Sociology: Sociology and Formal Social Control Essay

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Examine the role of formal and informal social control in controlling individual’s behaviour (12 marks)
Social control refers to a set of limited values and norms that are considered acceptable within society. There are two types of social control; informal and formal. Formal social control is that which is practised by specific social agencies which have the role of maintaining order in society such as the police force. Informal social control is more subtle and reflects on the social interaction between people for example education. Both types of social control are effective in controlling the behaviour of individuals. Functionalists argue that these values are ‘vital’ for society to run. However, Marxists believe that social control is a way for the ruling class to successfully impose their views and values on society while creating laws that reflects their own interests.
Informal social control is something most people experience every day, for example a child being grounded by their parents. Hirschi found that people are more likely to take part in criminal activity when their attachment to society is weakened. This leads to social bonds that hold people together in society; attachment, commitment, involvement, belief. Hirschi argues that if attachment to society was to increase, the level of crime would decrease. The family plays a key role in informal social control. Farrington and West carried out a study out a study of 411 working class males born in 1953 until their late 30s. The study found that less than 6% of the total sample accounted for over 50% of all convictions and the research shows that family traits were a cause of this. It was more likely offenders would come from homes with poor parents or lone-parent families. This suggests that informal social control can lead to crime and therefore is not effective in controlling the behaviour of individuals. The community is another factor within informal social control. Murray found that children from underclass families are more likely to be brought up with little or no concern for society’s values. Poorer communities are being destroyed by the underclass. Overall it has been suggested that the best way to understand why people commit crimes is because of the failure of the family and thus make informal social control ineffective.
Functionalists believe that formal social control keeps society together. The legal system gives people boundaries and creates a system of what is wrong and what is right. Prosecution provides a means of checking whether that law reflect the majority of society. Therefore the law exists…