Briar, Scott, and Irving Piliavin: Delinquency, Commitment, and Stake in Conformity
Shannon M. Barton-Bellessa
Prior to the 1950s, positivist theories explaining the causes of crime centered on motivations that led youths into antisocial and delinquent behavior. Particular focus was given to the influence of subcultural, psychoanalytical, and frustration-aggression theories. Central to these premises was the question, why do individuals commit crime? In their seminal work, Scott Briar and Irving Piliavin criticized the efficacy of this approach and argued that by focusing solely on motivational factors researchers were missing a key component to explain behavior. They proposed that social control theories, which sought to explain why an individual would not commit an offense, better described both delinquent and non-delinquent involvement. They argued the combination of youths’ commitment to conformity (stakes in conformity) and their environment directly influenced their decision-making process. More specifically the authors postulated that boys with high stakes in conformity were least likely to commit delinquent acts than those youths with the lowest ...