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

In a previous blog post, we discussed social bonding and the element of involvement. How the local church gets young men involved will differ from congregation to congregation, but social bonding indicates that the higher the level of involvement the individual has, the higher the level of cognitive mapping of acceptable social behavior within and among groups he or she will exhibit.

Courtesy of Luis Quintero

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), adpats belief from Hirschi’s theory of social bonding, and cites it as an evaluative level function. It is essentially described as the ideas that support a conventional orientation.

In What Are Young Men Believing?

Chriss goes on to note that belief plays a special importance in the development of children. This does not exclusively refer to specific religious belief, however. Belief can act as a moral element of the attachment one has to a group. A child with physically distant parents can, for example, still have a sense of parental oversight and wonder, “What will my parents think?” when committing a certain action. This acts, in a sense, as a form of indirect control. The stronger the belief that the parents represent some form of moral validity will result in less deviation from the conventionally accepted activities established by the parents.

If belief indeed plays a significant role in the development of children and the subsequent formation of young adults into mature adults, it is decisively important that young men believe in something. Belief is the foundation of social bonding, and acts as the starting point for attachment, commitment, and involvement.

The level of belief in the goodness and validity of the moral structure of the institution (be it church, family, or something else) will dictate the stability of the social bond between the individual and the group, as well as the individual and the other members within the group.

The Benefits of Social Bonding.

There is a hierarchical system in place here. Belief acts as a chief cornerstone in social bonding, as described above.

Attachment is next in order of importance. It acts as an integrative function in that the higher the level of attachment one has to a group, the more the individual will integrate the norms of the group into his or her own life. The individual will integrate the self into the group as well and begin to absorb the self into the collective. The individual identity does not cease to exist, but becomes reflective of the collective identity, in this sense.

Commitment acts as the goal attainment function of the social bond and reflects a higher energy relation. Commitment often requires some kind of action or socialization component.

Lastly, involvement acts as a function of adaptation and also reflects a high energy relation. Involvement in a group requires a certain level of action within a group. A higher level of involvement will naturally result in and possibly even demand a higher level of individual action within a group. A higher level of individual action within a group is more likely to result in a higher level of adaptation of group norms.

The Role of the Local Church:

How exactly the church can exploit this theory in a practical manner will differ from church to church. This is not a prescriptive instruction, but more of a framework or structure upon which to build a program that not only serves young men, but integrates them into a body that is greater than theirs on multiple levels and in multiple domains.

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