Sociology Index

Travis Warner Hirschi

Travis Warner Hirschi is among leading American sociologists and an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. Travis Warner Hirschi helped develop the modern version of the social control theory of crime and also the self-control theory of crime. Travis Warner Hirschi was born in Rockville, Utah. In his 1969 work Causes of Delinquency, Travis Warner Hirschi posited his version of social control theory. Travis Warner Hirschi wrote that social bonds encouraged conforming behavior and prevented most people from committing crimes. Travis Warner Hirschi and Michael Hindelang published a study which showed that IQ and social class were equally predictive of crime. Travis Hirschi's Causes of Delinquency was an important contribution to deviant behavior research.

Travis Warner Hirschi received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Travis Warner Hirschi held positions at the University of Washington, the University of California, Davis, SUNY Albany and the University of Arizona. Travis Warner Hirschi was a fellow and past president of the American Society of Criminology.  In Causes of Delinquency, Hirschi attempts to state and test a theory of delinquency, seeing in the delinquent a person relatively free of the intimate attachments, the aspirations, and the moral beliefs that bind most people to a life within the law. Often listed as a Citation Classic, Causes of Delinquency retains its force and cogency with age. 

In 1990 when Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi published A General Theory of Crime, now often referred to as self control theory, it quickly became among the most discussed and researched perspectives in criminology.

In 1990, Hirschi and Gottfredson wrote that lack of self-control, which was tied to parenting issues, was the cause of crime. A 1983 paper in the American Journal of Sociology by Hirschi and Michael R. Gottfredson showed that younger age was associated with increased criminal activity independent of any other known factor. In 1977, he and Michael Hindelang published a study which showed that IQ and social class were equally predictive of crime; IQ had been previously discounted as a correlate of criminal behavior.

The Functions Of The Social Bond
James J. Chriss, Cleveland State University.
Abstract: Travis Hirschi's control or social bonding theory argues that those persons who have strong and abiding attachments to conventional society are less likely to deviate than persons who have weak or shallow bonds. Later, Gottfredson and Hirschi moved away from the social bond as the primary factor in deviance, and toward an emphasis on self-control. In short, low self-control is associated with higher levels of deviance and criminality irrespective of the strength or weakness of one's social bonds. I argue that Talcott Parsons' AGIL schema easily incorporates Hirschi's social bond into its broader analytical framework. Hirschi's move from an emphasis on social bonds to an emphasis on self-control is wholly compatible with, and even anticipated by, the AGIL schema. The article illustrates, and argues for, the continuing importance of theoretical subsumption in sociology and criminology. Lastly, a set of testable hypotheses is generated based upon this theoretical retornmlation.