An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 2005 American Society of Criminology meetings in Toronto. The authors thank Ted Chiricos, Gary Kleck, Dan Mears, Mike Reisig, Eric Stewart, and Dan Nagin for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper and its analyses. All correspondence can be sent to Carter Hay by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Carter Hay, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1127.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-CONTROL: EXAMINING SELF-CONTROL THEORY'S STABILITY THESIS*
Article first published online: 11 DEC 2006
Volume 44, Issue 4, pages 739–774, November 2006
How to Cite
HAY, C. and FORREST, W. (2006), THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-CONTROL: EXAMINING SELF-CONTROL THEORY'S STABILITY THESIS. Criminology, 44: 739–774. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2006.00062.x
- Issue published online: 11 DEC 2006
- Article first published online: 11 DEC 2006
- the general theory of crime;
- developmental trajectory
Research on self-control theory consistently supports its central prediction that low self-control significantly affects crime. The theory includes other predictions, however, that have received far less scrutiny. Among these is the argument that self-control is developed early in childhood and that individual differences emerging then persist over time. The purpose of this study is to provide a rigorous test of the stability thesis. First, we examine the extent of stability and change in self-control for a national sample of U.S. children age 7 to age 15. Second, we consider whether parenting continues to affect self-control during adolescence—a period after the point at which self-control differences should be fixed. The analysis revealed strong absolute and relative stability of self-control for more than 80 percent of the sample, and this stability emerged in large part as early as age 7. Contradicting the theory was a smaller portion of respondents (roughly 16 percent) who experienced substantial absolute and relative changes in self-control even after the age of 10. Moreover, parental socialization continued to affect self-control during adolescence, even after accounting for both prior self-control and exposure to parental socialization.