Social Control Theory: The Legacy of Travis Hirschi's Causes of Delinquency

Posted: 16 Jan 2020

See all articles by John H. Laub

John H. Laub

University of Maryland

Barbara J. Costello

University of Rhode Island

Date Written: January 2020


The publication of Travis Hirschi's in 1969 was a watershed moment in criminology. There are many reasons for the work's lasting influence. Hirschi carefully examined the underlying assumptions of extant theories of crime in light of what was known about the individual-level correlates of offending. He then developed critical tests of hypotheses derived from social control theory and competing perspectives and empirically assessed them using original self-report delinquency data. Many of his key findings, such as the negative correlation between attachment to parents and delinquency, are now established facts that any explanation of crime must consider. is still cited hundreds of times per year, and it continues to spark new research and theoretical development in the field. Perhaps the most lasting legacy is the volume of criticism it has attracted and fended off, leading to its enduring contribution to the study of crime and delinquency.

Suggested Citation

Laub, John H. and Costello, Barbara J., Social Control Theory: The Legacy of Travis Hirschi's Causes of Delinquency (January 2020). Annual Review of Criminology, Vol. 3, pp. 21-41, 2020, Available at SSRN: or

John H. Laub

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Barbara J. Costello (Contact Author)

University of Rhode Island ( email )

Quinn Hall
55 Lower College Rd.
Kingston, RI 02881
United States

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