Although low self-control is consistently related to adolescent offending, it is unknown whether self-report measures or laboratory behavior tasks yield better predictive utility, or if a combination yields incremental predictive power. This is particularly important because developmental theory indicates that self-control is related to adolescent offending and, consequently, risk assessments rely on self-control measures. The present study (a) examines relationships between self-reported self-control on the Weinberger Adjustment Inventory with Go/No-Go response inhibition, and (b) compares the predictive utility of both assessment strategies for short- and long-term adolescent reoffending. It uses longitudinal data from the Crossroads Study of male, first-time adolescent offenders ages 13–17 (N = 930; 46 % Hispanic/Latino, 37 % Black/African-American, 15 % non-Hispanic White, 2 % other race). The results of the study indicate that the measures are largely unrelated, and that the self-report measure is a better indicator of both short- and long-term reoffending. The laboratory task measure does not add value to what is already predicted by the self-report measure. Implications for assessing self-control during adolescence and consequences of assessment strategy are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aharoni, E., Vincent, G. M., Harenski, C. L., Calhoun, V. D., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., Gazzaniga, M. S., & Kiehl, K. A. (2013). Neuroprediction of future rearrest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(15), 6223–6228. doi:10.1073/pnas.1219302110.
Aron, A. R. (2011). From reactive to proactive and selective control: Developing a richer model for stopping inappropriate responses. Biological Psychiatry, 69(12), e55–e68. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.07.024.
Bechtold, J., Cavanagh, C., Shulman, E., & Cauffman, E. (2013). Does mother know best? Adolescent and mother reports of impulsivity and subsequent delinquency. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-0080-9.
Benda, B. B. (2005). The robustness of self-control in relation to form of delinquency. Youth & Society, 36(4), 418–444. doi:10.1177/0044118X04268071.
Berlin, L., & Bohlin, G. (2002). Response inhibition, hyperactivity, and conduct problems among preschool children among preschool children. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 31(2), 242–251.
Blakemore, S.-J., & Mills, K. L. (2014). Is adolescence a sensitive period for sociocultural processing? Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 187–207. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115202.
Borum, R., Bartel, P., & Forth, A. (2006). Structured assessment of violence risk in youth (SAVRY). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Brandt, J. R., Kennedy, W. A., Patrick, C. J., & Curtin, J. J. (1997). Assessment of psychopathy in a population of incarcerated adolescent offenders. Psychological Assessment, 9(4), 429.
Canivez, G. L., Konold, T. R., Collins, J. M., & Wilson, G. (2009). Construct validity of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of intelligence and wide range intelligence test: Convergent and structural validity. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(4), 252–265.
Casey, B. J. (2015). Beyond simple models of self-control to circuit-based accounts of adolescent behavior. Annual Review of Psychology. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015156.
Casey, B. J., & Caudle, K. (2013). The teenage brain: Self control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(2), 82–87. doi:10.1177/0963721413480170.
Casey, B. J., Forman, S. D., Franzen, P., Berkowitz, A., Braver, T. S., Nystrom, L. E., et al. (2001). Sensitivity of prefrontal cortex to changes in target probability: A functional MRI study. Human Brain Mapping, 13(1), 26–33. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11284044.
Casey, B. J., Trainor, R. J., Orendi, J. L., Schubert, A. B., Nystrom, L. E., Giedd, J. N., & Rapoport, J. L. (1997). A developmental functional MRI study of prefrontal activation during performance of a Go–No-Go task. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 9(6), 835–847. doi:10.1162/jocn.19188.8.131.525.
Cauffman, E., Cavanagh, C., Donley, S., & Thomas, A. G. (2015). A developmental perspective on adolescent risk-taking and criminal behavior. In A. R. Piquero (Ed.), The handbook of criminological theory (pp. 100–120). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cauffman, E., Steinberg, L., & Piquero, A. (2005). Psychological, neuropsychological, and physicological correlates of serious antisocial behavior in adolescence: The role of self-control. Criminology, 43(133), 175. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00005.x/abstract.
Cyders, M. A., & Coskunpinar, A. (2011). Measurement of constructs using self-report and behavioral lab tasks: Is there overlap in nomothetic span and construct representation for impulsivity? Clinical Psychology Review, 31(6), 965–982. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2011.06.001.
