Social structural theories can be classified into two main types. Type 1 theories ask how social structure explains the legal structure and social control mechanisms of society, such as social control theory, social bonding theory, conflict theory, and social disorganization theory. Type 2 theories attempt to explain how social structures affect individuals in terms of criminality and deviance, such as anomie theory and strain theory. These social structural theories are described as follows.
Social control theory argues that people are motivated to obey the law by social controls but that they do not need any special motivation to violate the law—this occurs naturally in the absence of any social controls. Since social control theorists assume everyone would violate the law if they could get away with it, they concentrate on explaining why people do not commit crime.
Hirschi formulated a control theory that he called social bonding theory. The theory proposes that delinquent acts result when a person’s bond (which is his or her attachment, commitment, involvement, and beliefs) to society is weakened or broken.
Conflict theory proposes that society is not held together by agreement or consensus on major values. Instead, it is held together by conflict, where groups are held together in a dynamic equilibrium of opposing group interests and efforts where power is the primary determinant of the outcome.