Analyzing Low Self Control Theory Essay

Length: 2 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Psychology Type: Essay Paper: #29114176 Related Topics: Rational Choice Theory, Criminological Theory, Albert Bandura, Youth Ministry
Excerpt from Essay :

Low Self -Control Theory

This theory deviates from the emphasis on informal relational controls and concentrates instead on individual controls. Through effective parenting practices of discipline and monitoring, some kids develop the ability to appropriately react to situations requiring deferred gratification planning. Delinquency is observed more frequently among males than females. One explanation for this is the divergent etiologies of delinquency for females and males. Males might be relatively more susceptible to inadequate parenting and other such factors that place them at risk of developing delinquency. An alternate hypothesis is: delinquency risk factors are identical for females and males, but the latter have relatively greater exposure to these. People with high self-restraint levels are more sensitive to others, have better verbal and cognitive skills, have lesser independence, and are more willing to accept any restrictions on their actions. On the other hand, those with poor self-restraint are characterized by insensitivity, impulsivity, more physical, rather than intellectual, risk-taking, a non-verbal nature, and short-sightedness. They cannot resist the temptation to perpetrate crime, drive recklessly, smoke, drink excessively, or consume drugs. Consequently, weak self-control results in problematic interpersonal relationships, anti-social behavior, and weak involvement in community institutions. Those suffering from low self-restraint face difficulties in making and retaining friends, achieving success at the workplace and at school, and saving their marriage from falling apart. Life-course and social bond theories emphasize the significance of indirect interpersonal controls, while research works corroborate the significance of attachment bonds in preventing people from turning delinquent. The two aforementioned theories incorporate direct controls like monitoring, discipline, and rule-setting into the causative equation. Instead of highlighting direct or indirect controls as being more crucial, researchers suggest that both significantly curb delinquent behaviors. Moreover, clearly, controls function at individual as well as social levels, and characteristics of family structure impact informal familial social controls (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2006).

Self-control theory or the general theory of crime developed through the social control theory's evolution. Hirschi and Gottfredson further expanded their theory on the reasons for committing crime, summarizing it to form the new general crime theory. Control theory places emphasis on the significance of social ties as a factor that insulates against involvement in crime, whereas the general crime theory postulates that one of the main factors underlying criminality is weak self-control. This more recent control theory, referred to frequently as the self-control theory, concentrates on the element of self-control. Hirschi and Gottfredson combined other theoretical aspects for formulating their general criminal theory, borrowing concepts from rational choice theory, routine activities theory, and some other biologically-based and psychological social crime theories. The difference between both theories lies in the supposed fundamental inclination towards crime. Nevertheless, both theories concentrate on childhood aspects influenced by effective parenting styles (Siegel and McCormick, 2006). Despite its focus being on internalized, and not social control, the general crime theory shares some common elements with the earlier theory, by way of its focus on parenting role in inculcating self-control among children. Hirschi and Gottfredson shifted focus from giving importance to social control's role in protecting individuals from engaging in criminal acts to the idea that: criminal behavior can be explained through the presence or absence of self-control. According to the theorists, crime supposedly occurs through a process described as follows: (1) Impulsiveness to (2) Absence of, or very weak, self-control to (3) Deterioration of social ties to (4) A chance to perpetrate crime/delinquency to (5) Aberrant behavior (Siegel and McCormick, 2006: 286). According to the theorists, poor self-control traces back to the childhood period when the first indications of aberrant behavior surface. For individuals with weak self-control, engagement in deviant/delinquent activities merely continues all through the course of their lives (Lilly et al., 1995). Though self-control apparently develops during the early childhood stage of life and may remain constant over time, the theory proposes that criminality rates drop as one grows...


As per this theoretical standpoint, opportunity, rather than individuals, undergoes change (Siegel and McCormick, 2006: 286).

