Sociology Index


One of the aims of all socialization is to place a ‘police person’ inside each of us, rather than relying on external controls. 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? This is effective self-control. Gottfredson and Travis Warner Hirschi proposed a general theory of crime. Central to the theory is the assumption that most criminal behavior is impulsive and reflects a lack of self-control. Thus criminals are seen as devoid of self-control and as risk takers who are less restrained than noncriminals from illegal activities. In a secondary analysis of data from a roadside traffic survey, this study attempts to test Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory by examining the relationship between self-control and driving under the influence of alcohol. Using several indicators of self-control, the results support the existence of a relationship for both men and women between low self-control and driving under the influence of alcohol. 


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 propose a new general theory of crime that 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, North Carolina State University, David A. Ward, Harold G. Grasmick, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 40, No. 4, 426-453 (2003).
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. On one hand, 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. On the other hand, self-control does not appear to predict misbehavior equally well among various subcategories of individuals, particularly not for age groups, even failing to predict misbehavior at all for some groupings. Moreover, 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.

Evaluating the Effects of Birth Complications on Low Self-Control in a Sample of Twins 
Kevin M. Beaver, John Paul Wright, Division of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 49, No. 4, 450-471 (2005).
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. This article extends prior research and examines the effects of birth complications and parental involvement on low self-control. 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. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol. 48, No. 3, 298-312 (2004).
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 few existing studies on the subject, however, have typically been based on small, nonrandom samples. 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, Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 52, No. 2, 253-286 (2006).
Gottfredson and Hirschi claimed, as part of their general theory of crime, that a child’s criminal propensity, what they called level of self-control, is fairly fixed by age 10. Low self-control children, they further claimed, exhibit greater proclivities for delinquency and analogous behaviors than children with high levels of self-control. They see self-control levels for children at both ends of the spectrum, and their propensities for crime and analogous behaviors, as immutable over the life course. 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 - Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 52, No. 4, 572-598 (2006).
Usinga 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. However,z 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, University of Virginia 
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 18, No. 2, 129-147 (2003).
We investigated the influence of low self-control and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 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. The correlation between ADHD status and bullying could be explained by low self-control, a construct theorized by Gottfredson and Hirschi to be the most important determinant of criminality. In contrast, the correlation between ADHD status and bullying victimization was independent of self-control. Subsequent analyses found that self-control influenced bullying victimization through interactions with student gender and measures of physical size and strength. These 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.

A Comparison of Four Measures of Self-Control Skills 
Peter G. Mezo, Elaine M. Heiby, University of Hawaii 
Assessment, Vol. 11, No. 3, 238-250 (2004)
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. Content validity was judged to be fairly comparable by three raters in Study 1. In Study 2, convergent and divergent validity support was obtained for all four questionnaires when administered to 369 multiethnic college students, but the relative degree of support varied across constructs. Hence, selection of a self-control instrument may be guided by the target behavior of interest.

The Relationship between Social and Self-Control: Tracing Hirschi's Criminological Career 
CLAIRE TAYLOR, Lancaster University, UK - Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 5, No. 3, 369-388 (2001).
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. It is suggested that focusing on Hirschi's intellectual development enables us to appreciate some of the theoretical shifts between his early and later work. 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 
Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 8, No. 1, 33-55 (2004)
Numerous studies have attempted to test Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime. 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 - European Journal of Criminology, Vol. 3, No. 1, 33-67 (2006)
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. Based on a large representative sample of Swiss 9th grade students, we reassess the dimensionality of Grasmick et al.'s self-control scale and propose a fivedimensional second-order factor model. This model is then used as a predictor of two correlated behavioural continua, one measuring overall delinquency and the other overall substance use. Results indicate that self-control is a strong and stable predictor of both types of behaviour. However, 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 
Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 25, No. 1, 81-98 (1998)
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. To measure criminal opportunity, two proxy variables were used: gender and crime-involved friends. Crime measures included number of criminal acts of force and number of criminal acts of fraud reported in a 6-month recall period by a sample of 522 criminal offenders. 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 - Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 5, 542-563 (2004)
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, University of Louisville 
Youth & Society, Vol. 37, No. 4, 479-503 (2006).
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 - Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 30, No.1.