Investigating the personality construct of self-control as defined in the General Theory of Crime : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Over the decades, "self-control" has generated much theoretical debate and research across the disciplines of human science. Although intuitively understood, the concept of self-control remains slippery as it can he viewed from various perspectives. As a consequence, it has been defined and measured in different ways which are not all consistent with one another. Self-control, or the lack thereof, has been implicated in criminality, psychopathology and various deviant behaviours. The General Theory of Crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) has attracted much interest and continues to be a major influence in understanding crime and deviance. At the core of this theory is the construct of self-control. Although the authors argue that their theory denies the existence of "an enduring criminal disposition", their definition of self-control appears fully compatible with the concept of "trait" as used in personality psychology. However, there have been few attempts to establish explicit connections between personality traits and the self-control construct as defined in the General Theory of Crime. This research investigated the personality construct of self-control as defined in The General Theory of Crime. The sample consisted of 63 faculty staff members and 126 young students located at the Albany, Palmerston North and Wellington campuses of Massey University. Quantitative data were collected via a postal survey questionnaire comprising scales measuring individual differences relating to (a) personality (Francis, Brown & Philipchalk (1992) Abbreviated form of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire), (b) self-control (Grasmick, Tittle, Bursik & Arneklev (1993) Self-Control Scale), (c) imprudent behaviours (an adaptation of Marcus (2003) Retrospective Behavioural Scale), and (d) impulsivity (Dickman (1990) Functional and Dysfunctional Impulsivity Inventory). Results from the present study indicated that incorporating personality variables into a model of self-control explained more of the variance, strengthened the prediction of imprudent behaviours and indicated better goodness –of-fit statistics. Furthermore, the components of self-control, as defined in the general theory of crime, were better explained by the conceptually distinct latent constructs of Dysfunctional and Functional impulsivity. Limitations of this research and recommendations for further research are considered.