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Test of Strain and Self-Control Theories: Occupational Crime in Nursing Homes

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 23 Issue: 2 Dated: 2000 Pages: 27-44
Judy A. Van Wyk Ph.D.; Michael L. Benson; Diana K. Harris
J. Mitchell Miller
Date Published
18 pages
This study investigated the effectiveness of self-control and strain theories in predicting two different forms of occupational crime in nursing homes, employee theft of patient belongings and abuse of patients.
Strain theory is one of the few criminological theories that addresses criminal motivation. Different forms of strain may lead to criminal behavior: traditional strain that results from failure to achieve positively valued goals, strain that results from the removal of positively valued stimuli, and strain that results from the presentation of negative or noxious stimuli. Strain theory is designed to predict how individuals will respond to the presence of noxious stimuli. Self-control theory posits that crime is a function of two variables, opportunity and self-control. Self-control is established in early childhood through social interaction with parents or guardians and is a stable behavioral propensity. The theory posits that persons with low levels of self-control are more likely than those with greater self-control to engage in criminal behavior. To test the two theories, data were obtained from a national study of nursing homes, collected during 1997 and 1998. Of 119 eligible nursing homes contacted, employees of 47 nursing homes participated in the study, for a response rate of 39 percent. Logistic regression techniques were used to assess the direct effects of measures of self-control and strain on self-reported theft and patient abuse. Results indicated variables derived from strain theory were related to theft and abuse, while self-control theory was not related to either form of occupational crime. Although the results appeared to support strain theory over self-control theory, the study design had problems, most importantly a low employee response rate. Self-control dimensions and statements used in the study are listed in an appendix. 19 references, 7 endnotes, and 4 tables