Cyders, M. A., & Coskunpinar, A. (2012). The relationship between self-report and lab task conceptualizations of impulsivity. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(1), 121–124. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.11.005.
Dahl, R. (2004). Adolescent brain development: A period of vulnerabilities and opportunities. Keynote address. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1196/annals.1308.001/full.
De Ridder, D. T. D., Lensvelt-Mulders, G., Finkenauer, C., Stok, F. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2012). Taking stock of self-control: a meta-analysis of how trait self-control relates to a wide range of behaviors. Personality and Social Psychology Review: An Official Journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, 16(1), 76–99. doi:10.1177/1088868311418749.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135–168. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750.
Doherty, K., & Schlenker, B. R. (1991). Self-consciousness and strategic self-presentation. Journal of Personality, 59(1), 1–18. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1991.tb00765.x.
Duckworth, A. L., & Kern, M. L. (2011). A meta-analysis of the convergent validity of self-control measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 45(3), 259–268. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.02.004.
Durston, S., Thomas, K. M., Yang, Y., Ulu, A. M., Zimmerman, R. D., & Casey, B. J. (2002). A neural basis for the development of inhibitory control. Developmental Science, 4, 9–16.
Enticott, P. G., Ogloff, J. R. P., & Bradshaw, J. L. (2006). Associations between laboratory measures of executive inhibitory control and self-reported impulsivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(2), 285–294. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.01.011.
Fazio, R. H., & Olson, M. A. (2003). Implicit measures in social cognition. Research: Their meaning and use. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 297–327. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145225.
Gottfredson, Michael. R., & Hirschi, Travis. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Grieger, L., Hosser, D., & Schmidt, A. F. (2012). Predictive validity of self-reported self-control for different forms of recidivism. Journal of Criminal Psychology, 2(2), 80–95. doi:10.1108/20093821211264405.
Hampton, A. S., Drabick, D. A. G., & Steinberg, L. (2014). Does IQ moderate the relation between psychopathy and juvenile offending? Law and Human Behavior, 38(1), 23–33. doi:10.1037/lhb0000036.
Harden, K. P., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2011). Individual differences in the development of sensation seeking and impulsivity during adolescence: Further evidence for a dual systems model. Developmental Psychology, 47(3), 739–746. doi:10.1037/a0023279.
Hay, C., & Forrest, W. (2006). The development of self-control: Examining self-control theory’s stability thesis. Criminology, 44(4), 739–774. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2006.00062.x.
Holman, B., & Zeidenberg, J. (2006). The dangers of detention. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.
Huizinga, D., Esbensen, F.-A., & Weiher, A. W. (1991). Are there multiple paths to delinquency? The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 82(1), 83–118. doi:10.2307/1143790.
Kelly, A. M. C., Di Martino, A., Uddin, L. Q., Shehzad, Z., Gee, D. G., Reiss, P. T., et al. (2009). Development of anterior cingulate functional connectivity from late childhood to early adulthood. Cerebral Cortex, 19(3), 640–657. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn117.
Liberman, A. M., Kirk, D. S., & Kideuk, K. (2014). Labeling effects of first juvenile arrests: Secondary deviance and secondary sanctioning. Criminology,. doi:10.1111/1745-9125.12039.
Lindell, M. K., & Brandt, C. J. (2000). Climate quality and climate consensus as mediators of the relationship between organizational antecedents and outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 331–348.
Lindell, M. K., & Whitney, D. J. (2001). Accounting for common method variance in cross-sectional designs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 114–121.
Loeber, R., Menting, B., Lynam, D. R., Moffitt, T., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., Stallings, R., & Pardini, D. (2012). Findings from the Pittsburgh Youth Study: Cognitive impulsivity and intelligence as predictors of the age-crime curve. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(11), 1136–1149. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2012.08.019.
Loza, W., Loza-Fanous, A., & Heseltine, K. (2007). The myth of offenders’ deception on self-report measure predicting recidivism: Example from the Self-Appraisal Questionnaire (SAQ). Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(6), 671–683. doi:10.1177/0886260507300208.
Meldrum, R. C., Barnes, J. C., & Hay, C. (2015). Sleep deprivation, low self-control, and delinquency: A test of the strength model of self-control. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(2), 465–477.
