The Many Measurements of Self-Control: How Reoperationalized Self-Control Compares

Whitney D. Gunter, Western Michigan University
Nicholas W. Bakken, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse


Since Gottfredson and Hirschi’s ‘A General Theory of Crime’ was published in 1990, self-control has become a major focus in criminological theory and research and the issue of measuring self-control has been the topic of many debates. Much of this research has used Grasmick and colleagues’ 1993 attitudinal scale. In 2004, Hirschi provided a new definition for self-control designed to spur new measurements of the concept. Despite this effort, only Piquero and Bouffard (2007) have provided an in-depth attempt to measure the redefined concept. This study replicates the Piquero and Bouffard measurement and a traditional measure of self-control in order to compare their effectiveness in predicting criminal or deviant behaviours. Data used come from a random sample of undergraduate students. Results indicate that the strength of the relationship between self-control and crime/deviance varies significantly based on the way self-control is measured.

The data used in this research were collected by the University of Delaware Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies as part of studies supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, by the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems, and by the Christiana Care Health Services Center for Women's and Children's Health Research. The views and conclusions expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Delaware or the sponsoring agencies.