John Hagan (1988:1), in his book Structural Criminology, attempts to "use a structural methodology to develop theoretical perspectives on crime and delinquency". He proposes the study of social structure in terms of power relations between individuals or groups. Inherent to this structural approach to criminology, is the study of vertical, hierarchical relations between members of society. This may be because to commit crimes is, in essence, to exercise ones power over others. Additionally, by being punished for committing a crime implies that others are exercising their power over an individual. Structural Criminology views the study of power relations as the core of criminological research. This perspective concerns itself not only with the study of power in relation to criminal behavior, but also in the study of others reactions to criminal behavior (Hagan, 1988:1-2).
Hagan suggests that traditional studies of criminal behavior have taken into account the concept of power relations, but failed to incorporate it into their methodology:
Dr. Hagan points out that his intentions are not to undermine the work of the theorists mentioned above. Although their work has impacted the field of criminology significantly, "the problem is in the translation of these theoretical insights into the structural study of crime" (Hagan, 1988:3).
An understanding of a structural approach to criminology, which is at the core of John Hagans work, permits the analysis of Power-Control Theory. Concerned with the issues of gender and delinquency, Power-Control Theory proposes that "the class structure of the family plays a significant role in explaining the social distribution of delinquent behavior through the social reproduction of gender relations" (Hagan, 1988:146). In other words, the structure of the family or the distribution of power within the home, based on the positions that parents occupy at home and outside of the home (for instance at work, etc.), play an important role in determining how gender roles will be interpreted and reproduced by children. This process will, in turn, effect the social distribution of delinquency. Power-Control Theory is concerned with the etiology of crime and delinquency and proposes the study of the causal relationship between class-structure of the family and the reproduction of gender roles in causing boys to be more inclined to engage in criminal behavior than girls. Recently, feminists have helped to reawaken the study of crime in relation to gender because they ask and are concerned with the question: Why are boys or men more prone to criminality than girls or women? Hagan (1988:149) cites Wilkinson and McCord in noting that the decline of the study of the family, in the 1970s, was due to an increased tolerance for divorce and an increased participation of other institutions, such as the school and churches, in matters that traditionally had concerned the family.
Hagan notes that the concepts of power and control are similar, although generally kept separate for conceptual and empirical purposes. Power theories, are generally concerned with the relationship between employer and employee or owner and worker and control theories are also concerned with power issues, but usually as they pertain to the family, for instance between parent and child. Power-Control Theory, as power and control theories do, studies the relations of power within the family and in reference to the degree to which children are free to deviate from norms (Hagan, 1988:150-151).
Patriarchy is a central feature of Power-Control Theory. Hagan (1988:151) cites Millett in defining the family as the "chief institution" for creating and maintaining a patriarchal society. The ways in which males create and maintain relationships that allow them to control others, both males and females, is of significant importance to an understanding of the theory. This tendency to create hierarchical situations takes place not only in the workplace, but also at home between spouses and with children. Hagan (1988:151-153) suggests that as males in patriarchal families are generally employed outside of the home, the female or mother is normally delegated the job of controlling the children.
Hagan identifies three levels of the theory and then five links that bring these levels together:
Link 1 is concerned with the fact that male adolescents are freer to be involved in acts that the patriarchal state considers delinquent than female adolescents. Link 2 notes that, in families, mothers, more so than fathers, are delegated the task of controlling the children. More importantly, daughters are controlled more than sons. Link 3 addresses the risk-taking preferences that result from Link 2. If daughters are controlled more than sons are, then the latter will be more apt to take risks (Hagan, 1988:151-153). In this model, "delinquency is regarded as an adolescent form of risk-taking (hence links 4 and 5)" (Hagan, 1988:153).
