Self-control theory of crime
The Self-control theory of crime, often referred to as the General Theory of Crime, is a criminological theory about the lack of individual self-control as the main factor behind criminal behavior. The self-control theory of crime suggests that individuals who were ineffectually parented before the age of ten develop less self-control than individuals of approximately the same age who were raised with better parenting. Research has also found that low levels of self-control are correlated with criminal and impulsive conduct.
The theory was originally developed by criminologists Travis Hirschi and Michael Gottfredson, but has since been subject to a great deal of theoretical debate and a large and growing empirical literature.
Theory and background
Springing from interest in bonding theory, Hirschi—in co-operation with Gottfredson—has developed the "General Theory of Crime" or self-control theory from 1990 onwards. Based on the empirical observation of the strong, consistent connection between criminal behavior and age, Hirschi and Gottfredson theorized the single most important factor behind crime is individual lack of self-control. Individual self-control improves with age as a result of many factors: changing biology through hormonal development, socialization and increasing opportunity costs of losing control. In addition, criminal acts are often markedly non-controlled; they are both opportunistic and short-sighted.
The Self Control Theory of Crime also shares similar fundamental traits as the Ego depletion. They both state that the humans are more motivated to purse their immediate desires and that the satisfaction of their pleasures is universal.
Self-control in psychology
In early psychology, psychologist Freud(1911, 1959) established a foundation for the concept of self-control with his "pleasure-principle" and "reality-principle," Respectively, these principles refer to the desire for immediate gratification and the delay of gratification. The pleasure principle drives an individual to look for pleasure and to avoid pain. However, the individual learn the necessity of standing the pain and delaying gratification as the process grew up, because of the obstacles of the realities of life. Following the basic principles, in recent studies in psychology, the self-control concept refers to an individual's decision or ability to delay immediate gratification of desires in order to reach larger alternative goals.
Criticisms and defense
Akers (1991) argued that a major weakness of this new theory was that Gottfredson and Hirschi did not define self-control and the tendency toward criminal behavior separately. By not deliberately operationalising self-control traits and criminal behavior or criminal acts individually, it suggests that the concepts of low self-control and propensity for criminal behavior are one and the same. Hirschi and Gottfredson (1993) replied to Akers argument by suggesting it was actually an indication of the consistency of the General Theory. That is, the theory is internally consistent by conceptualizing crime and deriving from that a concept of the offender's traits.
The research community remains divided on whether the General Theory of Crime is sustainable but there is emerging confirmation of some of its predictions (e.g. LaGrange & Silverman: 1999). A number of empirical studies - including meta-analysis - have confirmed that individual self-control is in fact one of the strongest predictors of crime, when compared to a range of factors at various levels of analysis.
- Muraven, Mark; Greg Pogarsky, Dikla Shmueli (June 2006). "Self-control Depletion and the General Theory of Crime". J Quant Criminol 22: 263–277. doi:10.1007/s10940-006-9011-1.
- Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Hay, C. (2001). "Parenting, self-control, and delinquency: A test of self-control theory". Criminology 39 (3): 707–734. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2001.tb00938.x.
- Pratt, Travis C.; Cullen, Francis T. (2000). "The empirical status of Gottfredssons and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime: A Meta analysis". Criminology 38 (3): 931–964. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00911.x.
- Hirschi, T.; Gottfredson, M. R. (1983). "Age and the explanation of crime". American Journal of Sociology 89 (3): 552–584. doi:10.1086/227905.
- Hasan Buker (2011). Formation of self-control: Gottfredson and Hirschi's general theory of crime and beyond 16 (3). pp. 265–276.
- Akers, Ronald L. (1991). "Self-control as a general theory of crime". Journal of Quantitative Criminology 7 (2): 201–211. doi:10.1007/BF01268629.
- *LaGrange, T. C.; Silverman, R. A. (1999). "Low Self-control and Opportunity: Testing the General Theory of Crime as an Explanation for Gender Differences in Delinquency". Criminology 37: 41–72. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1999.tb00479.x.
- Vazsonyi, A. T.; Belliston, L. M. (2007). "The Family → Low Self-Control → Deviance: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Test of Self-Control Theory". Criminal Justice and Behavior 34 (4): 505–530. doi:10.1177/0093854806292299.