow up. In general, parents of high-risk children have been found to be less involved in their child’s education (Robert Bruce Rutherford, Mary M. Quinn, Sarup R. Mathur, 2004, p. 291) which proves to be true judging from David’s case since his parents do not seem to care a lot about their son’s skipping classes and doing not well at school. The book also emphasizes that among the group of adolescents with antisocial behavior those who were supervised by counselors proved to mend the behavior and reduced the chances of becoming delinquent.
Social Control Theory
The essence of this theory lies in the fact that every person has a strong bound with a society he or she was born in and antisocial behavior arises because this bound is broken or not strong enough. Hirschi states that there exist four elements of this bond which are attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. Social control theory suggests that people are able to follow the norms of society when they have attachments with other members of it, when they are striving to achieve an established goal, when they take part in conventional activities and when they understand and respect laws. Those individuals who lack these elements of the social bound become delinquent.
In a Self-Control Theory parenting has a central role. According to this theory, all individuals are born with low self-control and it should be the primary task of parents to cultivate norms and standards of social behavior as well as self-control in their children. Self-control should be acquired before the age of 10, otherwise further attempts to acquire it will be unsuccessful. Those individuals who didn’t manage to acquire self-control before the age of ten are more likely to be involved in adolescent delinquency and, as a result, adult crime. Gottfredson and Hirschi regard self-control as the most evident cause of delinquency though some of other scientists considered it to be an insufficient reason for developing delinquent behavior.
Therefore, it can be concluded that Social Control Theory explains the delinquent and deviant behavior better than Self Control Theory as, according to the studies described in the book, social bond proved to be a more reliable issue than self-control. Judging from David’s situation, the parents did miss something while bringing him up but it is unlikely that it was self-control. David lacks two elements of social bound, namely attachment and belief for he does not interact with his peers having normal social behavior and does not respect laws which is proved by his detentions. This makes his behavior antisocial and is likely to result in further delinquent behavior.
Connor, D.F., Barkley, A.R. (2004). Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: Research and Treatment. Guilford Press.
Henggeler, S.W., Schoenwald, S.K., Borduin, C.M. (1998). Multisystemic Treatment of Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents. Guilford Press.
Rutherford, R.B., Quinn, M.M., Mathur, S.R. (2004). Handbook of Research in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Guilford Press.