Meldrum, R. C., Young, J. T., Burt, C. H., & Piquero, A. R. (2013). Maternal versus adolescent reports of self-control: Implications for testing the general theory of crime. Journal of Criminal Justice, 41(1), 24–32.
Moffitt, T., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., Dickson, N., Hancox, R. J., Harrington, H., & Caspi, A. (2011). A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 2693–2698. doi:10.1073/pnas.1010076108.
Monahan, K., Steinberg, L., Cauffman, E., & Mulvey, E. (2009). Trajectories of antisocial behavior and psychosocial maturity from adolescence to young adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 45(6), 1654–1668. doi:10.1037/a0015862.Trajectories.
Mulvey, E. P., & Iselin, A. M. R. (2008). Improving professional judgments of risk and amenability in juvenile justice. The Future of Children/Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 18, 35–57.
Munro, G. E. S., Dywan, J., Harris, G. T., McKee, S., Unsal, A., & Segalowitz, S. J. (2007). Response inhibition in psychopathy: The frontal N2 and P3. Neuroscience Letters, 418(2), 149–153. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2007.03.017.
Nosek, B., & Banaji, M. (2001). The go/no-go association task. Social Cognition, 19(6), 625–664. Retrieved from http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/soco.19.6.625.20886.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2014). Predicon and risk/needs assessment. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Osgood, D. W., McMorris, B. J., & Potenza, M. T. (2002). Analyzing multiple-item measures of crime and deviance I: Item response theory scaling. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 18(3), 267–296.
Parker, J. S., Morton, T. L., Lingefelt, M. E., & Johnson, K. S. (2005). Predictors of serious and violent offending by adjudicated male adolescents. North American Journal of Psychology, 7(3), 407–418.
Peterson, J., Skeem, J., & Manchak, S. (2011). If you want to know, consider asking: How likely is it that patients will hurt themselves in the future? Psychological Assessment, 23(3), 626–634. doi:10.1037/a0022971.
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2012). Sources of method bias in social science research and recommendations on how to control it. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 539–569.
Porterfield, A. (1943). Delinquency and its outcome in court and college. American Journal of Sociology, 49, 199–208.
Pratt, T., & Cullen, F. (2000). The empirical status of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime: A meta-analysis. Criminology, 38(3), 931–964. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00911.x/abstract.
Ramchand, R., Morral, A. R., & Becker, K. (2009). Seven-year life outcomes of adolescent offenders in Los Angeles. American Journal of Public Health, 99(5), 863–870. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.142281.
Rentrop, M., Backenstrass, M., Jaentsch, B., Kaiser, S., Roth, A., Unger, J., & Renneberg, B. (2008). Response inhibition in borderline personality disorder: Performance in a Go/Nogo task. Psychopathology, 41(1), 50–57. doi:10.1159/000110626.
Reynolds, B., Ortengren, A., Richards, J. B., & de Wit, H. (2006). Dimensions of impulsive behavior: Personality and behavioral measures. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(2), 305–315. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.03.024.
Ross, E. H., & Hoaken, P. N. S. (2011). Executive cognitive functioning abilities of male first time and return Canadian federal inmates. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 53(4), 377–403. doi:10.3138/cjccj.53.4.377.
Ryan, J. J., Carruthers, C. A., Miller, L. J., Souheaver, G. T., Gontkovsky, S. T., Zehr, M. D. (2003). Exploratory factor analysis of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) in adult standardization and clinical samples. Applied Neuropsychology, 10(4), 252–256.
Schulz, K. P., Fan, J., Tang, C. Y., Newcorn, J. H., Buchsbaum, M. S., Cheung, A. M., et al. (2014). Response inhibition in adolescents diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during childhood: An event-related FMRI study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(9), 1650–1657.
Sharma, L., Markon, K. E., & Clark, L. A. (2014). Toward a theory of distinct types of “impulsive” behaviors: A meta-analysis of self-report and behavioral measures. Psychological Bulletin, 140(2), 374.
Shrauger, J. S., Ram, D., Greniger, S., & Mariano, E. (1996). Accuracy of self-predictions versus judgments by knowledgeable others. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(10), 928–940. doi: 10.1177/01461672962212004.
