Assessing Two Measurements of Self-Control for Juvenile Delinquency in China

Date01 May 2018
Published date01 May 2018
AuthorXue Weng,Wing Hong Chui
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2018, Vol. 34(2) 148 –167
© The Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986218761932
Assessing Two Measurements
of Self-Control for Juvenile
Delinquency in China
Xue Weng1 and Wing Hong Chui2
The purpose of the present study is to examine the theoretical efficiency of Hirschi’s
reconceptualization of self-control in two groups of Chinese adolescents. The
study also incorporates the well-established attitudinal scale from Grasmick et al.
to examine whether there are any differences in the explanatory power between
the two self-control scales among a comparison group of Chinese adolescents (N =
2,048). Structural equation modeling is applied to investigate the underlying theoretical
structure of the self-control construct and the robustness of the scales across diverse
samples. Our results provide evidence that Grasmick’s attitudinal scale has more
explanatory power than that of Hirschi’s revised measure in predicting Chinese
juvenile delinquency. Both measures show a better model fit in the offender sample
than in the student counterparts. Our empirical test provides solid evidence for
Grasmick’s attitudinal scale as a consistent predictor of Chinese juvenile delinquency
compared with Hirschi’s revised measure. Theoretical and empirical directions for
future research are discussed.
self-control, social bonds, Hirschi (2004), Grasmick etal. (1993), Chinese juvenile
As one of the most influential and most tested criminological theories (see Pratt &
Cullen, 2000, for a meta-analysis; R. A. Wright, 2000), self-control theory provides
individual-level mechanisms that can inhibit people’s desires to commit crime
1University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong
2City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
Corresponding Author:
Xue Weng, School of Nursing, University of Hong Kong, 4/F, William MW Mong Block, 21 Sassoon
Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
761932CCJXXX10.1177/1043986218761932Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeWeng and Chui
Weng and Chui 149
(Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). Crime opportunity is ubiquitous, but not all people are
equally tempted to take it. Individuals who possess sufficient self-control can restrain
criminal behavior that has potentially long-term negative consequences, while indi-
viduals with low self-control are less likely to take into account the painful conse-
quences of criminal acts. Therefore, self-control as a stable individual characteristic
makes a difference.
Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) self-control theory has received a substantial
amount of empirical support using a variety of populations, including juvenile delin-
quency (e.g., Baron, 2003; Cauffman, Steinberg, & Piquero, 2005; Mason & Windle,
2002; Vazsonyi, Pickering, Junger, & Hessing, 2001), deviant behaviors among uni-
versity students (e.g., Cochran, Wood, Sellers, Wilkerson, & Chamlin, 1998; Gibbs &
Giever, 1995), and adult offending (e.g., Evans, Cullen, Burton, Dunaway, & Benson,
1997; Longshore & Turner, 1998). Despite increasing evidence for Gottfredson and
Hirschi’s (1990) proposition, there still exist a great number of unresolved problems
around the conceptualization and operationalization of the self-control measure (see
Akers, 1991; Geis, 2000; Longshore, Chang, & Messina, 2005; Taylor, 2001; Vold
et al., 2002). To remedy the problems, Hirschi (2004) modified the central concept of
self-control and introduced elements of social bonds into the theory.
Hirschi (2004) shifted the psychological attribution of self-control to a wider per-
spective, incorporating the element of rational consideration of behavioral conse-
quences. He broadened the conceptualization of self-control as “the tendency to
consider the full range of potential costs of a particular act” (Hirschi, 2004, p. 543).
The redefined theory successfully correlated self-control with social bonds, through
the inclusion of the “broader” and “contemporaneous” behavioral consequences
(Akers & Sellers, 2009). Specifically, Hirschi emphasized the inhibiting role of social
bonds to prevent an individual from engaging in crime. Social bonds from significant
others—such as parents, friends, teachers, and authorities of the law—in the form of
attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief, act as the set of inhibitors of delin-
quency. Social bonds act as an internal value standard guiding people’s decisions
regarding criminal behavior. Individuals with low self-control have reduced aware-
ness of the behavioral consequences associated with criminal behavior.
The social bond becomes one of the primary sources of redefined self-control. We,
thus, refer to the measure of Hirschi’s reconceptualized self-control as the “bonding
self-control” measure in this study. Parental attachment and monitoring, and school
commitment, are listed as important inhibitors in the bonding self-control measure in
Hirschi’s (2004) research. Although Hirschi’s revisions of self-control have recently
been widely tested (Bouffard & Rice, 2011; Piquero & Bouffard, 2007; Vazsonyi &
Huang, 2015; Ward, Boman, & Jones, 2015), empirical research has arrived at contra-
dictory conclusions concerning the redefined self-control measure, calling into ques-
tion the appropriateness of the theoretical revision. As the self-control theory is
regarded as generalizable, accounting for “all crimes, delinquencies and related behav-
iors, for all times, among all groups and countries” (Gottfredson, 2006, p. 83), this
study applies both the traditional and redefined self-control theories to juvenile delin-
quency in China, within the unique Chinese culture and tradition. A thorough review

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