Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 465-477

First online:

Sleep Deprivation, Low Self-Control, and Delinquency: A Test of the Strength Model of Self-Control

  • Ryan C. MeldrumAffiliated withDepartment of Criminal Justice, Florida International University Email author 
  • , J. C. BarnesAffiliated withCriminology Program, University of Texas at Dallas
  • , Carter HayAffiliated withCollege of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University

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Recent work provides evidence that sleep deprivation is positively related to delinquency. In this study, we draw on Baumeister and colleagues’ strength model of self-control to propose an explanation for this association. Specifically, we argue that low self-control is the construct that bridges the relationship between sleep deprivation and delinquency. To test the proposed model, we examine survey data drawn from a longitudinal multi-city cohort study of adolescents who were followed from birth through age 15 (N = 825; 50 % female; 82 % non-Hispanic white, 59 % two-parent nuclear family). The results from regression models using latent factors indicate: sleep deprivation is positively related to low self-control; low self-control is positively related to delinquency; and the relationship between sleep deprivation and delinquency is indirect and operates through low self-control. Impressively, these relationships emerged when accounting for potential background sources of spuriousness, including neighborhood context, depressive symptoms, parenting practices, unstructured socializing with peers, and prior delinquency. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.


Sleep deprivation Low self-control Delinquency SEM Mediation