Running Head: LOW SELF CONTROL AND CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR
Low Self Control Predicts Criminal Behavior: A Literature Review Canan Bozdaş
Middle East Technical University
The current study investigates empirical testing of the relation between low self control and criminal behaviors. It is hypothesized that low self control predicts criminal behavior. It is conducted a literature review. Five existing studies are analyzed with this aim. Result show that there are favorable evidences on that low self control predicts the criminal behaviors. Moreover, it is found that low self control with direct and indirect way plays a role some negative social consequences which are related to crime negative social and interpersonal relationship outcomes. Therefore, in both ways, low self control predicts criminal behaviors.
Key words: Low self control, criminal behaviors
Low Self Control Predicts Criminal Behavior: A Literature Review Self control failure is what these separate events have in common; a man depleting his money on gambling, a woman beating her child, a drunk driver causing injuries several people, a student postponing studying until the night before the test and getting a bad grade, a delinquent shoots during an argument ( Baumeister, Schmeichel,& Vohs, 2007). Baumeister, Schmeichel and Vohs(2007) state that if self control functions well, it allows people to change their behavior to adapt to life standards. If it fails, human problems and misfortunes can arise. They define self-control as a key to success in human life and a contributing factor that helps explain many problems of human. In their study, it is claimed that most of the social and personal problems that distress people in modern western society have some components of self-control failure at their root. Yet, not everyone has ability to self control. A study of Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) offers that deficient self-control is the most important key to understanding criminality (as cited in Baumeister, Schmeichel,& Vohs, 2007). Studies testing this hypothesis has confirmed that apparently, people become criminal since they are poor at regulating their antisocial impulses and violate many of society’s formal and informal rules (Baumeister, Schmeichel,& Vohs, 2007). Gottfredson and Hirschi(1990) propose that low self control increase criminal involvement since it offers easy short term gratifications, like excitement, small amounts of money, and relief from situational aggravations (Evans et al.,1997). The main purpose of the current study is investigating empirical testing of the relation between low self control and criminal behaviors. It is hypothesized that low self control predicts criminal behavior. It is conducted a literature review. Five existing studies are analyzed with this aim. First study is Longshore, Turner, and Stein’s (1996) study. They test the validity of Grasmick et al. (1993) self control scale in a drug using criminal offenders sample. It is investigated that whether criminal behavior is more frequent among participants self reported a lower of self control. The data is collected from Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime, a program that identify drug using adult and juvenile offenders in criminal justice system, arrange their treatment needs, and place them in treatment. There are 623 offenders having extensive criminal histories. Low self control is assessed with face to face interview via Grasmick et al. (1993) measurement including self components: impulsiveness, preference for simple task, risk seeking, preference for physical activities, self centeredness, and violate temper. Participants are asked to report the number of committed crimes of force and fraud in past six month. Force crimes are rape, homicide, assault, robbery of a business and a person. Fraud crimes are arson, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, forgery, and larceny. Analysis of the result shows that self control is significantly related to crime of fraud and force. It is found that risk seeking and impulsiveness/ self centeredness are closely related to predicting crimes of fraud, while risk seeking and temper are related to predicting crimes of force. Secondly, Ribeaud and Eisner (2006) investigate whether there is a link drug use and crime in terms of low self control. It is expected that self-control predicts both delinquency and substance use. Moreover, the six personality traits of impulsivity, preference for simple tasks, risk-seeking, preference for physical activity, self-centeredness and volatile temper is expected to come together in the same people. Data are collected among a representative sample of 9th grade students in Zurich. 2693 of the student complete the questionnaire in a classroom. Grasmick et al.’s self-control scale is used to assess dimension of the low self control. A five dimensional second-order factor model is proposed to assess both delinquency and substance use. Results indicate that ‘simple task’ dimension of the self control scale is the poorest predictor of crime/delinquency and substance use. Risk-seeking and impulsivity dimensions are powerful predictors of self-control in predicting delinquency and substance use. Finally, it is found that self-control is a strong and stable predictor of both delinquency and substance use. Moreover, Baron(2003) investigates the effects of self control on crime and drug use. The study also explores negative social consequences of self control. 400 street youths (265 male, 135 female) are identified based on four criteria; being aged 24 and younger, having left or finished school, being currently unemployed, having spent time without a fixed address or living in a shelter in the previous 12 months. Justification for these criteria is to adjust range age of those defined as street youth, to eliminate those not convenient for full time employment, and to get a sample of ‘serious at risk youth’. Sample is selected from areas known to be frequented by street youths in Vancouver, Canada. 470 youths are approached for interview. 