Self-control theory aims at reuniting the explanations of crime and deviance under a single theory. However, weak self-restraint doesn't mean that the person will invariably become a criminal. This theory is a control supposition, which contends that one must pose the question of why certain people don't engage in deviant conduct, rather than why certain people do. Meanwhile, Weinberger and Feldman (1994) did not find any significant relationship between teenaged boys' self-control and parenting practices. Discipline and monitoring is easier for dual-parent (both biological parents, or one step and the other biological) families than for single-parent ones. Slightly different problems are encountered by reconstituted families. The stepparent-stepchild bond might be weak, and residing with a stepparent might lead a child to be subject to a family environment that is indifferent or hostile. Brown and Demuth (2004) have revealed in a recent study that familial elements like parental closeness, supervision, monitoring and involvement attenuate family structure's effects on delinquency. However, their research didn't involve any self-restraint measures. The parental monitoring scale measures parental supervision and detection of improper conduct. This scale involves four questions pertaining to child activity restraints and parents' knowledge of their kids' whereabouts, and a question pertaining to recognition of incorrect behavior. As regards the parenting factors, study participants self-reported an overall high level of monitoring and nurturance, and low rejection levels. Intriguingly, the dependent variable isn't impactful in a statistically significant manner by parental monitoring. Therefore, the impact of parental monitoring, rejection, and nurturance, on self-control appears not to vary with respondent's gender. As regards monitoring of kids reconstituted/single-parent homes relative to intact households, results reveal that no statistically significant link exists between self-restraint and parental monitoring, in case of intact households. But in reconstituted/single-parent homes, significant positive links have been found (these are stronger in case of reconstituted families compared to single-parent homes, if the different socio-demographic features are controlled for). That is, parental monitoring's impact is relatively more complex, owing to its relationship with family structure. One key fact to consider when studying the link of delinquent behavior with parental supervision is: even if parents confess they don't always know of their children's whereabouts, children may feel their behavior is monitored 24/7. Consequently, children might be deterred from engaging in activities, which end in punishment or disapproval. In such cases, parent-reported and child-reported information on supervision of children can lead to highly divergent results. But the latter results were considered to hold more value, as behavioral responses linked to specific parenting practices necessarily depend on children's perception or internalization of these practices (Phythian, Keane, & Krull, 2008).

Weak self-restraint is, nevertheless, considered a primary social trait contributing to delinquency and crime. According to the theory's developers, Hirschi and Gottfredson, self-restraint develops during early childhood, and stays highly stable throughout their lives. As mankind is inherently selfish, and tends to avoid pain and seek pleasure, self-restraint only develops through the effort (unconscious or conscious) to cultivate it. Hence, kids should learn self-restraint, and cultivating this is their families' responsibility. The general self-control theory maintains that there are three conditions essential for the development of self-restraint in children: Parental monitor of children's behavior, identification of any deviant behavior, and punishment or correction of such behavior. At the heart of each aforementioned element is parental love, as a caring parent tends to observe and correct his/her child (Gottfredson, Michael and Travis Hirschi, 1990).

Social Learning Theory

This theory suggests that the process of learning is cognitive, occurring through direct instruction or solely through observation, in social settings, and can even occur when there is no direct reinforcement or motor reproduction. Bandura (1977) states that this theory continues to play a central role in understanding non-criminal as well as criminal conduct; i.e., theories categorized under this group may be understood, broadly, as social behavioral approaches emphasizing the reciprocal link between environmental, cognitive, and behavioral determinants of mankind's behavior. This theory is usually applied in studying criminality and crime (Bandura (1977). This general criminal theory helps explain a wide range of criminal conducts. It is centered on the notion that learning in social settings, with the incorporation of the elements of situation and interaction, produces deviant as well as conforming behaviors. The difference is what direction the balance of behavioral influences lies. Under social learning, the probability of individuals' engagement in deviant and criminal behavior increases while that of conformance decreases in the event of differential association with other criminal-minded people and espousal of favorable definitions to it. These people are comparatively more exposed (symbolically or in-person) to salient deviant/criminal models, and view them as justifiable or desirable in situations discriminative for such behavior. They have previously received relatively higher rewards than punishments for their behavior, and anticipate the same currently and in the future (Ministry of Child and Youth services, 2013).

Albert Bandura's social learning model has, perhaps, grown to be the most prominent development and learning theory. Born on 4th December, 1925 in Canada's Alberta province, the theorist earned his…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Burfeind, J. W. & Bartusch, D. J. (2006). Juvenile delinquency: An integrated approach. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Demuth, S. & Brown, S.L. (2004). Family Structure, Family Processes, and Adolescent Delinquency: The Significance of Parental Absence vs. Parental Gender. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 41(1):58-81.

Farrington, D. P. (2010). Family influences on delinquency. Juvenile justice and delinquency, 203-222.

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