A longitudinal test of the effects of parenting and the stability of self-control: Negative evidence for the general theory of crime

Callie Harbin Burt, Ronald L. Simons, Leslie G. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

203 Scopus citations


This study investigates two core propositions of Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) general theory of crime. Using longitudinal data collected on approximately 750 African American children and their primary caregivers, we first examine whether self-control fully mediates the effect of parenting on delinquency. Consistent with the general theory, we find that low self-control is positively associated with involvement in delinquency. Counter to Gottfredson and Hirschi's proposition, we find that self-control only partially attenuates the negative effect of parental efficacy on delinquency. Next, we assess the theory's hypothesis that between-individual levels of self-control are stable. Finding substantial instability in self-control across the two waves, we explore whether social factors can explicate these changes in self-control. The four social relationships we incorporate (improvements in parenting, attachment to teachers, association with pro-social peers, and association with deviant peers) explain a substantial portion of the changes in self-control. We then discuss the implications of these findings for the general theory of crime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-396
Number of pages44
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2006



  • Authoritative parenting
  • Change
  • Delinquency
  • Peers
  • Self-control
  • Stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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