400 of them accepted to participate are interviewed in fast food restaurant, parks, in bus shelters, in front of stores, and on the street. Interview lasts average an hour and 10 minutes. Participation is awarded 20 dollars in food coupons at a popular fast food restaurant. Average length of being homeless is 7 months, average age is almost 20. In this study, 23 of items from Grasmick et al. (1993) are used to operationalize low self control. Four point Likert scale is used. Criminal involvement and drug use is measured by self report. To examine the effect of self control on social consequences and their link to criminal behavior, participants are asked questions about valued goals, relations, deviant peers, deviant values. The results reveal that low self control is related to property crime, violent crime, total crime, and drug use, controlling for age and gender. This confirms that self control seems to be a strong predictor of violent behavior. The result also show that self control has affects on various social consequences. Controlling age and gender, participants with low self control are more likely to have deviant peers and values, to be unemployed and homeless for greater time period. This supports that low self control can lead to hook up with others having low self control, to internalize deviant values, to stay street away from the rules, regulations, social control. Deviant peers and deviant values are found to be significant predictors of all four offenses; homelessness is predictor of property crime, drug use, and crime overall. Monetary dissatisfaction is found to be predictor of both property crime and total crime. Furthermore, Evans et al. (1997) assess the effects of low self control on crime and analogous behavior. Moreover, the effects of self control on social consequences are examined. Data is gathered through self report survey of the general population, aged 18 and older. 1500 individuals from their sampling frame are selected and questionnaires are sent by mailing. 303 questionnaires could not be delivered for various reason, 555 completed surveys are returned. Thus, response rate is 49%. Males are 42% of the sample. The trait of self control is measured with 11 items scale (six Likert) similar to Grasmick et al. (1993). General crime is measured set of items used by Elliot et al. (1983) in the National Youth Survey. An 18 items scale is developed to measure analogous/ imprudent behavior. A series of statement are asked to participants about social bonds, social learning, life style, socioeconomic attainment, neighborhood relation. Analysis reveals that low self control is positively associated to crime and analogous behavior. Analogous behavior is also related with criminal behavior. Self control is negatively correlated with quality of family relationship, attachment to church, educational attainment, occupational status. Results show that low self control is linked to reduced quality of interpersonal relationships with family and friends, reduced involvement in church, low levels of educational and occupational attainment, poor marriage expectation. Individuals with low self control are also perceived to be disorderly neighborhoods. Moreover, they are more likely to have criminal friends and to internalize criminal values. Finally, Wright et al. (1999) examine correlations between social bonds and crime when controlling self control, the correlation between delinquency and later crime when controlling for self control, the effect of self control on crime mediated through social bonds. The data come from Dunedin study (Silva and Stanton, 1996). The participants of this study are born from 1972 through 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand. 1,037 of participants are assessed at age 3 and at ages 5(N=991), 7(N=954), 9(N=955), 11(N=925), 13(N=850), 18(N=1,008), 21(N=992). At each assessment, participants are given self control measures, social bond measures, and delinquency and crime measures. The Data are collected through self report, parent, and teachers by trained examiners. The study finds that childhood and adolescent self control variables significantly correlated with delinquency at age 15 and crime at age 21. As it is expected, this shows that low self control is correlated with later criminal and disrupted behavior. Moreover, participants with low self control have more delinquent peers, reduced bonds to school, less work achievement, and diminished family and partner ties. This is evidence for low self control predicting disrupted social bonds and criminal behavior. Next analysis of the result finds that delinquency at age 15 predicted crime at age 21. When self control is controlled, the social bond and delinquency still predicts adult criminal behavior. Furthermore, low self control in childhood predicts social bonds, adolescent self control, and delinquency which in turn predict crime at age 21. These findings support that self control has both direct and indirect effects on crime; social bonds has also net direct effects on crime. Conclusion
The empirical analyses presented in this current study support that there is a relation between low self control and criminal behavior. These studies found that self control is associated with crimes like fraud crime, force crime, drug use and analogous behavior. In these studies, participants having low self control report more drug use, force crime, fraud crime, and analogous behavior. Therefore, low self control is found a predictor factor in these behaviors. Moreover, impulsivity and risk taking which are the characteristics of low self control person are closely related to predicting crime involvement. The results also show that low self control with direct and indirect way plays a role some negative social consequences which are related to crime. Participants with low self control are more likely to have deviant peers and values, to be unemployed and homeless for greater time period. Deviant peers, deviant values, and homelessness are found to be significant predictors of property crime, drug use, and crime overall. Moreover, low self control is linked to reduced quality of interpersonal relationships with family and friends, reduced involvement in church, low levels of educational and occupational attainment, poor marriage expectation.
To conclude, there are favorable evidence on that low self control predicts the criminal behaviors. Low self control with direct and indirect way plays a role some negative social consequences which are related to crime negative social and interpersonal relationship outcomes. In both ways, low self control predicts criminal behaviors. It confirms the hypothesis of the current study.
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