Does self-control affect survey response? Applying exploratory, confirmatory, and item response theory analysis to Grasmick et al.'s self-control scale

Alex R. Piquero, Randall MacIntosh, Matthew Hickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

189 Citations (Scopus)


Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) A General Theory of Crime has sparked a great deal of theoretical debate and empirical investigation. Tests of the theory have focused on measuring the core element, the latent trait of self-control. The majority of this research has used the 24-item scale developed by Grasmick et al. (1993), and a great deal of attention has been directed at the validity of this scale. Empirical debate revolves around the unidimensionality of the scale as established using conventional factor analytic techniques [exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA)]. In this paper, we provide the first application of an item response theory (IRT) Rasch model to the validation of the Grasmick et al. scale. IRT models focus on the interaction between the human subject and survey items, and the extent to which cumulative scales fail to provide fundamental measurement. Our results suggest that although conventional factor analyses yield results similar to those previously reported, IRT analysis reveals that one's level of self-control influences self-report responses, a finding consistent with Hirschi and Gottfredson.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-929
Number of pages33
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes

Cite this