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Christopher Gardner’s Rise from Homelessness


This essay demonstrates the rise of Gardner from homelessness to richness using various psychological theories. These theories offer alternative explanations on crime and influencing factors.

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Gardner’s Rise from Homelessness to Financial Success and Current Status

Chris Gardner is currently an investor, writer, philanthropist, actor and a motivational speaker who spends about 200 days every year traveling across the globe to deliver speeches (Gordon, 2016).

Christopher Paul Gardner was born on February 9, 1954 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His early life was characterized by neediness, deprivation, abusive home environment, alcohol addiction, sexual abuse and lack of education in the family. Gardner shared his personal history out of a yearning to reveal insights into these all-inclusive issues and demonstrate that one can always overcome hardship and attain greater success. A single mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, raised Gardner, instilled solid “spiritual genetics” and taught him to set his goals and attain them irrespective of his childhood environment (Gordon, 2016).

Although Gardner got an opportunity as an apprentice at DW R – a stockbrokerage firm, he became homeless when his meager pay could not sustain his life (Gordon, 2016). Nonetheless, Gardner worked at Bear Stearns and Co from 1983-1987 where he became the best performing employee. He later went ahead to set up his firm at home, Gardner Rich in Chicago in 1987, with just $10,000. The brokerage firm, Gardner Rich LLC, now specializes in handling public pension funds and TH plans (Gordon, 2016). Today, the firm has introduced other underwriting services, including services to worldwide markets using both standard and ADR shape (Gordon, 2016).

Gardner’s Experience (Difficulties and Successes): Theories

Gardner difficult experiences can be explained through deprivation, which refers to unmet need due to a lack of resources. As previously indicated, Gardner’s life was characterized by difficulties and deprivation, culminating to homeless. However, based on social control theory, Gardner avoided breaking the law. Social control theory suggests that individuals’ connections, duties, qualities, commitments, and convictions protect them from breaking the law and developing criminal tendencies. In the case of Gardner, strong “spiritual genetics” instilled by his mother could have played a critical role in shaping his behavior. In this manner, Gardner was able to internalize moral codes and subsequently, perhaps intentionally constrained his inclination to crime. This theory tries to explain how it is possible to lessen the probability of individuals becoming criminals in deprived environments.

Gardner was able to be successful because of his social circle and stronger ties with the mother who must have taught him what is wrong, immoral, illegal, and what is right and acceptable. In the absence of stronger controlling influences, however, Gardner perhaps could have turned to crime.

Gardner’s Background, Environment, and Life Improvement: Interest for a Social Control Theorist

The most interesting piece of information for any social control theorist would be Gardner’s background and family relations. Gardner did not get to meet his father. Raised by a single mother, discipline and “spiritual genetics”, played critical roles in shaping his formative years. Family relations – attachment to the mother, could have influenced choices of peers during teenage years. Consequently, a social control theorist would get insights on norms, beliefs, values, rewards or punishment that influenced the young Gardner (Williams & McShane, 2014).

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A social control theorist would be interested to understand how indirect social control could have aided in shaping Gardner’s behavior. Gardner must have identified by individuals who influenced behavior. Moreover, it was also possible that Gardner learned early that any act of crime or delinquent behavior could have resulted in pain and disappointment to his mother with whom he had a close relationship, a single parent in a deprived neighbourhood. Social control theory posits that teenagers could be directly controlled through limitations administered by parents or guardians, restricting any opportunities for unaccepted behaviors, and in addition through parental disciplines and rewards. Nevertheless, youth might be obliged when not under immediate control by their expectation of parental dissatisfaction, which is indirect control, or by developing conscience, which is an internal motivation to restrict behaviors to acceptable ones. The family is imperative in social control theory because it acts as the source of control for youth.

Social Control Mechanisms Gardner Might Have encountered in Early Life

Social control mechanisms, such as church/religion, schools, family, rules, norms, beliefs, and peers, could have aided Gardner’s behavior later in life. These means of social control show attempts to maintain normalcy in society. To some extent, some have functioned independently and viewed as attempts by society to manage itself. However, social control mechanisms presently target individuals to ensure that they conform to norms of society. They strive to create social order and deter unwanted behaviors. Gardner might have faced both formal and informal means of social control. By instilling norms and values in Gardner at a tender age, Gardner was able to socialize using informal control mechanisms to develop his behavioral possibilities of significantly wide range and perfect specific behavior standards for subsequent progress in society (behaviors driven by desires to find a lucrative and fulfilling career in finance). As such, Gardner was able to rise from homelessness to richness.

Additionally, formal methods of social control, particularly school, church, laws and regulations must have played vital roles in creating environments that restricted chaos in the life of Gardner. In short, regulations tend to be formal, and they are formulated to restrict unwanted behaviors. Hence, family, social circles, school, church, law among others could have reinforced positive social attributes in Gardner, who opted to hard work for success.

Frustrated Gardner, a Career of Crime, and Criminology Theories

It is imperative to recognize that Gardner was raised in an environment that could easily facilitate a career of crime. While many criminology theories exist, they do not defend crimes. Instead, they provide alternatives on how criminal behaviors can be explored and understood. Had Gardner opted for a career of crime, then differential association theory could have been applied to explain his deviant behavior. In this case, an act is defined as right or wrong. Learning techniques could have ensured that Gardner would be able to commit crime (Contreras, 2012; Siegel, 2016). At the same time, Gardner could have learned definitions of crime that encourage him to break the law. Hence, this theory posits that one must learn deviant behavior before they can engage in unlawful acts. If Gardner could have been exposed and interacted with criminals, then he was most likely to learn behaviors that defy the law. Additionally, social learning theory explains the notion that behavior is a function of past and present occurrences in one’s life. The exigencies of support and discipline (aversive stimuli) influence the recurrence of a specific conduct is enhanced or dropped. In this instance, six fundamental standards apply: positive and negative reinforcement; positive and negative punishment; discriminative stimuli, and schedules (Williams & McShane, 2014). These fundamental aspects of explaining delinquent behaviors could have been applied for Gardner’s life.


Contreras, R. (2012). The stickup kids: Race, drugs, violence, and the American dream. London, UK: University of California Press.

Gordon, D. (2016). Chris Gardner: The homeless man who became a multi-millionaire investor. Web.

Siegel, L. J. (2016). Criminology: The Core (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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Williams, F. P., & McShane, M. D. (2014). Criminological Theory (6th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.

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