U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Impulsivity, Offending, and the Neighborhood: Investigating the Person-Context Nexus

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2007
145 pages
Gregory M. Zimmerman Ph.D.
Publication Type
Report (Study/Research)
Grant Number(s)
This dissertation focuses on how personal characteristics in interaction with environmental characteristics influence delinquent behaviors by examining how an important personal characteristic, impulsivity, is related to offending in Chicago neighborhoods with different characteristics.
The study found that over time, higher levels of impulsivity were associated with higher levels of property and violent offending. There was also evidence of an amplification process whereby the effects of impulsivity on offending were enhanced in neighborhoods with higher levels of socioeconomic status (SES). Further, the effects of impulsivity were enhanced in neighborhoods with higher levels of collective efficacy and lower levels of criminogenic behavior settings and pro-criminal definitions. A social process risk composite (i.e., an index of collective efficacy, criminogenic behavioral setting, and pro-criminal definitions) reduced the effects of socioeconomic status on the slope of impulsivity. Impulsivity consists of a predisposition toward a wide range of antisocial behaviors rather than toward a single act (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990; Wilson and Herrnstein, 1985). Other features of impulsivity are rapid, unplanned actions without forethought or the conscious deliberation of an act and its potential consequences (Moeller et al., 2001). The findings of the current study suggest that the individual characteristic of impulsivity becomes a more prominent factor in delinquent behavior when community characteristics that would foster antisocial behaviors are limited and informal social controls on behavior are strongest. In high-risk neighborhoods, on the other hand, multiple environmental criminogenic factors such as peer influences and the modeling of criminal behavior assumes such importance that impulsivity as an individual factor assumes less importance. The Project of Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods was used to develop multivariate, multilevel item response models to examine whether the effects of impulsivity on offending were amplified in lower risk neighborhoods. 12 tables, 14 figures, and 202 references
Date Created: May 7, 2009