Patriarchy has survived and been maintained through the development of industrial capitalist societies in the western world. Power-Control Theory is concerned with the ways in which patriarchy has helped to reproduce gender relations that foster the involvement of boys more so than girls in adolescent delinquency (Hagan, 1988:154-155). Hagan (1988:155) cites Weber and then discusses his concept of consumption and production spheres. In patriarchal structured families, women have been traditionally occupied with domestic labor and the sphere of consumption. Men, on the other hand, have worked outside of the home and been central to labor power and the production sphere of industrial capitalist societies. The consumption sphere has been associated with the home, while he production sphere with work. These spheres have traditionally been kept separate and contributed considerably to the reproduction of gender relations that Power-Control Theory is so concerned with (Hagan, 1988:155).
The emergence of women who became involved in the production spheres changed the previously well-defined separation. The consumption and production spheres began to overlap. Hence the egalitarian family evolved, where daughters began to be prepared to join the production sphere like the sons. The spheres of consumption and production became undivided by gender (Hagan, 1988:156-157).
Power-Control Theory asks "How does this happen and what are its consequences? It answers this question by joining a class analysis of the family with an analysis of the division of parental social control labor discussed above" (Hagan, 1988:157). As women gain more power in proportion to their spouses, daughters will also be treated more equally to sons. "With this in mind, Power-Control Theory predicts that patriarchal families will be characterized by large gender differences in common delinquent behavior, while egalitarian families will be characterized by smaller gender differences in delinquency" (Hagan, 1988:158).
John Hagan and his colleagues in Canada conducted a test of Power-Control Theory. During months of January through April in 1979, a sample was drawn and information was obtained from students and parents at seven schools in the greater Toronto metropolitan area (Hagan, 1988:161). The final sample consisted of 463 students (Hagan, 1988:161). Students were offered five dollars, as an incentive, to participate in the survey (Hagan, 1988:161). The parents of the respondents were interviewed by telephone, in order to obtain the necessary information to create a measure of family class position (Hagan, 1988:161).
Family class relations were operationalized on the "Darendorf scale" (Hagan, 1988:170-171). This scale identifies positions of power in the workplace, as well as in the home. In addition to patriarchal and egalitarian families, families classified as "female-headed household" are included (Hagan, 1988:174). These "female headed households" are predicted to exhibit similar results to that of egalitarian families and were included for comparative purposes only (Hagan, 1988:174).
Power-Control Theory asserts that positions of power in the workplace will affect positions of power in the home and consequently these power relations will affect the relationship between gender and delinquency. Additionally, Power-Control Theory asserts that the relationship between gender and delinquency will be the strongest in egalitarian or balanced families where the relative positions of power between men and women in the workplace and at home reflect on the extent to which daughters and sons are controlled. It is predicted that as mothers gain more freedom relative to fathers, daughters will gain more freedom relative to sons. Conversely, Power-Control Theory predicts that the relationship between gender and delinquency will be disproportionate in patriarchal or unbalanced families, where daughters are to be more controlled than sons, and mothers are generally assigned the task of being the controller. Most importantly, these predictions assert that as daughters gain more freedom they will become more apt to take risks, similar to those taken by sons. In patriarchal families, sons are assumed to be more avid risk takers, while daughters, because they are more controlled, are not (Hagan, 1988:174-175).
This evidence that was obtained is consistent with the predictions of Power-Control Theory. According to the questionnaire administered to the sample of students and the conversations engaged in with those students parents, the following results were obtained:
Maternal control was found to be the highest for daughters and lowest for sons of patriarchal families. In egalitarian and female-headed households, maternal control for both sons and daughters was very similar (Hagan, 1988:179-180).
Similar results were found in measures of paternal control, but it was found that in egalitarian and female-headed household, daughters are controlled slightly less than sons by fathers (Hagan, 1988:180-181).
Levels of risk preference predictably show that in unbalanced families daughters have a lower level of risk preference than sons do. In egalitarian families, levels of risk preference are rather similar (indicating that as daughters gain more freedom relative to sons, their level of risk preference increases). In female-headed households, sons show a higher level of risk preference, but they do not differ markedly from daughters (Hagan, 1988:180-183).
The bar graph for levels of perceived risk indicates that for all family class types, daughters perceive a higher risk than sons do (Hagan, 1988:180-184). Hagan suggests that based on the information obtained thus far, it appears that levels of risk preference are more important "in explaining gender differences in delinquent behavior (Hagan, 1988:183)."
