Family Processes, Low Self-Control, and Deviance: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Control Theory
Type of DegreeDissertation
DepartmentHuman Development and Family Studies
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The purpose of the current study was to test a number of theoretical propositions by Self-Control Theory (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). More specifically, the current study tested three theoretical propositions that included whether (1) parenting at 54 months predicted deviance at age 10/11, as mediated by self-control at age 8/9; (2) self-control increased during the first decade of life (over a seven year period from ages 4 to 11 years) as a result of socialization processes and pressures and whether parenting at 54 months predicted these changes; and (3) deviance decreased as a result of the development of self-control (over a seven year period from ages 4 to 11 years) and whether self-control predicted these changes. The data for this study were from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network Study of Early Child Care. Three time points were selected for the current study (54 months, 3rd grade and 5th grade), largely to cover the first decade of life (age 4 to 11), but also as a function of available assessments of the main constructs of interest. Findings from the current study provide important new evidence about both the development of self-control and deviance, and they largely support the theoretically informed hypotheses. First, findings suggest that parenting was a predictor of children’s self-control, and the relationships among parenting, children’s self-control and deviance were in the expected directions, though indirect effects from parenting at 54 months to children’s deviance in 5th grade through children self-control in 3rd grade were modest. Second, the results indicated that children’s self-control trajectory increased over the seven year period. In addition, parenting at 54 months was a predictor of the self-control intercept only. Third, findings indicated that children’s deviance trajectories decreased over the seven year period, and that self-control at 3rd grade was an important predictor of children’s deviance trajectory (both the intercept and the slope). Findings are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications for Self-Control Theory, but also how they are situated vis-à-vis previous empirical work.