Sociology Index

SELF-CONTROL

Self-control theory was developed by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Warner Hirschi in their book titled A General Theory of Crime. Self-control is a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one's behavior in order to achieve specific goals. Self-control is also a key concept in the general theory of crime. Many experience self-control when a voice inside says: What will mother think? Will this harm my chances of being accepted as a police recruit? One of the aims of all socialization is to place a ‘police person’ inside each of us, rather than relying on external controls. Gottfredson and Hirschi define self-control as the differential tendency of individuals to avoid criminal acts independent of the situations in which they find themselves.

Individuals with low self-control tend to be impulsive, insensitive towards others, risk takers, short-sighted, and nonverbal. The general theory of crime holds that self-control is established in early childhood through three major factors: the strength of the parent-to-child emotional bond, adequate supervision by parents, parents' ability to recognize punishable behavior, and appropriate discipline by parents. Thus criminals are seen as devoid of self-control and as risk takers who are less restrained than noncriminals from illegal activities.

SELF-CONTROL ABSTRACTS

Self-control and juvenile delinquency: Theoretical issues and an empirical assessment of selected elements of a general theory of crime. David Brownfield, Ann Marie Sorenson. Social control theory has been one of the most influential explanations of crime and delinquency for many years. Gottfredson and Travis Warner Hirschi theory of crime includes individual restraints on behavior, or self-control, as distinguished from social restraints. The elements of self-control include an ability to defer gratification, the tendency to be cautious and diligent, cognitive ability, and sensitivity toward others. In this paper we analyze the construct of self-control and its relationship to official and self-report studies of juvenile delinquency.

Gender, Age, and Crime/Deviance: A Challenge to Self-Control Theory 
Charles R. Tittle, David A. Ward, Harold G. Grasmick.

Focusing on gender and age variations and using various measures of self-control and of crime and deviant behavior, the authors' provide additional evidence concerning the strongest implications of self-control theory.

The results are strongly supportive of the Self-Control Theory, showing that some measures of self-control not only predict misbehavior but they interpret the associations between gender and age and measures of crime and deviance.

Self-control does not appear to predict misbehavior equally well among various subcategories of individuals. Support for the strongest claims of the Self-Control Theory are not robust, varying depending on how self-control and crime and deviance are measured.

A Comparison of Four Measures of Self-Control Skills - Peter G. Mezo, Elaine M. Heiby. This study compares the psychometric characteristics of four questionnaires designed to assess self-control skills: the Self-Control Questionnaire, the Frequency of Self-Reinforcement Questionnaire, the Cognitive Self-Management Test, and the Lifestyle Approaches Inventory. Hence, selection of a self-control instrument may be guided by the target behavior of interest.

Evaluating the Effects of Birth Complications on Low Self-Control in a Sample of Twins - Kevin M. Beaver, John Paul Wright. Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory has generated an abundance of research examining the effects of low self-control on crime and analogous behaviors. Gottfredson and Hirschi maintain that ineffective parents are the sole cause for the emergence of low self-control. At the same time, they disregard the possibility that low self-control has a biological or genetic component. Using a sample of twin children, the authors find that parental involvement is only weakly and inconsistently related to low self-control. On the other hand, although most of the birth complications had no appreciable effect on low self-control, anoxia (oxygen starvation) emerged as the strongest and most consistent predictor of low self-control.

Parental Efficacy, Self-Control, and Delinquency: a Test of a General Theory of Crime on a Nationally Representative Sample of Youth - Dina Perrone, Christopher J. Sullivan, Travis C. Pratt, Satenik Margaryan. Criminologists have recently begun examining Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) proposition that parenting is the primary influence on children’s levels of self-control. The current study examines the relationships between parental efficacy, self-control, and delinquent behavior using data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents (the National Longitudinal Studies of Adolescent Health). The results indicate that although parental efficacy is an important precursor to self-control, contrary to Gottfredson and Hirschi’s proposition, self-control does not completely mediate the relationship between parental efficacy and delinquency.

Self-Control and Variability Over Time: Multivariate Results Using a 5-Year, Multisite Panel of Youths - L. Thomas Winfree, Jr., Terrance J. Taylor, Ni He, Finn-Aage Esbensen. The authors explore the self-control levels, self-reported delinquency or illegal behavior, and supporting attitudes exhibited by a panel of youths from in six cities at five points in time. Some of our findings substantiated Gottfredson and Hirschi’s claims linking self-control, sex, and race or ethnicity. However, other findings are at odds with their theory, for example, the unchanging nature of self-control. The authors review the implications of these findings for self-control theory.

