Applying Social Bond Theory in China: Conceptual and Operational Issues

Spencer Li1
1University Of Macau, Taipa, Macao

As one of the most widely used criminological theories, the social bond theory may be especially applicable to China because of the important role of informal social control in regulating social order in the society. However, empirical studies aiming at using social bond theory to understand delinquency and crime in China face two issues: how social bond should be conceptually defined and how it should be empirically operationalized? There are generally two ways to understand the concept: a multidimensional construct consisting of four elements (Hirschi, 1969) and a unidimensional construct that is measurable by multiple indicators (Hirschi, 2004). The relative strength and weakness of the two types of measurement when they are applied to Chinese society have not been empirically established. The current study attempts to fill this gap. It has two main interrelated objectives: first, using data collected from a representative sample of Chinese adolescents, it empirically addresses the validity and reliability of the two types of measurement of social bond and determine their adaptability in the Chinese context; second, based on the finding from the previous analysis, the study incorporates the empirically verified measure of social bond into a model to assess how well it can predict delinquent behavior in China. Implications for future research on delinquency and crime in China from the social bond perspective are discussed.

Spencer D. Li is Professor and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Macau. He also serves as President of the Asian Association for Substance Abuse Research and a member of the Narcotics Control Committee of the Macao Special Administrative Region of China. Dr. Li received a BA and a MA in Chinese literature from Peking University, and a PhD in sociology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also worked as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Maryland at College Park. Before joining University of Macau, Prof. Li worked as a statistician and project director at the U.S. Department of Justice. Previously, he held assistant professor positions in criminology and criminal justice at University of Maryland and Florida State University, two of the most renowned criminology programs in the world. His research interests include juvenile delinquency, corrections, substance abuse, child development, and religion and crime. Dr. Li has served as principal investigator on a number of publicly and privately funded projects related to juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and corrections, including grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Administration for Children and Families, and Social Welfare Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region Government. His publications have appeared in several major academic journals, including Criminology, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Justice Quarterly, Evaluation Review, Journal of Early Adolescence, and International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. He is an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of Corrections. As of April of 2018, he had 1,771 citations on his research papers in Google Scholar.


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