The Four Types of Control Mechanisms Used in Social Work

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    • In the direct control mechanism the threat of punishment is used to persuade an individual from acting inappropriately. In the area of social work, the law is one form of direct social control. A social worker will explain to a client that committing illegal acts can lead to imprisonment or fines. Another aspect of the direct control mechanism is that compliance with social expectations is rewarded by authority figures, such as the social worker or other family members.


    • The internal control mechanism deals with the conscience of the social work client. In this instance, they refrain from improper behavior because they have made a decision themselves that it is wrong. In some ways this form of social control has less to do with the social worker and more to do with the individual himself, although a social worker can explain that a particular action is inappropriate and encourage a sense of right and wrong.


    • Hirschi's indirect control mechanism is based on an individual's hesitancy to disappoint the people with which she has close relationships. A person may choose to resist an antisocial behavior because she knows it will hurt the people she identifies with. A social worker will seek to form a strong bond with a client, either in the form of a parental figure or friend, because the individual will not want to disappoint them by disregarding their admonishments.

    Control Through Needs Satisfaction

    • This type of control is achieved by fulfilling all of the desires of the client in appropriate, positive ways so that they have no need to commit criminal or antisocial behavior. For example, a youth may hang around with a destructive crowd because that is the only place he knows to find acceptable human interaction. Enrolling him into an organized social group may allow him to create friends and find acceptance. For this reason, he would have no desire to associated with people of bad influence.

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