Genetic influences on the stability of low self-control: Results from a longitudinal sample of twins

Kevin M. Beaver, John Paul Wright, Matt DeLisi, Michael G. Vaughn

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115 Citations (Scopus)


Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory contained two propositions that have been the source of an emerging line of empirical scrutiny. First, according to the general theory of crime, levels of self-control are largely determined by parental management techniques and not by biogenic factors. Second, Gottfredson and Hirschi argued that low self-control should remain relatively stable over the life course. Data from twins drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were used to test these two hypotheses. The results of univariate model-fitting techniques revealed that genetic factors accounted for between 52 and 64 percent of the variance in low self-control, with the remaining variance attributable to the nonshared environment. Further, low self-control was stable over a two-year time period (r = .64). Bivariate Cholesky decomposition models indicated that the stability of self-control was determined almost exclusively by genetic factors, and that genetic factors also explained a moderate amount of change in self-control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-485
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research used data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from seventeen other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516-2524 ( ).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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