Shulman, E. P., Harden, K. P., Chein, J. M., & Steinberg, L. (2015). Sex differences in the developmental trajectories of impulse control and sensation-seeking from early adolescence to early adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(1), 1–17.
Skeem, J., Manchak, S., Lidz, C., & Mulvey, E. (2013). The utility of patients’ self-perceptions of violence risk: Consider asking the person who may know best. Psychiatric Services, 64(5), 410–415. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.001312012.
Smith, A., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2013). Impact of socio-emotional context, brain development, and pubertal maturation on adolescent risk-taking. Hormones and Behavior, 64(2), 323–332. doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2011.08.021.Secreted.
Snyder, H., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national report. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,. doi:10.1007/BF00275231.
Steinberg, L., Albert, D., Cauffman, E., Banich, M., Graham, S., & Woolard, J. (2008). Age differences in sensation seeking and impulsivity as indexed by behavior and self-report: Evidence for a dual systems model. Developmental Psychology, 44(6), 1764–1778. doi:10.1037/a0012955.
Steiner, H., Cauffman, E., & Duxbury, E. (1999). Personality traits in juvenile delinquents: Relation to criminal behavior and recidivism. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38(3), 256–262. doi:10.1097/00004583-199903000-00011.
Strang, N. M., Chein, J. M., & Steinberg, L. (2013). The value of the dual systems model of adolescent risk-taking. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(May), 223. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00223.
Sweeten, G. (2012). Scaling criminal offending. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 28(3), 533–557.
Tittle, C. R., Ward, D. A., & Grasmick, H. G. (2003). Self-control and crime/deviance: Cognitive vs. behavioral measures. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 19(4), 333–365.
Turner, M. G., & Piquero, A. R. (2002). The stability of self-control. Journal of Criminal Justice, 30(6), 457–471. doi:10.1016/S0047-2352(02)00169-1.
Vazsonyi, A. T., Pickering, L. E., Junger, M., & Hessing, D. (2001). An empirical test of a general theory of crime: A four-nation comparative study of self-control and the prediction of deviance. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38(2), 91–131.
Wechsler, D. (1999). Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of intelligence. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
Weinberger, D. (1997). Distress and self-restraint as measures of adjustment across the life span: Confirmatory factor analyses in clinical and nonclinical samples. Psychological Assessment, 9(2), 132–135.
Weinberger, D., & Schwartz, G. (1990). Distress and restraint as superordinate dimensions of self-reported adjustment: A typological perspective. Journal of Personality, 58(2), 381–417. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2213473.
White, J., Moffitt, T., Caspi, A., Bartusch, D., Needles, D., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1994). Measuring impulsivity and examining its relationship to delinquency. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103(2), 192–205.
Williams, L. J., Hartman, N., & Cavazotte, F. (2010). Method variance and marker variables: A review and comprehensive CFA marker technique. Organizational Research Methods,. doi:10.1177/1094428110366036.
Williams, B. J., & Kaufmann, L. M. (2012). Reliability of the Go/No Go association task. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(4), 879–891. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.001.
Wright, L., Lipszyc, J., Dupuis, A., Thayapararajah, S. W., & Schachar, R. (2014). Response inhibition and psychopathology: A meta-analysis of go/no-go task performance. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(2), 429.
Yechiam, E., Goodnight, J., Bates, J. E., Busemeyer, J. R., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Newman, J. P. (2006). A formal cognitive model of the go/no-go discrimination task: Evaluation and implications. Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 239–249. doi:10.1037/1040-35184.108.40.206.A.
We are grateful to the many individuals responsible for the data collection and preparation. The Crossroads Study is supported by grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
All authors contributed to development of study ideas, models, and hypotheses. A.F. conceived of the study, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript; L.S. and P.F. participated in the design of the study and offered expert advice on adolescent development and self-control assessment; E.C. participated in the design of the study, helped to revise the manuscript, and offered expert advice on adolescents in the justice system context. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors report no conflict of interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Fine, A., Steinberg, L., Frick, P.J. et al. Self-Control Assessments and Implications for Predicting Adolescent Offending. J Youth Adolescence 45, 701–712 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0425-2