Men: Social Bonding and the Local Church (Conclusion)


The preceding series of blog posts ascribed utility to the theory of social bonding (used in criminal psychology) and unpacked the four domains of attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief. This post will seek to tie the domains together and conclude the series. This is not intended to be a prescriptive catalyst for the local church, but to act as a framework upon which the local church can build.

Courtesy of Lukas Rychvalsky

Social Bonding: A Review.

We conclude with the reminder that social bonding operates in four domains. In this context, domain appears to be the better term (over the commonly used term, element). Domain implies each element is actually a space one inhabits, while an element seems to be something more external and abstract.

The domains are: Attachment, Commitment, Involvement, and Beliefs.

Ultimately, the goal is to establish this theory of criminal psychology as a viable tool to be used by the local church. While these domains exist within the theory to cognitively redirect anti-social behavior, it appears the theory can be of more practical use by the local church.

Here, we will be specifically focusing on reaching young men. The purpose of this will be outlined shortly.

This post will tie each domain together, delegate duties to the local church, and conclude the series. Lastly, the domains will collectively and individually be tied to fatherhood and masculinity.

A Brief History . . .

Travis Hirschi developed this theory and officially presented it in 1969 (Schram and Tibbetts, 2018). He claimed that the higher the social bond is in each domain, the less likely one will be to act on antisocial behaviors such as crime or violence.

Hirschi later refined this theory and posited that self-control was a larger factor in criminal behavior. Chriss (2007) subsequently joined social bonding with self-control, determining that the two are collectively part of a broader whole.

We will be operating from that subsumable view point.

Breaking Down the Domains.

The domains themselves are subsumable, in that they operate independently but are part of a larger collective. They can each be broken down into their own utilitarian practical states, but can and should also be used collectively as a cohesive unit. The independent domains as well as the collective theory have potentially useful benefits within the local church.

DOMAINLEVELDESCRIPTION
AttachmentAffectiveEmotional closeness to group(s).
CommitmentCognitive Costs of deviation from group norms.
InvolvementBehavioral Time spent in activities defined as conventional by the group.
BeliefEvaluative Ideas that support a conventional orientation.

*Adapted from Hirschi (1969), Livingston (1996), and Chriss (2007).

Attachment.

In The Functions of the Social Bond, James J. Chriss (2007), cites attachment as a function of integration (p. 4). That is to say, the higher the attachment to a group one has, the more likely he or she is to integrate group norms into his or her personal worldview. Attachment operates as a function of affect, referring to emotional closeness to the group. The higher the level of attachment, the less likely the individual is to deviate from the norms the group has put forth.

Commitment.

Chriss cites commitment as a function of goal attainment (p. 4). It operates as a cognitive function and suggests that the higher the level of commitment one has to the group, the more likely one is to weigh the costs of deviation from group norms.

Involvement.

Involvement acts as a behavioral function and refers to time spent in activities defined as conventional by the group. These conventional activities act as behavioral guideposts, providing and producing some cognitive mapping of acceptable social behavior within groups.

Belief.

Chriss lastly adapts belief from Hirschi’s theory of social bonding, and cites it as functioning from an evaluative level. It is essentially described as the ideas that support a conventional orientation. If an individual believes that the group has a moral function higher than the individual, the group will have an indirect moral influence on the individual. This is not necessarily dictated by the individual’s physical proximity to the group or regular involvement with the group.

Why Young Men?

As noted in the attachment installment of this series, and as noted by Shireen Quidosi (2019), men increasingly have less real-estate in society. Quidosi writes, “In just the last decade, we’ve gone from ‘girl boss’ to gender-exclusionary phrases like ‘the future is female’ to ‘boys can be girls'” (para. 1).

I would personally add that when men speak about these concerns, they are often called “fragile” and/or “misogynistic,” as if feeling you do not fit into society is somehow a simultaneously personal and systemic problem.

So, Why Young Men, Again?

Fatherless homes and the disintegration of marriage has created a recipe for chaos. In 2016, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reported that 45% of juveniles placed in residential facilities were living in single parent homes.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, not only are men 3.5 times more likely to complete suicide than women, but Statista reports that since 1982, men are 37 times more likely to commit a mass shooting.

Are the spiking suicide rates and aggressive behaviors because of the patriarchy? Or are they because young men are losing real estate in these social domains and increasingly feel isolated and alone?

To what are young men attaching themselves? Committing themselves? Involving themselves?

In what do young men believe?

Enter the Local Church.

How the local church can utilize these theories cannot be wholly prescribed, simply because each individual local church can implement programs that serve these domains in different ways. In criminal psychology, the main function of this theory is to guide programs that seek to strengthen these domains. A program that feeds each domain might look different from church to church, and there may not even be a need for a concrete program at all. Simply comprehending the theory and each domain therein might spark a universal behavioral change among leaders and congregants alike.

Fatherhood and Masculinity: A Conclusion.

The church is therefore in a prime position to ensure it is a place where men can feel attached. To quote Jordan Peterson“Opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.”

This by no means suggests that church will be a cure all. It is does implore churches, however, to step up where the rest of society is falling short. It is, above all, a call for masculine faith (definition pending, I suppose) to become a norm.

Fathers that attend church regularly need to ensure they are being fathers to their own sons, and reaching out to those disenfranchised and at-risk young men in their congregations. Fostering a place of growth and acceptance has to come from within before it can be truly articulated to those outside the church.

Lastly, I would ask: How important is it for the church to become a father to the fatherless? To be a masculine voice in a world where masculine voices are often absent?

If the suicide rate among males and the number of fatherless homes in America are any indication, the role of the local church appears to be rapidly growing in importance.

Chriss, James J., “The Functions of the Social Bond” (2007). Sociology & Criminology Faculty Publications. 25. https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clsoc_crim_facpub/25

Schram, P., Tibbetts, S. (2018) Introduction to Criminology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications.