Specifying the direct and indirect effects of low self- control and situational factors in offenders’ decision makingi toward a more complete model of rational offending

Alex Piquero, Stephen Tibbetts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


This paper builds on work by Nagin and Patemoster in which they contend that two recent developments in criminological theory, self-control and rational choice, have been explored separately rather than in conjunction with one another. In their analysis, Nagin and Patemoster found direct effects for variables from each of these theories and called for more research into simultaneous examination of the two. We build on their work by delineating a more highly specified model of rational offending, in which we observe that the research thus far has not examined the indirect effects, of low self- control. We believe that this area is grossly underdeveloped and that such an examination is necessary for a more complete understanding of criminal offending. We advance three hypotheses concerning the integration of low self-control into a rational choice framework: (1) that low self-control will have both direct and indirect effects via situational characteristics on intentions to shoplift and drive drunk; (2) that situational characteristics will have direct effects on intentions to deviate, as well as effects on other situational factors; and (3) that a model uniting the effects of low self-control and situational characteristics will provide a good fit to the data. We find support for all these hypotheses and suggest that future theoretical developments will be improved by the integration of low self-control with situational characteristics in a more general model of offending.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-510
Number of pages30
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

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