Self-Control Theory: Theoretical and Research Issues

Publication Title

Handbook on Crime and Deviance

Document Type

Book Chapter - Open Access

Department or Program


Publication Date



Criminological theory, Self-control, Opportunity, Crime


Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theory is now nearly 30 years old. It remains one of the most popular perspectives in criminology, enjoying much empirical support. Measurement and theoretical advances have continued to keep the perspective fresh for scholarly tests. In this chapter, we review the extant literature on self-control theory and discuss remaining theoretical questions. These questions include the role of opportunity in the explanation of crime, the importance of moderators of self-control, the effect of self-control on life domains, unpacking the components of self-control, and the relationship of self-control and different crime types. We conclude by addressing what the theory has to say about policy. In the end, self-control theory has pointed toward important factors related to criminal and analogous behavior, but has also raised as many questions as it has answered. It seems safe to say that the theory will remain relevant in criminology for years to come.