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Self-Control Through Emerging Adulthood: Instability, Multidimensionality, and Criminological Significance

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 52 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2014 Pages: 450-487
Callie H. Burt; Gary Sweeten; Ronald L. Simons
Date Published
August 2014
38 pages
This study assessed self-control theory's stability postulate.
The authors advanced research on self-control stability in three ways. First, the authors extended the study of stability beyond high school, estimating GBTMs of self-control from ages 10 to 25. Second, drawing on advances in developmental psychology and social neuroscience, especially the dual systems model of risk taking, the authors investigated whether two distinct personality traitsimpulsivity and sensation seekingoften conflated in measures of self-control, exhibit divergent developmental patterns. Finding that they do, the authors estimated multitrajectory models to identify latent classes of co-occurring developmental patterns. The authors supplement GBTM stability analyses with hierarchical linear models and reliable variance estimates. Lastly, using fixed effects models, the authors explored whether the observed within-individual changes are associated with changes in crime net of overall age trends. These ideas are tested using five waves of data from the Family and Community Health Study. Results suggest that self-control is unstable, that distinct patterns of development exist for impulsivity and sensation seeking, and that these changes are uniquely consequential for crime. The authors conclude by comparing their findings with extant research and discussing the implications for self-control theory. (Published Abstract)