In contrast to most other crime theories, control theories do not try to explain deviant behaviour, but conformal behaviour. So the question asked here is: Why do some people not become criminals?
Control theories assume that basically everyone would be motivated to behave differently. Different forms of control prevent them from doing so. This control emanates from society and its institutions. Family, peers, schools, jobs, and others exercise social control over an individual and thus influence his or her behaviour. The stronger the attachment to these institutions and the stronger the internalisation of the values conveyed, the more likely it is that they will behave conformist.
Charles Tittle’s Control-Balance-Theory is a special case of control theories. Tittle’s approach considers not only the control exercised on an individual, but also the control that the individual has over himself and others. According to this theory, deviant behaviour occurs when someone has too much or too little control.
Control theory explain crime with the absence of control instances. A control function can be based not only on social ties, but also on internalized norms and values. The degree of control varies depending on the social and historical situation.
In his Social Bonds Theory (1969), Hirschi focuses on indirect, psychological control that acts on individuals to keep them from deviance. In Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime (1990), however, the focus is on more direct forms of control. While the “Social Bonds Theory” contains four different variables (attachment, belief, involvement & commitment), the General Theory of Crime reduces this to the variable of self-control.