Motivation or Opportunity: Which Serves as the Best Mediator in General Theory of Crime?

George E. Higgins, West Virginia State College
Melissa L. Ricketts, IWest Virginia State College

Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) General Theory of Crime begins by assuming people are rational; they assume people are pleasure seekers and pain aversive. The assessment of pleasure versus pain is affected by a person's level of self-control. Self-control is essentially a person's level of self-restraint, which is developed from parenting. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) say ineffective parenting results in low self-control, which affects a person's ability to assess the consequences of their actions, leaving a person vulnerable to commit deviance when given an opportunity. They say opportunity is the necessary element to commit deviance without any specific motivation. Agnew (1995) says motivational forces that propel people to commit deviance should be developed and tested when assessing the leading crime theories including General Theory of Crime. The purpose of this study is to empirically compare the moderating influences of opportunity and motivation to determine which variable provides the best influence. This study will assess General Theory of Crime while including measures of opportunity and motivation using a sample of college students and path analysis as the analytic technique. The expectation is motivation will serve as a strong moderator for self-control and deviance, while opportunity will serve less of a role.

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Updated 05/20/2006