Causes and consequences of low self-control: Empirical tests of the general theory of crime.
Committee ChairHirschi, Travis
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study operationalized and empirically tested the general propositions of Gottfredson and Hirschi's general theory of crime (1990). Specifically, the core concept of the theory, self-control, is operationalized using two data sets--Richmond Youth Project and Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development--and tested using criteria of reliability and validity. In this part of the study, a methodological question focuses on the pattern of validity change across types of data, namely, cross-sectional and longitudinal data. In the following tests, causes and consequences of low self-control are tested using Richmond Youth Project data. Child rearing as early socialization and individual traits are tested as sources of self-control. Then the measure of self-control is related to crime, delinquency, and analogous behaviors that are, according to the theory, manifestations of low self-control. A research question here focuses on the generality of self-control theory. Overall, the test results support the claims of the general theory of crime. Findings from the validity tests of the self-control index show theoretically expected relations with important individual variables such as gender, race, and delinquent status. In particular, findings from two differently designed data sets are very similar. Test results also show that boys low on self-control are more likely than others to have committed crime, delinquency, and various analogous behaviors. One possible research problem based on the theoretical assumption was also tested and empirically supported. Theory implies that respondents low on self-control are more likely than others to fail to answer questions in self-report survey. Empirical tests support this theoretical implication, revealing that respondents dropped from the index due to missing data are more likely than others to be delinquents. Further research implications are also discussed.