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Self-Control Theory

Michael R. Gottfredson

Subject Sociology » Deviance and Social Control, Sociological and Social Theory

Key-Topics self

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Self-control is a concept used by sociologists to explain differences among people in the frequency of engaging in a wide variety of acts that cause harm to others ( Gottfredson & Hirschi 1990 ). It is defined as the tendency to avoid acts whose long-term costs exceed their momentary advantages. The costs include penalties from institutions such as schools and the criminal justice system, the loss of affection from family and friends, loss of jobs and advancements in employment, and bodily injury and physical pain. Individuals with relatively high levels of self-control tend to have low rates of crime, delinquency, and substance abuse because these behaviors entail potential long-term costs. They tend to have relatively high rates of school and employment success and lasting interpersonal relationships. In criminology, the concept of self-control derives from the branch of sociological theories known as control theories. These theories are distinguished by the assumption that people are rational actors, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Basic human needs and desires are seen as fairly uniformly distributed among people (even if access to the means to satisfy these needs and desires is far from uniformly distributed). They include the desire for affection from others, material goods, and pleasurable physical and psychological experiences. In general, people pursue these wants ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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