Does self-control account for the relationship between binge drinking and alcohol-related behaviours?

Alex R. Piquero, Chris L. Gibson, Stephen G. Tibbetts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory that there is an underlying factor accounting for all sorts of antisocial behaviour has attracted widespread theoretical and empirical attention. One of their most controversial statements is a 'generality' hypothesis, a notion that criminal, deviant and reckless acts are highly correlated because they are caused by individual differences in self-control. In this paper, we examine the extent to which self-control accounts for the relationship between two behaviours: binge drinking and involvement in alcohol-related behaviours, including criminal behaviour. Method: Questionnaires were given to students at a southern US university. A final sample of 241 students (35% males, 91% whites, aged 17-40). One question concerned binge-drinking, 11 others related to other alcohol-related behaviour; a 24-item scale measured self-control and sex was recorded. A probit model was used to test the effect of low self-control on binge drinking and on other alcohol-related behaviours. It was found that self-control exhibits a positive effect on both. But binge drinking and other alcohol-related behaviours are correlated, so a further analysis using a bivariate probit model was undertaken using a naïve model (no covariates), an unconstrained model (allowing self-control to exert a unique effect on both outcomes), and a constrained model forcing self-control to be the same for both outcomes. Results: Our results suggest that while low self-control is a significant predictor of both binge drinking and alcohol-related problems, it does not fully account for the relationship between the two outcomes. In addition, separate estimation for each sex reveal a substantively different pattern of results. Discussion: Further research is needed to disentangle the differences between the sexes. Situational factors, especially in males, may account for adverse alcohol-related behaviours. Other measures of self-control are also needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-154
Number of pages20
JournalCriminal Behaviour and Mental Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

Cite this