A General Theory of Crime
Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990)
“OOPS” -Travis Hirschi
The Nature of Crime and Criminals
Criminal Acts… Criminals are therefore…
Provide immediate gratification Impulsive
Are risky/thrilling Risk-taking
Are easy/simple Physical (as opposed to mental)
Require little skill/planning Low verbal ability
Provide few/meager long term Short-sighted
Result in pain/discomfort to a Insensitive
• The cluster of traits (impulsive, insensitive…)
tend to come together in people
• They are present before “crime”
• They tend to persist through life
• Personality? G&H argue against this
Causes of Low Self-Control
• We are all born without self-control
– Self Control is established in early childhood (age 8)
– Causes must be in early childhood
• Parents failure to supervise, recognize, punish
– Straight from Patterson, but no role for “positive
learning” (positive reinforcement)
• Biology? Infants might differ on “impulsiveness
or verbal ability…but all can be socialized.
Is Gerald Patterson a Control
Theorist or a Learning Theorist?
• In the field of Psychology = Social Learning
• In the field of Criminology?
– Most likely a control theorist
• Assumption about human nature, “direct controls”
– BUT, has elements of learning theory, which
Implications of Low Self-Control
• The sole cause of crime and “analogous
– All Crime?
– “Analogous Behaviors?”
• Explains “stability” of criminality
– Low self-control is stable over time
• What does this mean for Hirschi’s social
From Aker’s Book (Social Selection & Social Causation)
Low Self Control Crime
Pure Social Selection
Poverty, Delinquent Peers,
Social Bonds, Poverty
Low Self Control Crime
• Tautology Problems
– Only if self control inferred from“behavioral
measures” (e.g., delinquency)
– Confusion over “criminality” and “crime”
• Attitudinal measures
– I would you rather read a book than engage in physical
– I tend to be value the “here and now” and do not like to
plan my life.
Empirical Support With
• Moderate correlation with delinquency,
crime, and “analogous behaviors”
• Controlling for low self-control weakens,
but doesn’t eliminate “social” causation
– In other words, it appears as though low self-
control is not the sole cause of crime
• Are white collar offenders different from
“street” offenders? (Some evidence they are)
• Low self-control stable after age 8
– Only “early prevention” can reduce crime
– Train parents, support parents??
• Typical “rehabilitation” won’t reduce crime
• Changing “bonds” won’t reduce crime
• Early intervention with parents?
– Why do people desist from criminal activity?
– Not the “sole” cause of crime
– Bonds still more important?