RESEARCH PROPOSAL EXAMPLE 4. THIS PERSON RECEIVED A “9.8” INTRODUCTION Micheal Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi’s general theory of crime purports to be able to predict all crime at all time and that a person’s level of self-control is determined and unchangeable by age eight. This researcher saw this theory as an awfully broad statement and an extremely pessimistic view of human nature. By this logic, a person with a low score on the selfcontrol construct would be almost guaranteed to commit crime given the appropriate opportunity and little can be done to change that behavior. This researcher proposes that self-control can be learned and bolstered later in life through extensive behavior modification programs that work to curb the personality traits included in Hirschi and Gottfredson’s low self-control construct. Namely, this research will focus on first time sexual offenders. Sexual offenders are one of the most feared classes of criminals in U.S. society because of their seemingly random victims, the emotional charge associated with assaults on women and children, and the never-ending repercussions of a single assault in a victim’s life. There is a definite power struggle going on right now in U.S. society between the civil rights of sexual offenders and community safety. It is not always possible to lock a sexual offender away for life on a first offense so they are often let back into society under community control. But, highly publicized violent sexual crimes (Polly Klaas and Megan Kanka) have led to legislation that alert community members if a known sexual offender has moved into the neighborhood and attempts to incapacitate offenders in an institution following the completion of their prison sentences. The public’s fear is not unfounded as a percentage of offenders do recidivate. The number may not be large but the impact is devastating when it does occur. Gottfredson and Hirschi describe low self-control as the absence of a long range view and it is represented by the absence of a cluster of general characteristics that act as restraints on behavior. From this perspective, the extent to which short-term rationality influences behavior is linked to one’s level of self-control and the relevant features of the particular situations
Dr. Lane, Research Proposal Ex 4, Spring 2001, page 1
encountered (Gibbs, Giever, and Martin, 1998). The theory does not assume that low self-control will automatically lead to crime but that an opportunity must arise in order for the low selfcontrol to be expressed. Ward and Hudson’s (1998) model of relapse points to recidivism as the result of maladaptive coping mechanisms for life events and consequent entry into high-risk situations. What these two models have in common is an inability to enter situations without using functional inhibitory mechanisms. This proposal concerns mitigating these maladaptive behaviors and counteracting learned dysfunctional responses to high risk situations. The goal of this study is to decrease the low self-control components of impulsivity, present-orientation, and risk-taking while reinforcing long-range planning, future-orientation, and responsibility. These are not all of the components of the self-control construct but this proposal has limited the range to variables that correspond most with the relapse models of sexual offenders offered by Gibbs et al and Ward and Hudson. This researcher did not come across any other studies that specifically addressed self-control and sexual offense recidivism so, mainly this researcher is interested in whether first-time sexual offenders who participate in a behavior modification program designed to increase self-control will be less likely to recidivate. Other issues at stake are if the recidivism of a sexual or non-sexual nature, what particular personality traits are correlated with recidivism, and to what degree (if any) will the experimental group increase their level of self control. Gottfredson and...
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