An empirical test of tittle's control balance theory

Alex R. Piquero, Matthew Hickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Classic statements of control theory propose that individuals who are controlled or bonded will be more likely to be deterred from deviance, while those who are not controlled or bonded will be more likely to turn to deviance. In a recent restatement of control theory, Tittle (1995) offers an alternative viewpoint. Though he agrees that a lack of control (a control deficit) can lead to repressive forms of deviance (predation, defiance, and submission), Tittle also asserts that overcontrol (a control surplus) may lead to autonomous types of deviance (exploitation, plunder, and decadence). Terming it control balance theory, Tittle argues that the amount of control to which one is subject relative to the amount of control one can exercise (i.e., the control ratio) affects not only the probability that one will engage in a deviant act, but also the specific form or type of deviance. In this article, we focus on one of the key hypotheses of control balance theory: an individual's control balance ratio predicts deviant behavior. We examine this hypothesis using two vignettes designed to investigate the repressive acts of predation and defiance. Segmented, nonlinear regression results yield mixed evidence in that both control surpluses and control deficits significantly predict predation and defiance. The theoretical implications of our results for control balance theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-340
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 1999
Externally publishedYes

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