Testing the Dimensionality of Low Self-Control Across Three Groups of Chinese Adolescents

Published date01 May 2018
Date01 May 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2018, Vol. 34(2) 168 –195
© The Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/1043986218761934
Testing the
Dimensionality of
Low Self-Control Across
Three Groups of Chinese
Ling Ren1, Jihong Zhao1, and Yuchun Luo2
The concept of Low Self-Control (LSC) has been a major focus of criminological
theories since the publication of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s work in 1990. Although
there is an increasing amount of literature devoted to exploring the precise
theoretical construct of LSC, no consensus has been reached on the factorial
structure of Grasmick et al.’s LSC measures. The purpose of this study is to
investigate the factorial dimensionality of Grasmick etal.’s LSC measures in the
Chinese setting. The data for this study come from three distinct samples collected
in a Chinese province with a population of 47 million. The three samples represent
high school students, troubled teens incarcerated in jail, and adjudicated juvenile
offenders in prison in this province. Confirmatory factor analyses are utilized to
conduct the factorial structure tests. Results provide strong support for a second-
order or hierarchical model of LSC across the three groups. The key findings are
discussed in terms of methodological, theoretical, and cultural dimensions.
Grasmick et al.’s low self-control measures, dimensionality, Chinese adolescents,
second-order model
1Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, USA
2Chongqing University, China
Corresponding Author:
Ling Ren, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville,
TX 77341, USA.
Email: lren@shsu.edu
761934CCJXXX10.1177/1043986218761934Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeRen et al.
Ren et al. 169
In traditional Chinese culture, the concept of self-control, self-discipline, or self-con-
straint is considered essential to the maintenance of social harmony (Yao, 2000). This
personal trait is conceptualized as reflecting placement on a continuum ranging from
high to low self-control (LSC).1 A citizen who demonstrates a high level of personal
control is well respected in his or her social circle in Chinese societies. Numerous
prominent role models are extolled in the 2,000 years of Chinese history, all of who
exercised extraordinary control over their personal desires and over their temper for
the sake of promoting the interest of society.2 On the other side of the continuum, LSC
is often viewed as the root cause of both individual failings and many social
Coincidentally, the focus of a primary criminological theory, the general theory of
crime (GTC), is directed to self-control, particularly LSC (Gottfredson & Hirschi,
1990). Since its publication more than 27 years ago, an abundance of research has
been generated to examine the proposition that LSC is the main cause of many crimes
and analogous antisocial behaviors (Arneklev, Grasmick, Tittle, & Bursik, 1993;
Cochran, Wood, Sellers, Wilkerson, & Chamlin, 1998; Gibbs, Giever, & Martin, 1998;
Gibson, Wright, & Tibbetts, 2000; Marshall & Enzmann, 2012; Wood, Pfefferbaum, &
Arneklev, 1993). Chinese scholars have joined their counterparts in the West in testing
the utility of GTC. A good number of well-designed and implemented empirical stud-
ies carried out by these scholars have used LSC to predict juvenile delinquency in a
variety of samples, including school students and troubled teens (e.g., Cheung &
Cheung, 2008; Lu, Yu, Ren, & Marshall, 2013; Ren, He, Zhang, & Zhao, 2017; G. T.
Wang, Qiao, Hong, & Zhang, 2002).
Although the LSC variable has proven to be a significant predictor of juvenile
delinquency in many settings, its theoretical underpinnings have remained contested
among scholars. More specifically, the research on the factorial structure(s) of LSC
has given rise to considerable debate ever since the introduction of the GTC. Even a
cursory review of the literature reveals that there are numerous publications devoted to
exploring the precise theoretical construct of LSC, and testing its predictive validity
(e.g., Delisi, Hochstetler, & Murphy, 2003; Grasmick, Tittle, Bursik, & Arneklev,
1993; Longshore & Turner, 1998; Piquero & Rosay, 1998; Ward, Nobles, & Fox,
2015; Williams, Fletcher, & Ronan, 2007). According to the GTC, the LSC concept
reflects a unidimensional construct; however, empirical findings derived primarily
from research conducted in the West have produced three distinct types of summary
results on the conceptualization of LSC—namely (a) the one-factor model (e.g.,
Grasmick et al., 1993; Nagin & Paternoster, 1993; Ward, Gibson, Boman, & Leite,
2010), (b) the multidimensional model (e.g., Romero, Gomez-Fraguela, Luengo, &
Sobral, 2003; Vazsonyi, Pickering, Junger, & Hessing, 2001), and (c) the higher
order/second-order model (e.g., Arneklev, Grasmick, & Bursik, 1999; Piquero &
Rosay, 1998).3
The purpose of the current study is to investigate whether there is evidence of con-
sistency in the factorial structure of LSC across three independent samples of Chinese

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