Social Control Theory

Caldwell, Beutler, Ross and Silver (2006) revealed how all persons had the basic need to feel and think well about themselves, placing self-esteem as a basic and fundamentally universal motive for human behaviors. The social control theory emphasized on the quality of the individual’s bond to society and the commitment to conventional goals and activities (such as the school), involvement in these conventional activities and belief in conventional norms (Brook et al., 2010). Thus, the experience of negative relationships in the social environment of the child significantly influenced their self-esteem development.

An important social control theory, Kaplan’s (1975) self-derogation theory revealed that all motivations to maximize the self-esteem, the motivation to conform could be decreased by negative family, school, and peer interactions, because of how it led to devaluing one’s sense of self, interactions, and behavior. Interactions with family, school and peers could either lead to self-defacing or self-enhancing.  Moreover, Kaplan (1975) based this theory on the understanding that all persons had the basic need to feel good about themselves and to avoid negative evaluations.

When individuals experienced negative emotions, such as that from bullying and negative parenting styles brought about low self-esteem, within the context of this theory.  The theory had been built on the assumption that when children did not feel successful in participating in conventional reference groups such as family relationships and peer friendship networks, they would experience rejection, devaluation, and negative self-evaluation (Kaplan, 1975).  Moreover, when boys and girls experienced rejection from conventional reference groups, they would experience lowered self-esteem and diminished commitment to conventional reference groups and activities.


Brook, J., Saar, N., & Brook, D. (2010). Development pathways from parental substance use to childhood academic achievement. American Journal of Addiction 19(3), 270-276.

Caldwell, R. M., Beutler, L. E., Ross, S. A., & Silver, N. C. (2006). Brief Report: An examination of the relationships between parental monitoring, self-esteem and delinquency among Mexican American male adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 29(3), 459-464.

Kaplan, H. B. (1975). Self-Attitudes and Deviant Behavior. Palific Palisades, CA: Goodyear.

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