Difference between informal and formal social control

Social control refers to the various mechanisms that society uses to maintain order and conformity among its members. There are two main types of social control: formal and informal.

Formal social control refers to the use of official institutions, such as the government, law enforcement, and the legal system, to regulate behavior and enforce rules. These institutions use explicit rules, laws, and regulations to control behavior and punish those who violate them. Examples of formal social control include the police, the courts, and prisons.

Informal social control, on the other hand, refers to the unwritten rules and norms of behavior that exist within society. These norms are not codified in-laws, but they are enforced through social pressure, such as shame, ridicule, and exclusion. Informal social control is often more effective than formal social control because it operates through social influence rather than legal coercion. Examples of informal social control include social norms, peer pressure, and cultural values.

In summary, formal social control relies on official institutions and the legal system to enforce rules, while informal social control relies on social norms and peer pressure to regulate behavior.

Here are some additional points that differentiate informal and formal social control:

  • Origins: Formal social control arises from laws and regulations created by the state, whereas informal social control emerges from societal norms and expectations that have developed over time.
  • Enforcement: Formal social control is enforced by legal authorities such as the police, while informal social control is enforced through social pressure from family, friends, and community members.
  • Punishment: Formal social control relies on punishments such as fines, imprisonment, or other legal sanctions, while informal social control relies on informal sanctions such as disapproval, exclusion, or shame.
  • Flexibility: Informal social control is often more flexible than formal social control. Social norms can change and adapt over time, while laws and regulations are more difficult to change.
  • Scope: Formal social control tends to deal with more serious offenses that violate the law, while informal social control can be used for both minor and major infractions of social norms.

In summary, both formal and informal social control mechanisms are important for maintaining social order, and they work together to regulate behavior and enforce norms in society.


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