Lastly, levels of self-reported delinquency indicate that in patriarchal families sons report more delinquency than daughters do. In egalitarian and female-headed households, self-reported delinquencies by daughters increase significantly (Hagan, 1988:183-185).
In summary Hagan says:
Research That Has Altered Power-Control Theory
Hill and Atkinson, of North Carolina State University, have also attempted to test Power-Control Theory. Their concern, however, rests in the theorys proposition that sons are supposedly more inclined to take risks. It is this inclination that Power-Control Theory suggests causes them to be more delinquent than daughters (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:132). Hill and Atkinson (1988:132) ask, "Where does this preference for risk come from?" They explain that as far as egalitarian families are concerned, the theory posits that because both parents are employed in positions of authority, both males and females would be equally inclined toward risk taking behavior. However, in patriarchal families, males greater inclination toward risk taking behavior goes unexplained by the theory (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:132). They suggest these two answers as explanations to this discrepancy:
(1) Sons are learning risk preference from their mothers. In this case there is no reason to believe that daughters are any more the objects of control than are sons. Rather, sons and daughters are the objects of different types of controls. (2) Sons are learning risk preference form their fathers. From this view, mothers and fathers are equally instruments of familial control, albeit of different types (Hill and Atkinson 1988:132).
In order to explore this discrepancy, Hill and Atkinson attempt to test Power-Control Theory. They choose to measure parental control separately from parental support (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:133). Hill et al. (1988:133) cite Rollins and Thomas in defining parental support as "behavior manifested by a parent toward a child that makes the child feel comfortable in the presence of the parent and confirms in the childs mind that he is basically accepted and approved by the parent." They call this approach a "multidimensional measure of familial social control" (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:134). These authors used data obtained form the Institute for Juvenile Research, which yielded a sample of 3,110 youths between the ages of fourteen to eighteen (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:134). Their results showed that both mothers and fathers were involved in providing support for both sons and daughters. Measures of control indicated that fathers were in fact responsible for controlling their children. Sons were more commonly found to be the objects of paternal control and daughters of maternal control. They found that this control of children was instrumental in deterring delinquent activity. Both sons and daughters reported support and control from parents. They find that the difference in control between daughters and sons is not that daughters are controlled more, but that sons and daughters are the objects of different controls. Hill and Atkinson point out that the different results obtained are probably due to the fact that they measured not only control, but also support. Had they not, they predict that their results would have been similar to Hagans (daughters would have been the common object of control). Hill et al. find that their data and Hagans research coincide in reference to the reproduction of gender division. If daughters are more commonly the objects of maternal support and control and sons are more commonly the object of paternal support and control, then as Hagan has suggested, this process would continue to divide the consumption and production spheres that Weber discusses (Hill and Atkinson, 1988:142-144).
Singer and Levine (1988:629), of the State University of New York at Buffalo, attempted to replicate Hagans findings. They obtained information from 705 youths and 560 of their parents (Singer and Levine, 1988:631). Their methods and hypotheses were very similar to that of Power-Control Theory (Singer and Levine, 1988:630-635). Their findings, however, were both similar and dissimilar to the results of the Toronto study. They found that in patriarchal and egalitarian families, female children were controlled more than males and that sons are more likely to be involved in acts that involve risk taking than daughters. One major dissimilarity was found in Power-Control Theorys assumption that in patriarchal families there should be more of a difference between self-reported delinquent acts by daughters and sons than in egalitarian families. Singer and Levine (1988:643) found the opposite to be true in their study. However, they also point out that:
Gary F. Jensen of Vanderbilt University and Kevin Thompson of North Dakota State University tested Power-Control Theory using three surveys carried out in the United States. One of these surveys was national. Their study is not a replication of Hagans study, but a test of it (Jensen and Thompson 1990:1011-1013). Jensen et al. (1990:1014-1015) conclude, "In short, these three data sets support the most common conclusion in the literature, and that is that there is no consistent relationship between class and indices of common self-reported delinquency." Jensen et al. (1990:1021) suggest that differences in gender for common forms of delinquency according to family class structure are difficult to establish, due to the fact that the Toronto study omits certain categories of family class structure, such as "mother-dominant households." Another criticism of the theory and its test is that "variables central to other theories and relevant to the explanation of both delinquency and gender differences in delinquency are omitted with no justification (e.g., delinquent companions, social and moral bonds)" (Jensen and Thompson 1990:1021).
