Cover: Self-control and Criminal Opportunity

Self-control and Criminal Opportunity

Cross-Sectional Test of the General Theory of Crime

Published in: Criminal Justice and Behavior, v. 25, no. 1, Mar. 1998, p. 81-98

Posted on 1998

by Douglas L. Longshore, Susan Turner

In this study, the authors tested two hypotheses drawn from the general theory of crime. The first hypothesis is that low self-control is a major individual-level cause of crime. The second, that the effect of self-control is contingent on criminal opportunity. The measure of self-control used was a 23-item self-report index. To measure criminal opportunity, two proxy variables were used: gender and crime-involved friends. Crime measures included number of criminal acts of force and number of criminal acts of fraud reported in a 6-month recall period by a sample of 522 criminal offenders. Self-control was lower among offenders reporting more crimes of force and fraud, but the variance explained by self-control was low in each case. The relationship between self-control and fraud crimes was contingent on criminal opportunity, but the relationship between self-control and force crimes was not. Implications of these findings for the general theory of crime are reviewed.

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