The Gottfredson-Hirschi critiques revisited: Reconciling self-control theory, criminal careers, and career criminals

Matt DeLisi, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

73 Citations (Scopus)


Revisiting Gottfredson and Hirschi's critiques of criminal career research, the current study views low self-control as being analogous to criminal propensity and examines its predictive validity of career criminality among 723 incarcerated delinquent youths. Four key findings emerged. Compared to noncareer offenders, career criminals had significantly lower levels of self-control. Second, youths scoring one standard deviation above the mean on the Self-Control Scale had an odds ratio of 5.36 of becoming a career criminal. Third, self-control predicted career criminal membership with receiver operator characteristic-area under the curve sensitivity accuracies between 74% and 87%, suggesting that self-control is a potentially useful screening device for chronic criminality. Fourth, low self-control was overwhelmingly the strongest predictor of career criminality and far exceeded the impact of age, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, mental illness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis, and trauma experience. Further integration between self-control and criminal career research is urged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-537
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Oct 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology

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