Morash and Chesney-Lind (1991:353), in their article, "A Reformulation and Partial Test of the Power-Control Theory of Delinquency," used the National Survey of Children to evaluate Power-Control Theory. They find that "girls are less delinquent than boys in every type of family" and their research "did not reveal a positive relationship of delinquency to upper class status, but rather showed the opposite" (Morash and Chesney-Lind 1991:369). These authors also comment that in some types of families, such as where the mother was single and not working, she tended to control male children more than females (Morash and Chesney-Lind, 1991:371). Morash et al. (1991:372) indicate that a "negative stereotype of females" is present in Hagans analysis.. They also find that delinquency is greater in lower-class families. They feel that Hagans findings undermine the importance of poverty in etiological factors of delinquent behavior (Morash and Chesney-Lind, 1991:373). Morash et al. (1991:374) cite Figuiera-McDonough , in suggesting that other factors, such as "the role of peers and the school" need to be taken into account .
Power-Control Theorys Current Usage and Popularity
Vincent F. Sacco, of Queens University, has suggested the application of Power-Control Theory to the study of gender, fear, and victimization. In his article, "Gender, Fear, and Victimization: A Preliminary Application of Power-Control Theory," printed in the Sociological Spectrum, he discusses the current contradiction between men and women about rates and fear of victimization. Men, although more likely to be victimized, have a lower fear of victimization than women. Women are less likely to be victimized, yet have a higher fear of victimization. Past research, according to Sacco, has attempted to resolve this discrepancy in two ways. First, it has been suggested that measures of female victimization are erroneous and that victimization levels for women are not as low as the data has suggested. Second, womens fear of victimization may cause them to avoid situations that may be threatening or put them at risk of being victimized. Sacco proposes the application of Power-Control Theory to the study of gender, fear, and victimization. He suggests that if sons are more inclined to take risks, thereby increasing the possibility of their involvement in delinquent behavior, then they should consequently increase their chances of being victimized. Also, he suggests that since daughters are controlled more than sons, the justification for these additional controls by parents may be a tendency to teach daughters that they are more vulnerable in certain situations and they should exercise greater caution. The upbringing of daughters rarely involves much instruction on self-defense, which logically promotes their reliance on males for protection. This inherently creates an imbalance of power in their relationships (Sacco, 1990:485-500). In closing, Sacco (1990:501) suggests that "the utility of Power-Control Theory implies an important reordering of research priorities" for the study of gender and its relation to fear and rates of victimization .
In their article, "Changes in the Sex Patterning of Perceived Threats of Sanctions," Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell (1993:680)predict that "when Hagan's Power-Control Theory is coupled with certain demographic trends, change over time in the gender patterning of perceived risks should indeed be expected." In other words, based on the predictions of Hagan's Power-Control Theory, as women gain power relative to men, we should expect to see changes concerning the expected perceived threats of shame, embarrassment, and legal sanctions. We should begin to see women perceiving less threat of engaging in risk-taking behavior. Grasmick et al. (1993:679-681) test their hypothesis: "women's tendency to score higher than men on these perceived threats (shame, embarrassment, legal sanctions) is not as strong in 1992 as it was a decade ago." Using information obtained by the Department of Sociology at Oklahoma State University, they analyze data from two surveys (Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell, 1993:686). The first was obtained in 1982 and includes 350 participants, the second in 1992 with 396 participants (Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell, 1993:686). The study focused on two types of offenses: petty theft and simple assault (Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell, 1993:686). The final sample totaled 746 participant, but after deletion of some cases the final sample for theft was 738 and 733 for assault (Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell, 1993:687). Grasmick et al. (1993:695) found that in 1982, men scored lower than women for the perceived threat of shame for both types of offenses considered. For the 1992 data, their study did not show any significant convergence (Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell, 1993:695). In regard to perceived threat of embarrassment and legal sanctions, their results indicated that among those individuals who had a college education "significant convergence was observed for theft, for both embarrassment and legal sanctions. For assault, it was detected for embarrassment"(Grasmick, Bursik, and Blackwell 1993:697).
