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Self-Control, Social Consequences, and Criminal Behavior: Street Youth and the General Theory of Crime

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 40 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 403-425
Stephen W. Baron
Date Published
November 2003
23 pages
This article examines the role that self-control plays in the generation of crime and drug use.
People that lack self-control tend to be impulsive, insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), short-sighted, risk takers with low frustration tolerance. These people will tend to engage in criminal acts. These elements are established in early childhood and persist over the life span to produce a stable coherent construct. This analysis examines if self-control is associated with property crime, violent crime, total crime, and drug use. It examines if low self-control is linked to certain social consequences, including deviant peers, deviant values, unemployment, homelessness, relative deprivation, and monetary dissatisfaction. It explores if these social consequences have any direct effect on crime as predicted in the social learning/differential association and strain perspectives or if their relationship to crime is spurious and better explained by their relationship to self-control. A sample of 400 homeless street youth was studied between May 2000 and August 2001 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The results revealed that low self-control was related to property crime, violent crime, total crime, and drug use; and there were a number of social consequences associated with low self-control. The results show that while low self-control is an important predictor of criminal behavior, and influences certain social consequences, a number of social factors have an impact on crime independent of low self-control. These social factors include long-term unemployment, long-term homelessness, as well as deviant peers and deviant values. This suggests that the alternative perspectives of differential association/social learning theory, classic strain theory, and general strain theory are important for understanding criminal activity. 5 tables, appendix, 3 notes, 55 references


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