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Gender differences in the acquisition of self-control over time

Katherine A Johnson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Although over a decade of empirical evidence suggests a causal link between low self-control and crime, very little research has focused on the prediction of self-control or on how self-control changes over time. The current project centers on the empirical testing of A General Theory of Crime (GTC - Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990) and on modeling the developmental nature of the acquisition of self-control throughout childhood and adolescence while testing for gender differences. The GTC is argued to be a general theory, capable of explaining all crime among all people. As such, self-control should be acquired in similar ways and at similar rates among both males and females. Results of the current study have implications for the generality of the GTC as well as the use of gender-neutral theories in the etiology of criminal behavior. I follow 809 young people through five waves of data (from ages 4–6 to ages 12–14) using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - Child and Young Adult Data (NLSY79 - Child and YA). I examine the extent to which males and females differ in the magnitude and shape of their growth in self-control over time, as well as the between-person stability of self-control. In order to do so, I employ latent growth curve analysis with multiple groups in Mplus (Muthén and Muthén 2004). Results show that there is a curvilinear relationship between self-control and time for both males and females such that individuals initially acquire self-control over time, but subsequently lose self-control after levels peak in late childhood. There is between-person stability among males and not among females, although this difference is not statistically significant. No other substantively important gender differences arose. Results are largely supportive of the theory and indicate that males and females may be more similar than they are different in terms of their within and between person change in self-control over time. ^

Subject Area

Sociology, Theory and Methods|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Katherine A, "Gender differences in the acquisition of self-control over time" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3284308.