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Self-Control and Crime Over the Life Course

Self-Control and Crime Over the Life Course

March 2015 | 312 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

What exactly is self-control, and what life outcomes does it affect? What causes a person to have high or low self-control to begin with? What effect does self-control have on crime and other harmful behavior?      


Using a clear, conversational writing style, Self-Control and Crime Over the Life Course answers critical questions about self-control and its importance for understanding criminal behavior. Authors Carter Hay and Ryan Meldrum use intuitive examples to draw attention to the close connection between self-control and the behavioral choices people make, especially in reference to criminal, deviant, and harmful behaviors that often carry short-term benefits but long-term costs. The text builds an overall theoretical perspective that conveys the multi-disciplinary nature of modern-day self-control research. Moreover, far from emphasizing only theoretical issues, the authors place public policy at the forefront, using self-control research to inform policy efforts that reduce the societal costs of low self-control and the behaviors it enables.

Chapter 1: Introduction
A Definition of Self-Control  
An Integrative Approach  
A Life Course Approach  
Connecting Self-Control to Other Causes of Behavior  
Attention to Public Policy  
Connecting the Science of Self-Control to the Stories We Read About Everyday  
Chapter 2: Theories of Self-Control and Behavior
The Inextricable Connection Between Theory and Fact  
Explaining Crime: Gottfredson and Hirschi's Self-Control Theory  
Evaluating Gottfredson and Hirschi's Self-Control Theory  
A Psychological, Trait-Based Theory of Self-Control  
Biosocial Approaches to Behavior  
The Strength Model: Self-control as a Depletable Resource  
Chapter 3: What Are the Consequences of Low Self-Control?
The Marshmallow Experiments  
A Quick Note on the Measurement of Self-Control  
Research on Low Self-Control and Crime  
The Everyday Consequences of Low Self-Control  
Policy Implications and Possibilities  
Chapter 4: Infancy and Childhood: What Are the Causes of Self-Control Early in Life?
The Role of Parents in Shaping Self-Control  
The Genetic Underpinnings of Self-Control  
Neurobiological Influences on Self-Control  
Policy Implications and Possibilities  
Chapter 5: Adolescence and Adulthood: Is Self-Control Stable Over Time?
Stability and Change in Self-Control  
Why Does Self-Control Often Remain Stable?  
Persistent Individual Traits as Contributors to Self-Control Stability  
Persistent Environmental Characteristics: Parenting and Peers  
Persistent Environmental Characteristics: The Stability of Poverty  
State Dependence as a Contributor to Self-Control Stability  
An Implicit Idea: Human Agency  
Empirical Evidence on Explanations for Stability  
Policy Implications and Possibilities  
Chapter 6: What Leads to Self-Control Change?
The Pervasiveness of Change  
The Transformations of Adolescence  
Unexpected Shifts in Social Environments and Relationships  
Sleeping, Eating, and Substance Use: Short-Term Fluctuations in Self-Control  
Policy Implications and Possibilities  
Chapter 7: Do the Harmful Effects of Low Self-Control Vary Across Different Circumstances?
Conditional Causation and Low Self-Control: Conceptual Issues  
Criminal Opportunity  
Association With Delinquent Peers  
Weak Social Bonds  
Neighborhood Disadvantage  
Weak Moral Values  
Considering Self-Control as a Moderator Variable  
Can Self-Control Moderate the Effects of Self-Control?  
Policy Implications and Possibilities  
Chapter 8: Self-Control and Crime Over the Life Course: Bringing It All Together
The Causes of Initial Self-Control Differences in the First Decade of Life  
The Child Grows into an Adolescent  
The Adolescent Grows Into an Adult  
Moderated Effects Across the Entire Life Course  
Chapter 9: Self-Control and Crime: Influencing Policy and Looking to the Future
Self-Control as a Driver of Societal Advance  
Using Policy to Promote Self-Control Over the Life Course  
Community-Based Programs Relevant to All Stages of the Life Course  
Evidence of Program Success  

"Low self-control has emerged as one of the leading causes of crime and deviance, some would argue the leading cause.  This book provides an excellent overview of the large body of research on self-control, both within and outside of criminology.  It covers a range of topics, including the varied causes and consequences of low self-control, self-control over the life course, and the policy implications of the self-control research.  It is well written and engaging, suitable for both students and professionals.  I highly recommend it as the best single source on this key concept in criminology."

Robert Agnew
Emory University

“Hay and Meldrum provide a masterful and timely synthesis of the disparate literatures on self-control, one of the most important concepts in the study of antisocial behavior and deviance. Their clear, cogent, and objective assessment will not only inform ongoing research, but will also provide direction to the next generation of criminologists.”

Michael D. Reisig
Professor, Arizona State University

"There is little debate that the relationship between self-control and crime over the life-course has been among the most central of all criminological issues over the past quarter-century and the theoretical, empirical, and policy-related contributions have skyrocketed thereby keeping tabs on new findings has been difficult, that is, until now. Hay and Meldrum, two of the field’s most foremost thinkers on self-control have brought together this literature in a careful and easy going way. With chapter introductions that situate the material in real-world examples, they draw readers in and keep them there. A wonderful overview of the state of the science with many nuggets for future research outlined."

Alex R. Piquero, PhD
University of Texas at Dallas

"I like the writing style of the text.  It is written at a level that complements the ability of my students.  It is also a fun read and has examples that are real attention-getters."

J. Mitchell Miller
University of North Florida

“Hay and Meldrum have put together an impressive book that covers the sweeping literature on self-control and its impact on human behavior.  This is an indispensable resource for students and scholars interested in understanding one of criminology’s most consistent predictors of criminal behavior.”

J.C. Barnes, Ph.D.
University of Cincinnati

"A contemporary synopsis of one of the major criminological theories."

Jennifer Wareham, Ph.D.
Wayne State University

"The writing is very good. The authors include a well-known senior and surging junior colleague whose reputations will add credibility to the authoritative quality of the book."

Nadine M. Connell, Ph.D.

"Addresses the intersection of child development, brain development, neighborhoods and self-control and crime as well as policy issues."

Rebecca S. Katz, Ph.D.
Morehead State University

i am givnig the feedback for my testing purpose.

Mr Testname111 Testname3
Institute of Law, Institute of Law
May 18, 2015
Key features


  •  Scientific evidence on the effects of low self-control is introduced into the debates that are energizing modern-day dialogue on the causes of crime, deviance, and other harmful behaviors
  • An interdisciplinary and integrative perspective draws insights from a wide range of disciplines to provide readers with a diverse viewpoint that is valuable for understanding the self-control puzzle
  • Public policy implications are prioritized throughout the text by describing the extensive evidence-based policy efforts that are relevant to self-control development over the life course, providing readers with key insights for social service, juvenile justice, and criminal justice intervention
  • A life course approach directs readers to the development of self-control during critical stages of the life course, including the prenatal period, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood
  • In Focus text boxes grab the reader’s attention by describing complicated areas of self-control research in an easy, accessible, and entertaining manner, making the text fun to read
  • A multitude of examples and illustrations from news media, popular culture, and historic accounts encourage classroom discussion and supplement difficult concepts within each chapter
  • Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter act as a learning tool to reinforce important concepts and create opportunities for classroom discussion
  • A variety of charts and graphs illustrate the arguments and connect them to case studies and current events that show the behavioral and policy relevance of self-control theory and research

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

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