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Investigating the Interdependence of Strain and Self-Control

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 45 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 431-464
Teresa C. LaGrange; Robert A. Silverman; Tracy Peter
Date Published
October 2003
34 pages
This article discusses the self-control and strain perspectives in regard to delinquency.
The goal of this study was to test the assumption that the elements of strain and self-control may be viewed as complementary forces causing a greater propensity towards delinquent behavior. Multidimensional (or interactive) explanations for criminal conduct that embrace both forces might therefore be expected to produce stronger results than either one alone. The basic assumption of general strain theory is that strain may result from a wide range of negative situations in one’s life. Crime becomes a mechanism for alleviating strain, seeking revenge, or managing negative effect. The theory of self-control asserts that people with low self-control tend to be impulsive, insensitive, and risk-taking and will tend to engage in criminal acts. The data used in this research were taken from the University of Alberta Study of Juvenile and Adolescent Behavior survey, conducted in 1994. A sample of over 2,000 adolescents attending junior and senior high schools in a western Canadian city were analyzed. This study lends support to the assertion that both self-control and strain are important predictors of delinquent behavior, but only in an additive way. Adolescents with low self-control that experience strain may be the most likely to commit delinquency, but the effects of the two are independent rather than interactive. The relative insignificance of the interaction effect between the two perspectives suggests that they are not entirely complementary paradigms and that self-control does not subsume the effects of strain on adolescents. In terms of policy implications, results seem to imply that a multi-faceted approach would be necessary. 4 tables, 22 notes, 70 references