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Correlates of Self-control: An Empirical Test of Self-control Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 89-110
X Deng; L Zhang
Date Published
22 pages
Data from first offenders who had pleaded guilty of shoplifting in court and had been referred to a diversion program in Buffalo, N.Y., were used to assess two hypotheses derived from Gottfredson and Hirschi's self-control theory.
The first hypothesis (versatility) stated that self-control as a general construct can explain all criminal, deviant, and reckless acts. The second hypothesis (stability) assumed that self-control is a constant predictor over time. The research used a deviant versatility index and an indirect measure of subsequent criminal behavior to test the implications from these two hypotheses. The first-time arrested shoplifters were referred by the court to attend the program, which involved a 3-hour session every month and aimed to reduce recidivism. The researchers distributed surveys in class between November 1992 and July 1993. They received 548 responses, for a return rate of 95 percent. The anonymous questionnaires gathered information about their demographic characteristics, attitudes related to self-control, and past shoplifting and deviant acts. Results indicated that self-control can explain various deviant acts as well as a specific property crime and that it is also significantly associated with offenders' intentions to commit crime again. Findings confirmed Gottfredson and Hirschi's basic argument that people who lack self-control tend to be impulsive, risk taking and shortsighted and that they tend to engage in criminal acts. However, caution should be used in interpreting the stability findings; in addition, the study did not examine the relationship between opportunity and self-control. Tables, notes, and 44 references (Author abstract modified)