Self-Control Theory of Crime

The Self-Control Theory of Crime regards an individual’s lack of self-control as the main reason why one’s way of thinking and behavior deviates from societal norms and mores. Although other theories and beliefs suggest that deviation is caused by other external factors, such as peer pressure, way of life, family background, poverty, etc. , the self-control theory of crime denies the influence of the environment as causes for deviance.

It proposes that deviance is innate and is not acquired from other external or environmental factors. The inherent attribute to deviate from the norms and mores of society is caused by an individual’s inability to keep one’s compulsions restrained. (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) Other views of the self-control theory of crime, which evolved to the social-theory of crime, is the presumption that individuals are unable to control themselves, and also regards the inability of society to control individuals.

(Jensen, 2003) According to Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990), individuals with the incapacity to control themselves are characterized as reckless or spontaneous, more inclined to take risks, unpredictable, too distracted, intolerant, easily frustrated, and egotistical. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) add that these characteristics do not only influence individuals with the incapacity to control themselves to commit criminal acts, but are also highly involved with deviant behavior.

Deviant behavior includes activities such as the pleasure of doing vices (drinking, smoking, drug use, and gambling) and other inappropriate actions such as bizarre sexual activities, etc. Low self-control is blamed for deviant actions. In relation to this theory, the causes of low self-control are attributed to several environmental factors.

However, for Gottfredson and Hirschi, the major cause of low self-control among individuals is fruitless nurturing. Parents who neglect their children (not providing attention, time, and effort, to build a solid relationship with their children, and are incapable of identifying and punishing unacceptable behavior are characteristics of people who are cultivating sources of crime within their homes.

(Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) The ability to control one’s impulses and emotions, proper disciplining and child-rearing is important. In disciplining individuals, the members of the family must be able to determine unacceptable behavior, enlighten the individual about the consequences of deviant behavior, and bestow appropriate retribution or penalty for doing unacceptable behavior. (WKU, 2008)