Self-Control, Native Traditionalism, and Native American Substance Use: Testing the Cultural Invariance of a General Theory of Crime - Gregory D. Morris, Stanislaus Peter B. Wood, R. Gregory Dunaway.

Using a sample of White and Native Americanhigh school students, the authors provide a test of (a) self-control theory's invariance thesis and (b) native traditionalism as an explanation of Native American substance use.

Self-control significantly influenced all forms of substance use when controlling for race and in race-specific analyses. Tests by race revealed that self-control is a stronger predictor of marijuana and serious drug use among Native Americans. Beyond this simple comparison across groups, the authors control for native traditionalism among the Native American respondents. In doing so, self-control remained a consistent predictor of their substance use. Although these findings largely support the invariance thesis of self-control, the racial difference related to marijuana and serious drug use poses a theoretical challenge.

Bullying, Self-Control, and ADHD - James D. Unnever, Radford University, Dewey G. Cornell. We investigated the influence of low self-control and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on bullying and bully victimization in a sample of 1,315 middle school students using a school survey. Students who reported taking medication for ADHD were at increased risk for bullying as well as victimization by bullies. Findings identify low self-control and ADHD as potential risk factors for bullying and victimization and have implications for research on self-control in young adolescents.

The Relationship between Social and Self-Control: Tracing Hirschi's Criminological Career - CLAIRE TAYLOR, Lancaster University. This article explores the relationship between social control theory (Hirschi, 1969) and self-control theory (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990), with reference to Travis Hirschi's criminological career. How far there is a connection between social and self-control theory is a matter of some debate among commentators in the field. However, it is argued here that the two theoretical positions are based on fundamentally different principles, particularly in relation to the core concept of control.

Self-Control in the General Theory of Crime: Theoretical Implications of a Measurement Problem - Bernd Marcus, Chemnitz University Of Technology, Germany. The present article outlines the view that virtually every empirical evidence test of the theory is based on serious misinterpretations of its core construct, self-control. A reinterpretation of self-control is proposed and seven requirements for its construct-valid measurement are specified. A review of self-control measures used in previous research shows that these requirements are more often violated than met. As a consequence, the empirical status of self-control theory is held to be still largely unknown, despite all apparent evidence.

The ‘Drug–Crime Link’ from a Self-Control Perspective - An Empirical Test in a Swiss Youth Sample - Denis Ribeaud, Manuel Eisner. The present paper explores to what extent low self-control can account for the ‘drug–crime link’, i.e. the correlation between substance use and delinquency. Results indicate that self-control is a strong and stable predictor of both types of behaviour. Although self-control substantially accounts for the correlation between delinquency and substance use, a considerable residual correlation remains. It is argued that dynamic or ‘state-dependent’ factors are most likely to account for this residual correlation. Analyses of the predictive power of individual sub-dimensions of self-control further indicate that self-control might be reduced to the sub-dimensions of ‘risk-seeking’ and ‘impulsivity’.

Self-Control and Criminal Opportunity - Cross-Sectional Research Test of the General Theory of Crime - DOUGLAS LONGSHORE, SUSAN TURNER, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica. In this study, the authors tested two hypotheses drawn from the general theory of crime.

The first hypothesis is that low self-control is a major individual-level cause of crime.

The second, that the effect of self-control is contingent on criminal opportunity.

The measure of self-control used was a 23-item self-report index. Self-control was lower among offenders reporting more crimes of force and fraud, but the variance explained by self-control was low in each case. The relationship between self-control and fraud crimes was contingent on criminal opportunity, but the relationship between self-control and force crimes was not. Implications of these findings for the general theory of crime are reviewed.

Low Self-Control, Staged Opportunity, and Subsequent Fraudulent Behavior - Tony R. Smith, Westfield State College. Since its conception, A General Theory of Crime has attracted a considerable amount of interest among criminologists. At this particular juncture, the extant research literature has generally been supportive of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory. However, opportunity, a critical element of low-self-control theory, remains conspicuously untested. Although some empirical evidence studies have examined this theoretical concept, they have neglected to take into consideration the issue of temporal ordering.

Sex and Self-Control Theory - The Measures and Causal Model May Be Different. George E. Higgins, Richard Tewksbury.
This study examines the distribution differences across sexes in key measures of self-control theory and differences in a causal model. Using cross-sectional data from juveniles (n = 1,500), the study shows mean-level differences in many of the self-control, risky behavior, and delinquency measures.

Drinking and Driving, Self-Control, and Gender: Testing a General Theory of Crime - CARL KEANE, PAUL S. MAXIM, JAMES J. TEEVAN.