Men: Social Bonding & Purpose in Life (Part III)

In a previous blog post, we discussed the commitment domain of social bonding. In criminal psychology, commitment acts as a cognitive function and is descriptive of the rational cost for future goals. A higher level of commitment to a group will make the cost of behavioral deviation greater. In this post, we will explore the role of the behavioral function of involvement.

Photo courtesy of Jens Johnsson

Social Bonding: A Review.

Social bonding operates in four elements, or four domains, as I would prefer to call them. A domain implies a space which one inhabits, while an element seems to be something more external and abstract.

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

I will continue to go over these domains in forthcoming blog posts, but will seek to tie them into the importance of fatherhood and masculinity in society.


In The Functions of the Social Bond, James J. Chriss (2007), cites involvement as a behavioral function and refers to it as time spent in conventional activities. These conventional activities act as behavioral guideposts and provide and produce some cognitive mapping of acceptable social behavior within groups.

In What Are Young Men Involving Themselves?

Changes in labor force, technology, and family dynamic all affect involvement in community activities, and attending church is no exception. Pew reports that in previous decades, more women than men attended church. The gap in attendance by gender has narrowed, however, likely due to more women entering the workforce. Gallup maintains that church attendance is down overall during the last two decades.

National Gang Center reports that there was an overall decline in juvenile gang involvement from 1996 to 2011. However, a slight increase from 2001 to 2005 has remained steady, according to federal data.

If fewer young men are gang affiliated than in decades past, and fewer young men are attending church than in decades past, in what are young men involving themselves?

The Benefits of Involvement.

Chriss (2007) goes on to note that involvement serves as a function of adaptation and operates on a behavioral level. It quite simply refers to involvement in conventional activities. A higher level of commitment to an organization would suggest a higher level of involvement in activities therein.

Those with more involvement in pro-social activities would logically be less likely to become involved in anti-social activities. If the group to which the individual is involving his or herself proves to be a pro-social group, there is a benefit to involvement.

Young people get into gangs for much of the same reason they would involve themselves with family. It gives them a sense of security and identity. It further stands to reason that the deeper the sense of security and identity, the higher the level of involvement.

The Role of Church and Faith:

68% of millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) have a religious preference, according to Gallup. The church is therefore poised to play a role in the lives of young people. 57% of religious millennials claim to belong to a church. There is some ground to be covered, but not all is lost.

Churches can increasingly up their presence on social media and in podcast format, and reach young people of faith without a physical presence in their lives. Churches can also serve as a traditional form of respite; a place for young people to unwind and unplug.

Local community churches have an opportunity (and possibly an obligation) to make their organization a place where young people can not only feel involved, but actually be involved. How that fleshes itself out in real time will differ from church to church, community to community, but it should be fleshed out, nonetheless.

Chriss, James J., “The Functions of the Social Bond” (2007). Sociology & Criminology Faculty Publications. 25.