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Self-Control and Juvenile Delinquency: A Preliminary Assessment of Hirschi's Reconceptualization of Self-Control




Scott, David

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Since its inception in the 1990s, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) general theory of crime has attracted an impressive amount of attention from criminologists. In this landmark work, Gottfredson and Hirschi contend that individuals with low self-control are more likely to engage in deviant and criminal behaviors. One area of particular interest concerning the general theory is the measurement and operationalization of self-control. Recently Hirschi redefined self-control to be conceived as --Y΄the tendency to consider the full range of potential costs of a particular act.‘ To date, very few empirical investigations have examined this redefinition of and measurement strategy for self-control. This piece of research provides a preliminary investigation of Hirschi’s (2004) reconceptualization of self-control as well as a comparative examination between the traditional measure of self-control and this redefined measure of self-control. The analyses suggest that both measures of self-control are significant predictors of property offending, violent offending, and substance use. Furthermore, the analyses of the data reveal that the traditional measure of self-control is a better predictor of property offending than the redefined measure, but the redefined measure of self-control is a better predictor for violent offending and substance use. Although both self-control measures are strong predictors of the aforementioned behaviors, illegitimate opportunity seems to be a stronger and more valuable predictor of juvenile delinquency.