Impulsivity and Offending: The Conditioning Effect of Neighborhood Processes

Shayne Jones, University of Kentucky
Donald R. Lynam, University of Kentucky

The psychological and sociological literatures within criminology both suggest that inhibitory forces are important in understanding juvenile offending. Psychological criminology places the focus of control within the individual and has demonstrated the importance of impulsivity. Sociological criminology emphasizes external control, and this is particularly true of studies drawing from the social disorganization framework. However, these different aspects of control have rarely been used in conjunction. What little empirical evidence that does exist suggests that impulsivity and neighborhood context are important. However, no study to date has examined whether impulsivity has differential effects on juvenile offending across neighborhoods that vary in informal social control. The current study seeks to address this void in the literature by employing measures of impulsivity and neighborhood processes and examining their independent and interactive effects on juvenile offending. Preliminary analyses suggest that impulsivity has strong effects on juvenile offending, while some neighborhood processes have significant, but weak effects. More interestingly, the effects of impulsivity on offending are stronger in neighborhoods characterized by weaker informal social control. These findings demonstrate the need to examine both the direct and interactive effects of individual and community factors to fully understand juvenile offending.

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Updated 05/20/2006