Using an expanded measure of self-control to predict delinquency

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Self-control theory claims that the tendency to pursue short-term, immediate pleasure, called low self-control, is the only important intrapersonal correlate of crime and delinquency. Low self-control is considered a general tendency comprising several subsidiary traits. The question is whether the subsidiary traits traditionally considered to constitute the individual elements of low self-control – impulsivity, risk-seeking, shortsightedness, low frustration tolerance, self-centeredness, and a preference for physical activities – accurately reflect the essence of self-control theory. The present paper provides theoretical and empirical support for the incorporation of two additional characteristics – diligence and the tendency to neutralize one's guilt for wrongdoing – into the overall self-control construct. Empirical support is provided by the results of two studies in which diligence and neutralization significantly and substantially improve the ability of traditional low self-control to account for variance in offending. A third additional trait, deception, did not enhance the explanatory power of traditional low self-control.

Keywords: Self-control; delinquency; diligence; neutralization; personality and crime

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Behavioral Science, Fitchburg State College, 160 Pearl Street, Fitchburg, MA, 01420, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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