Hirschi’s Criminology

Barbara J. Costello

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Hirschi’s Criminology

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime



Travis Hirschi is an influential scholar in the field of criminology, largely because of his “social control theory” (also known as “social bond theory”), presented in Causes of Delinquency , and “self-control theory,” presented in A General Theory of Crime. Both theories have been supported by empirical evidence, but also sparked controversies. This article examines three of Hirschi's major contributions to the methods of analysis in criminology: his emphasis on the importance of making underlying assumptions of theories explicit, and concomitantly, his argument that “separate and unequal is better” than theoretical integration; his call for theories to be subject to rigorous empirical testing, and how new empirical knowledge enabled him to turn away from social control theory and to the development of self-control theory with Michael Gottfredson; his belief in the development of parsimonious theory that avoids unnecessarily complicating the explanation of what is actually a very simple phenomenon.

Keywords: Travis Hirschi; criminology; social control theory; Causes of Delinquency; self-control theory; A General Theory of Crime; theories; empirical testing; Michael Gottfredson

Article.  5732 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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