Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 465–477 | Cite as

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

  • Ryan C. MeldrumEmail author
  • J. C. Barnes
  • Carter Hay
Empirical Research


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 



The authors would like to thank Jamie Flexon, the anonymous reviewers, and the journal editor for their assistance in the preparation and revision of this manuscript. All correspondence can be sent to Dr. Ryan C. Meldrum by e-mail to or by mail to Dr. Ryan Meldrum, Department of Criminal Justice, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199. The SECCYD was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network, supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement that calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. (United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. NICHD SECCYD: Phases I–IV, 1991–2008 [United States] [Computer files]. ICPSR21940-v1; ICPSR21941-v1; ICPSR21942-v1; ICPSR22361-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]).

Author contributions

RCM conceived of the study, acquired the data required for the analysis, drafted the introduction of the manuscript, drafted portions of the methods and discussion sections, and edited the complete manuscript; JCB conducted the statistical analysis, drafted portions of the results section and discussion section, and created the tables; CH drafted the literature review section of the manuscript and portions of the discussion section of the manuscript. All authors read, edited, and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Criminology ProgramUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  3. 3.College of Criminology and Criminal JusticeFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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