On the malleability of self-control: Theoretical and policy implications regarding a general theory of crime

Alex R. Piquero, Wesley G. Jennings, David P. Farrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

191 Citations (Scopus)


Gottfredson and Hirschi's general theory of crime has generated significant controversy and research, such that there now exists a large knowledge base regarding the importance of self-control in regulating antisocial behavior over the life-course. Reviews of this literature indicate that self-control is an important correlate of antisocial activity. Some research has evaluated programmatic efforts designed to examine the extent to which self-control is malleable, but little empirical research on this issue has been carried out within criminology, largely because the theorists have not paid much attention to policy proscriptions. This study evaluates the extant research on the effectiveness of programs designed to improve self-control up to age 10 among children and adolescents, and assesses the effects of these programs on self-control and delinquency/ crime. Meta-analytic results indicate that (1) self-control programs improve a child/adolescent's self-control, (2) these interventions also reduce delinquency, and (3) the positive effects generally hold across a number of different moderator variables and groupings as well as by outcome source (parent-, teacher-, direct observer-, self-, and clinical report). Theoretical and policy implications are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-834
Number of pages32
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • General theory
  • Intervention
  • Malleability
  • Prevention
  • Self-control

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