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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 218414 Find in a Library
Title: Role of Self-Control in Crime Causation: Beyond Gottfredson and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime
Journal: European Journal of Criminology  Volume:4  Issue:2  Dated:April 2007  Pages:237-264
Author(s): Per-Olof H. Wikstrom; Kyle Treiber
Date Published: April 2007
Page Count: 28
Type: Research (Theoretical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article offers an alternative understanding of the role of self-control in crime causation, arguing that self-control is best understood as a situational concept rather than an individual trait.
Abstract: The main argument is that the concept of self-control as defined by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) in their landmark General Theory of Crime should not be viewed as an individual trait as Gottfredson and Hirschi suggest, but should rather be viewed as a situational factor. Self-control should be understood as a factor that emerges in the process of choice. The authors further argue that there are important environmental and contextual influences that impact an individual’s capacity to exercise self-control. The ability to exercise self-control becomes relevant to crime causation only in situations in which an individual is able to deliberate about whether or not to engage in criminality. The authors posit that individual morality is a more important factor to crime causation than the ability to exercise self-control in a given situation. In making these arguments, the authors present evidence of the underlying biology of self-control and executive capabilities. The research indicates that self-control is a situational concept exercised by the executive capabilities of an individual and which determine an individual’s ability to exercise self-control when experiencing a moral conflict in how to respond to particular motivations. Thus, crimes are acts of moral rule breaking that can be influenced by an individual’s capacity to exercise self-control. An individual’s morality, then, emerges as the most important individual characteristic influencing an individual’s engagement in criminality. The exercise of self-control only comes into play during situations in which the individual is able to contemplate over action alternatives because of a conflict between their morality and the motivation to carry out the particular crime. Figures, table, references
Main Term(s): Crime causes theory; Moral development
Index Term(s): Theory
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