John Hagans Power-Control Theory has been tested numerous times. All of the studies considered here indicate a discrepancy, although it is often resolved. Hagans findings, in the Toronto study tended to support the theorys predictions, while other studies, attempting to replicate Hagans findings, arrived at different conclusions. However, the usefulness of Power-Control Theorys attempt to resolve the discrepancy between gender and delinquency cannot be denied. As discussed in this paper, Power-Control Theory has been applied to other areas of criminological research, for instance the study of gender, fear, and victimization, and its contributions there have, undoubtedly, been significant. However, research repeatedly seems to indicate that numerous other factors that have been shown to influence delinquency, such as peers, environment, etc., should be considered in the theory.
A. Book and Articles
Grasmick, Harold G., Brenda Sims Blackwell, and Robert J. Bursik, Jr. (1993). Changes in Sex Patterning of Perceived Threats of Sanctions. Law and Society Review. 27(4), 679-702.
Grasmick, Harold G., John Hagan, Brenda Sims Blackwell, Bruce J. Arneklev. (1996). Risk preferences and patriarchy: extending power-control theory. Social forces. 75(1), 177-199.
Hagan, John. (1977). The Disreputable pleasures. Toronto, Montreal, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, Auckland, Bogota, Dusseldorf, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Mexico, New Delhi, Panama, Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited.
Hagan, John, A. R. Gillis, and John Simpson. (1985). The Class structure of gender and delinquency: toward a power-control theory of common delinquent behavior. American journal of sociology. 90(6), 1151-1176.
Hagan, John, A. R. Gillis, and John Simpson. (1987). Class in the household: a power-control theory of gender and delinquency. American journal of sociology. 92(4), 788-815.
Hagan, John, A. R. Gillis, and John Simpson. (1988). Feminist scholarship, relational and instrumental control, and a power-control theory of gender and delinquency. The British journal of sociology. 39(3), 301-334.
Hagan, John. (1988). Structural criminology. Cambridge:Polity Press.
Hagan, John. (1990). The Structuration of gender and deviance: a power-control theory of vulnerability to crime and the search for deviant role exits. Canadian review of sociology and anthropology. 27(2), 137-154.
Hagan, John. (1994). Crime and disrepute. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Pine Forge Press.
Hagan, John, A. R. Gillis, and David Brownfield. (1996). Criminological controversies. Colorado: Westview Press.
Hagan, John and Bill McCarthy. (1997). Mean streets. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
Hill, Gary D. and Maxine P. Atkinson. (1988). Gender, Familial Control, And Delinquency. Criminology. 26(1), 127-145.
Jensen, Gary F. and Kevin Thompson. (1990). Whats Class Got To Do With It? A Further Examination of Power-Control Theory. American Journal of Sociology. 95(4), 1009-1023.
McCarthy, Bill and John Hagan. (1987). Gender, delinquency, and the great depression: a test of power-control theory. Canadian review of sociology and anthropology. 24(2), 153-174.
Morash, Merry and Meda Chesney-Lind. (1991). A Reformulation And Partial Test Of Power Control-Theory Of Delinquency. Justice Quarterly. 8, 347-374.
Sacco, Vincent F. (1990). Gender, Fear, and Victimization: A Preliminary Application Of Power-Control Theory. Sociological Spectrum. 10, 485-506.
Singer, Simon I. and Murray Levine. (1988). Power-Control, Gender, and Delinquency: A Partial Replication With Additional Evidence On The Effects of Peers. Criminology. 26(4), 627-645.
Dr. John Hagan. Professor of Sociology. Melissa Miguel. Spring semester of 1998. Political Economy class at Florida State University.
Dr. John Hagans resume. September 1996.