Dimensions of Low Self-Control Differ in Prediction of Property and Violent Crime

Douglas Longshore, RAND

In the general theory of crine, there are six empirical dimensions of low self-control: risk-seeking, bad temper, preference fot simple tasks, preference for physical activity, impulsivity, and self-centeredness. Each dimension is said to reflect the same unitary construct (low self-control); none has any distinct explanatory role. In multivariate analyses controlling for background factors and criminal opportunity, I tested these six dimensions as predictors of property and violent crime among 522 adult parolees. Risk-seeking predicted property crime but not violent crime. Bad temper, preference for simple tasks, and preference for physical activity each predicted violent crime but not property crime. Impulsivity and self-centeredness predicted neither. While the construct of low self-control provides parsimony, it may obscure important difference in the explanatory power of specific dimensions in relation to specific types of crime. Criminological theory may be well served by treating these dimensions as autonomous constructs rather than as empirical indicators of the same construct.

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Updated 05/20/2006