A Test of Low Self-control Theory Using General Patterns of Deviance


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Virginia Tech


Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) General Theory of Crime has received extensive attention over the past decade. This dissertation explores the scope and limitation of the theory by testing a wide variety of behaviors against the causal effect of low self-control. Utilizing the attitudinal scale developed by Grasmick et al. (1993), self-control and involvement in fifteen different criminal, deviant, and risk-taking behaviors was measured to test the key aspect of Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory. The sample consists of 450 students from a research university and a liberal arts college. Analysis of the scale reliability reveals more support for the construct validity found in other studies. Furthermore, each of the six sub-components of the self-control scale are tested against each of the behavior indices to further assess scales limitations. In addition to self-control, gender, race, and parental education are used as control variables in the analysis to test the possible variation of the association between self-control and deviance throughout the population.

The finding from this research provide more caution to Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory. The behaviors analyzed in this study are only modestly associated with low self-control. Furthermore, gender has a strong impact on all three behavior types leading to the conclusion that self-control is not the sole causal variable in determining who will commit crime and deviance. Race and parental education were not significantly related to the behaviors studied, but the sample is homogeneous in regards to these two variables.



Self-control, Crime, Devianc